We’ve all fantasized of packing up and heading to the mountains, or the desert, or somewhere far away from civilization, and setting up shop in a cabin out there, ignoring the inherent colonial flaws with that idea. I’ve considered packing up my belongings and moving to the Appalachians (that’s a hard ‘ch’ there) and renting a hut there. Perhaps when COVID-19 struck, you learned you weren’t as prepared as you thought you were when it came to calamities and limited access to essentials. Whatever brought you here, you’re looking for information on how to survive when everything goes wrong. And you’ve arrived at the right location. Here are five of the best survival books to get you started on turning your house into a homestead, ensuring that your perishables endure, or for when your hiking/camping trip goes south.
Note: You won’t find any prepper books here that advise you to store weapons and ammunition or make a bug-out bag. Aside from being a secret agent on the run, that isn’t applicable in most survival circumstances. You won’t survive long enough in one cataclysmic event to grab a bag and flee, and in these situations, it’s more vital to band together and form a society that helps each other rather than fighting everyone continually. You must prepare, but only because these tactics aren’t instant, and you don’t want to be caught off guard. There are some memoirs in here as well, from folks who have spent time in the outdoors or have had outdoor adventures that we can benefit from. So, have a look at these excellent survival books and learn how to make your home self-sufficient. Maybe with these, we’ll be able to make it to the end of 2020 together.
Survival Books for Making Your Home Self-Sustaining
The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan
This is a comprehensive, step-by-step tutorial that will show you how to turn your backyard (even a quarter acre) into a self-sustaining tiny farm, as well as how to process the produce you harvest. You’ll learn how to raise animals, keep bees, grow various varieties of vegetables, and can/pickle/dry produce so that it can sustain you long after the growing season has ended. It’s divided into easy-to-understand parts and includes lots of pictures and maps to show you how to make the most of your available space. It’s a very useful book that you should have on your self-sufficiency book collection. If you like this one, there’s a whole series of them, including a seasonal planner to help you get everything set up and a comprehensive cookbook with recipes for using what you’ve grown.
40 Projects for Building Your Backyard Homestead by David Toht
This book is similar to The Backyard Homestead, except it focuses on the construction of structures, such as chicken coops, fencing, hydroponics, and solar and wind power. It even guides you through basic plumbing and wiring improvements, such as ensuring that your water options are freeze-resistant. It includes step-by-step directions with photographs and measurements on how to build raised beds, sheds, beehives, roofing, and even windmills in your backyard to make it genuinely self-sufficient, especially for off-grid life and survival.
Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel
It’s only a matter of time before the power goes out. It happens on a regular basis. And you’re usually at the mercy of the power company’s restoration capabilities. People in my region were left without electricity for several days after Hurricane Zeta passed through in late October. What are you expected to do with your food that needs to stay cold in that situation? Especially now, when you’re trying to cut down on grocery trips by buying more frozen items. It’s here that root cellars come in handy. With this book, you may set up a closet, a location in your garage or basement, and keep fruits and veggies fresh without having to can them, which is a time-consuming operation if you’ve never canned before.
Storing Food Without Refrigeration by Carolyn Shearlock
Another survival book on storing food without the use of electricity is this one. This book, written by a sailor who has traveled great distances without electricity, breaks down how to prepare the food you have, the best way to keep it, and finally how to cook the food you’ve stored step by step. Meats, milks, eggs, and cheese, for example, are commonly associated with the need to be refrigerated. These methods still work for long-distance hikers and campers, those living off the grid, or those living out of an RV, even though they were tried and validated on a boat.
Survival Books For When You’re Stuck Out In The Wilderness
Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival by Dave Canterbury
This is one you’ll want to have with you when you go trekking or camping. It’s compact, at around 8 inches tall, so it’ll fit easily inside your bag for extended hikes or camping trips. It’s a survival book 101, thus it tells you what to bring in your bag for a trip into the woods, how to build a shelter for yourself, and how to set up your cooking setup. Because it was authored by Dave Canterbury, a world-renowned and well-known survivalist, you may rest assured that the knowledge included herein has been thoroughly tested and proven to work. If you live in a wooded location, this is absolutely a survival guide you should have on hand.
Foraging Guide by Mona Greeny
Living in the bush entails a significant amount of foraging. Sure, you can set traps for animals and gain protein that way, but capturing the more sedentary prey is a better use of your energy. Except that inactive stuff may occasionally fool you into believing it’s edible, and then you’re in a lot more trouble than you were before. Mushrooms are particularly perplexing; consider Uncle Iroh’s question: “delectable tea, or lethal poison?” This is where this book enters the picture. It takes you through the process of recognizing edible plants and mushrooms, harvesting and storing them, and finally cooking what you’ve collected. It’s a must-have, and at 6 inches tall, it’ll fit easily into your bag for cross-referencing.
Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier
This isn’t to argue that you should abandon modern medicine entirely. Please take all antibiotics as given by your doctor and follow his or her recommendations. However, if you’re out in the woods, you might not have access to Tylenol to assist you break a fever or relieve discomfort. This is why this survival guide is included. It teaches you what herbs you’ll need, how to pick them, and how to prepare them for various diseases. It includes full-color images so you can be sure you’re getting the correct plant or section of the plant.
Memoirs About Being Outside of Modern Comforts
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, SCientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
This is a book that you’ve probably certainly heard about. Kimmerer talks to you about her experiences as an Indigenous botanist, how she combined the teachings about the natural world she received from her Indigenous community with the teachings she received as a botanist, and how we need both to better understand the world around us, because we are not separate from it, but part of it. She also offers some practical advice on how to live in harmony with nature and how to make the most of the flora around you. Even if you have no intention of becoming a survivalist, you should read this book.
The Unlikely Thru Hiker by Derick Lugo
You’ve probably heard of the Appalachian Trail if you live in the United States. It’s the great white whale for many trekkers. It’s something you prepare for months, psychologically and physically, for a reason: the trail is 2,184.2 miles long from start to finish. It is not a simple journey. Derick Lugo, on the other hand, did it on the spur of the moment, with no prior planning. He was merely a New York city slicker with no prior experience. He did, however, complete the journey from Georgia to Maine. And then he wrote it down in this book for the rest of us to live vicariously via his experiences and perhaps learn from them as well.
Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney
Hiking, survivalistism, and other outdoor recreational hobbies are often white. Or at least, that’s how they’re portrayed. Carolyn Finney delves into why here, citing Jim Crow laws, slavery, geography, cultural studies, and environmental history, as well as films, books, and other pop culture and historical materials, to demonstrate how Black people in the United States have been denied access to nature in the same way that white people have, and how we can move forward to make the outdoors as accessible and protected as it should be.
That concludes our list of the top survival novels for the vast outdoors that you should read. As you may have seen, these survival books are meant to be read in conjunction with one another rather than on their own. There is no single book that can answer all of your questions or provide all of the knowledge you require. But they’re a good place to start, and hey, if nothing happens, if everything stays the same, all you’ve accomplished is teaching yourself some useful skills and making your home self-sufficient and environmentally friendly. Win-win. You can check out our list of top apocalyptic books from 2019 or our list of survival horror novels if you want to read some nonfiction survival books now to see what you would do in these situations, a test run if you will.