just in case reading list
December 7, 2006 9:33 AM   Subscribe

What are the best survivalist's reference books? That is, if the power went out tomorrow for an indefinite period of town, what are the books on first aid, shelter, hunting, farming, nature, tool use & making etc. that you'd want to have and be familiar with?
posted by luriete to Science & Nature (22 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Well-illustrated books aimed at relative novices, maybe with line-drawings and step-by-step instructions for things like how to make fishing lures or game traps, how to set bones, how to set up a gravity water system, how to irrigate or plant, etc. are preferred.
posted by luriete at 9:37 AM on December 7, 2006

The Foxfire series is interesting. They're not specifically about how to survive, more about passing on traditions and skills, so for your purposes they'd have quite a bit of chaff.
posted by Hildago at 9:42 AM on December 7, 2006

it's not a book, but did you find this FPP helpful?

Becoming A Lion In Winter
posted by deejay jaydee at 9:44 AM on December 7, 2006

Where There Is No Doctor is definitely one I'd want. Greg Davenport's books are pretty good, too.
posted by hades at 9:45 AM on December 7, 2006

U.S Army Field Manual 3-05.70 is a good overview and has a guide to edible and poisonous plants.
posted by djb at 9:53 AM on December 7, 2006

On the Where There is No Doctor tip, the water and sanitation pamphlets here would also be helpful.

semi-self-link. I was very slightly involved in those pamphlets.
posted by serazin at 10:15 AM on December 7, 2006

The SAS Survival Handbook, for sure.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:25 AM on December 7, 2006

I have books for exactly this purpose. If we can stay put, the Foxfire series will prove useful. If we have to move light, then FM 21-76 goes into a backpack.
posted by cribcage at 10:34 AM on December 7, 2006

The Alaskan Bootlegger's Bible. Make a commoditiy that you can trade for goods and services!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:38 AM on December 7, 2006

For use after you're less concerned about making it through the night and more concerned about the long haul, buy any copy of The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. The older used copies are just as good as the latest.

Even if you don't think you'll ever need to know how to buy, grow, harvest/slaughter and cook your own livestock or agri-goods, you might still want to know how to make some killer sarsparilla or just about any other sort of useful household and farm/ranch craft.
posted by terpia at 10:45 AM on December 7, 2006

I guess it depends on what perspective you were looking at. Will you be living in the wilderness, in the city, or in the country on your own land? Obviously if you were in the city or country, you don't have to worry about making a shelter. For myself living in the city, I'd get out of the city to land with friends in the country and would probably use something like THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COUNTRY LIVING.
posted by JJ86 at 11:03 AM on December 7, 2006

Seconding "Where There is No Doctor" (personal overseas experience) and the Foxfire series (through my mother, an over-educated reformed flower child from parents with a survivalist bent).
posted by whatzit at 11:24 AM on December 7, 2006

Tom Brown has very good books, and a school.
posted by ewkpates at 11:44 AM on December 7, 2006

I second the SAS Survival Handbook series. There are many more from which to choose than the one linked above.
posted by JudgeBork at 4:12 PM on December 7, 2006

I second Tom Brown's books and his school. I attended one of his classes and it was AMAZING. The classes are really the way to go, but his books aren't bad either.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living is good, too. The author was a regular member and contributor of the Homesteading Today forums until her death. She seemed like such a sincere, knowledgable person.

I also have the SAS Survival Handbook and it's ok. I prefer Tom Brown's books.

The Foxfire books are interesting from a historical , old timer perspective. I wouldn't really call them "survival" books, more like books on self-sufficiency. But they have been favorites of mine since childhood and I have been working on collecting the entire series.
posted by Ostara at 7:11 PM on December 7, 2006

I third the recommendation for 'Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook". But it's a little more focused on diagnosing rare third world diseases than, say, North American survivalism. Still, it's useful for many reasons, including its lists of antibiotics for treating any given awful malady, with preferential order listed in case you're short of their first or second choices.

Even if you're a guy, make sure you also get a copy of Where Women Have No Doctor: A Health Guide for Women. It's everything you ever wanted to know about birthin' babies, even how to deliver frank breech babies (butt first!) followed by how to control severe post-partum bleeding (push on the top of the uterus!), and how to deal with insufficient breast milk flow (get the husband to start sucking!), among other fun issues relating to pregnancy, labor, delivery, menopause, menstruation, birth control, abortion, and all that other frilly girly stuff that the first book barely covers.

A scholarly encyclopedia of herbs would be a good thing to have on hand, too. Make sure you only get one of the very latest versions that has the most up-to-date info on which herbs are actually scientifically proven to be useful for treating various ailments, and which ones are bunk, or have recently-discovered drug interactions, or worse, are toxic. This one's pretty good at listing what hard science does and does not know about the plants it is mentioning.

Finally, pick up some books and open-pollinated non-hybrid seed catalogs about plants and crops that will do well in your area. Then plant the aforementioned crops, be they fruit trees that will last you up to 100 years and which you can stick in your backyard, or lettuce which matures in just 70 days and which you can stick in a little pot of dirt by your door. Gardening is hella fun, and an awfully good skill to have, too.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:24 AM on December 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

Almost forgot - definitely get a copy of Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew, it's a classic. It's basically 'fruit and vegetable gardening for dummies who have very limited space'.

And get these books on pressure canning, so you can actually store all the food you can grow: Preserving Summer's Bounty: A Quick and Easy Guide to Freezing, Canning, and Preserving, and Drying What You Grow and the old standby Ball Blue Book of Preserving. I recommend the All American pressure canner, if you're going to get one. (Don't use old ones unless you definitely know the seal is still good.)

Finally, I lurrrrve Countryside Magazine. New issues are lots of fun to read through, even if I'm probably never going to actually build any of those neato how-to projects (solar-heated outdoor showers, specialized chicken coops, make your own cider press). It's kinda like Make Magazine, but for the rural set.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:11 AM on December 8, 2006

Although I have not read any of Ray Mears' books, if they are anything like his TV shows then they'd be pretty good. If I had to be stuck in the wilderness/on a desert island/in a jungle with someone, it would be him.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:46 AM on December 8, 2006

As I recall, the Boy Scout Handbook and Boy Scout Field Book were concise, accurate, underrated survival guides.
posted by klarck at 4:44 AM on December 8, 2006

My absolute favorite is Wildwood Wisdom by Ellsworth Jaeger. For the majority of his methods, he relies on Native American traditions and each and every topic/method he writes about is nicely illustrated.
posted by 10ch at 4:54 AM on December 8, 2006

No specific books to recommend but any guidebooks should be vetted for accuracy and any techniques tested before used in an emergency situation. Testing the information in the backyard or during a "soft" camping trip is strongly advised before you trust your life to it.

This isn't a public safety message - I've had quarrels and outright failures with some techniques described in a few specific books mentioned here. The books aren't "bad," but some techniques are being offered to a specific audience who may not be relevant. Worse, some directions are far too complicated to execute when hungry and cold.

Caveat Camper
posted by mochi crunk at 8:20 PM on December 31, 2006

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