Pioneer/Homesteading/Country Life books
May 7, 2014 9:07 AM   Subscribe

I love reading books about homesteading and pioneer living that are more than just how to's. I'm looking for something like Laura Ingles, but for adults. Some examples of what I've enjoyed and a snapshot of my bookshelf below the fold.

On my bookshelf I have a section of books that fit this criteria to varying degrees. The Encyclopedia of Country Living has interesting facts but no narrative, My Antonia had narrative but little glimpse into the details of how things were accomplished, Pioneer Women has been the best mix I've found since it's a compilation of diaries interspersed with commentary from a historian. Food in Jars is also a favorite because along with the recipes the author tells stories of her family. I also enjoyed The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking for the facts combined with chatty stories.

Tldr: Help me find books that combine useful information about homemaking/Homesteading/General household tasks with engaging narrative. Thanks!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
One Man's Wilderness, An Alaskan Odyssey by Dick Proennekke. He's amazing. You may have seen the Alone in the Wilderness series on him on PBS, and this is just as good.
posted by mochapickle at 9:13 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Land of the Burnt Thigh.

Free Land is written by Laura Ingall's Wilder's daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. It is a narrative for adults, but you will find many of the details familiar.
posted by Melismata at 9:15 AM on May 7, 2014

I bet you'd enjoy The Good Life, by Helen Nearing.
posted by fritley at 9:19 AM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

A Bride Goes West by Nannie T. Alderson and Helena Huntington Smith
Mollie: The Journal of Mollie Dorsey Sanford in Nebraska and Colorado Territories, 1857-1866
Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart

Sorry no links, I have to hurry up and walk my dog before I have to go.
posted by HotToddy at 9:26 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

You need the Foxfire books! Endless fascination.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:26 AM on May 7, 2014 [14 favorites]

It's the 1930's, but the area is so remote it qualifies as homesteading and pioneer living, so maybe try: We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich.
posted by gudrun at 9:27 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, and to flesh that out a little -- it's less how-to than it is "how we done it," with lots of interviews with people who are among the last to know their crafts.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:27 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver was wonderful.

I also highly recommend for a little more narrative with your projects, the Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutsen. I carried this around like a bible for about 6 months.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:30 AM on May 7, 2014

Angle of Repose has a lot of this, and it's also one of the best books I've ever read.
posted by something something at 9:33 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

James Campbell: The Final Frontiersman: Heimo Korth and His Family, Alone in Alaska's Arctic Wilderness

John Haines: The Stars, The Snow, The Fire: Twenty-Five Years in the Alaska Wilderness

Anne LaBastille: Woodswoman: Living Alone in the Adirondack Wilderness

Haines' book is notable for being one of the few books on homesteading that I've read that viscerally and forcefully conveys the loneliness and physical hardship of it.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:33 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding Proennekke and the Foxfire books. I like this type of book also.

- There's also a similar book about Maine called The Salt Book.
- Possum Living is a slightly odd one but worth looking at for a peek at urban homesteading.
- This might be more of a stretch but Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a really poignant look at sharecroppers and rural poverty that has a lot of day to day stuff.
- You'd probably also like A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece for "day in the life" stuff
- Maybe The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky for more food/home making stories
- another home ec-like title (more cooking, less homesteading but there is some early stuff there) is From Hardtack to Homefries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals
posted by jessamyn at 9:37 AM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seconding the Foxfire series.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:55 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wendy McClure wrote a memoir about her quest to find the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder:

The Wilder Life
posted by lyssabee at 9:56 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Older books, but I really enjoyed Bradford and Vena Angier's books on homesteading in Canada.
posted by elmay at 10:46 AM on May 7, 2014

Seconding The Foxfire books, the earlier the better, for many and varied reasons.

Also quite a few things by Ralph Borsodi are really great, if not so much the economic side of things but on the ecological side. This especially.

Here's some selections from my reading list that might apply:

The One Straw Revolution (I didn't like this one but many do)

The Joy of Pickling
Wild Fermentation
The Drunken Botanist
Mycelium Running
Root Cellaring
Stacking Wood
The Manual of Practical Homesteading
Primitive Living
Timber Framing
The Complete Modern Blacksmith
The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:00 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

The books of Eric Sloan probably fit. His first was The Diary of an Early American Boy.
posted by Rash at 11:16 AM on May 7, 2014

Island Sojourn by Elizabeth Arthur. True story of a '70's era couple who build a home on an island in northern BC. Incredibly descriptive of the process of surviving in a harsh environment. And I will be avidly watching the responses to your request; I love this kind of writing too!
posted by LaBellaStella at 12:26 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Home Comfort: Stories and Scenes of Life on Total Loss Farm, 1973 work by and about the commune of that name. Recipes, patterns, ideas. Very readable.
posted by Riverine at 4:40 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Everything that Harlan Hubbard ever wrote--but you can start with Payne Hollow: Life on the Fringe of Society and Shantyboat: A River Way of Life.

“I had no theories to prove. I merely wanted to try living by my own hands, independent as far as possible from a system of division of labor in which the participant loses most of the pleasure of making and growing things for himself. I wanted to bring in my own fuel and smell its sweet smell as it burned on the hearth I had made. I wanted to grow my own food, catch it in the river, or forage after it. In short, I wanted to do as much as I could for myself, because I had already realized from partial experience the inexpressible joy of so doing.”
posted by apartment dweller at 4:40 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

A truly wonderful desert version of this: Home is the Desert by Ann Woodin.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 5:04 PM on May 7, 2014

You would likely really enjoy Letters of a Woman Homesteader, a collection of letters from a woman who kept house for a bachelor in Wyoming in thewhile she was saving to buy her own homestead in the early 1900s. It combines narrative with a lot of details about her life, her tasks, and what things were like in 1909 Wyoming! It's a really fun, and pretty quick, read.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:24 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding Angle of Repose. What a beautiful book.
posted by semacd at 5:28 AM on May 8, 2014

I enjoyed The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-on Living...about a couple who moves from NYC to New Mexico where they made/foraged for everything they needed to live. The setting might not be exactly what you're looking for (has a very contemporary feel to it) but I enjoyed reading about their lives and how they got to where they are so thought it might fit with what you're looking for.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 6:39 AM on May 8, 2014

We owned and enjoyed leafing through Back to Basics: A complete guide to Traditional Skills. Never built that log cabin though.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:27 AM on May 8, 2014

I've been enjoying listening to A Woman who Went to Alaska by May Kellogg Sullivan - a memoir of her two trips to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush
posted by neutralmojo at 1:13 PM on May 8, 2014

Response by poster: This is so helpful, thank you everyone. I'll start marking best answers as the books come in.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 12:53 PM on May 10, 2014

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