Estimated reading time: 16 minutes
The human race is remarkably resilient. Throughout history we’ve survived wars, natural catastrophes, and yes, even pandemics. But that survival wasn’t without casualties based on location, circumstances or just bad luck.
But for many of the survivors there was another factor. The knowledge and awareness of how to make the right decision at the right time to not only survive events as they happened, but survive the aftermath sometimes lasting for years, decades and even a lifetime.
The knowledge, skills, and abilities that many survivors possess sometimes comes from experience, at other times upbringing, and mostly the determination to learn self-sufficiency, practice sustainability, and master basic survival skills.
And that learning is captured in many books dedicated to a range of subjects that can not only educate a determined survivor, but serve as a knowledge bank for the future.
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A Worst Case Scenario
Imagine a time when everything goes wrong. Natural disasters and regional conflicts aggravate further civil unrest driven by numerous factors from economic failures to societal collapse.
The grid is down. The Internet is hacked and corrupted, affecting everything from commerce to cell phones and most every other form of communication. Retail stores are shuttered, local emergency services are overwhelmed, medical facilities are filled to capacity, and there’s no end in sight. It’s a worst case scenario that can not only happen but has already happened in the past.
It’s the Dark Ages Part II, and if you need information about anything, your only sources are going to be your memory—and books.
The Value of Your Knowledge Bank
You can have food storage that will last for years, medical supplies to equip a hospital, and more firearms than a platoon of marines, but it won’t mean a thing if you don’t know how to find and filter water, preserve food, repair an engine, or use all those medical supplies.
Some of those things may already be in your wheelhouse, but it’s a good bet there are plenty of things even the best of us don’t know. Books can give you a fighting chance when everything is a challenge.
Digital Books or Hard Copies?
Digital books are cheaper and you can store a library on something as small as a jump drive or a Kindle Reader. The only caution is that electronics are fragile. There are books that can tell you all about how to fix electronic devices. But they’re no help if the book about fixing electronic devices is on the device you need to fix.
Portability is another good argument for digital copies of books. At a time when bugging out may become a regular activity it’s a lot easier to take your library with you if it’s on a small, portable device.
But then there’s the recharging problem, and while that can be remedied with a small, solar power bank there’s the bigger challenge of losing your iPad or jump drive or simply dropping it and breaking it.
In the end, the safest bet may be the oldest form of books: hard copies, and ideally with a hard cover. Yes, they’re big, heavy, and more expensive, but if you choose wisely you may find that the extra effort is worth it.
Some would argue that you could print out a copy of a digital book as a backup to your electronic version. That’s actually a really good idea, but how many of us are going to take the time to print and bind a hard copy of every digital book we own?
Buy hard cover books if you can, paperbacks if that’s all that’s available, and maybe keep some key books on a jump drive as digital versions… just in case.
Store your books carefully, and remember that moisture is the greatest enemy of paper. Keep them in a dry place, off the floor, and out of boxes as much as possible.
Which Books to Buy?
A lot depends on what you know. If you’re a master carpenter, you probably don’t need to stock up on too many books about carpentry. If you’re a doctor, nurse, or any other kind of medical professional, you may not need every first aid book from every armed service on the planet.
Then again, even the pros know that certain books are invaluable as a reference source for formulas, equations, and alternatives, so don’t get cocky.
Another factor to consider are family and friends. They may need to borrow a book to figure out how to do something you don’t have the time to help with, or at a time when you might not be available. In that regard, your knowledge bank becomes a legacy of information educating your kids and grandkids as the world slowly (and hopefully) gets back on its feet.
Complete Guides to Various Subjects
If your budget is tight or you want to travel light, you should consider these books that combine a range of information about subjects. They sometimes lack detail about certain things and may only present one way of doing something, but they at least give you the coverage you may need someday.
- Foxfire Series Book Collection Set Books 1-12 Brand New
- The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 50th Anniversary Edition: The Original Manual for Living off the Land & Doing It Yourself
- Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills
- Prepping for Long-Term Survival: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Life-Saving Strategies. All You Need to Know About Self-Sufficient Living: Water Survival, Food, Stockpile, Bushcraft, and More!
- OFF-GRID LIVING: 3 in 1 Collection | Prepare to Leave the Modern Civilization. A starter Guide for Anyone Thinking About a Self-Sufficient Living
Shelter and Basic Construction
It’s quite possible that you may have to do major repairs or new construction as time goes on. These books cover both current and traditional construction of a range of buildings from homes to barns, sheds, and other outbuildings.
- A Timber Framer’s Workshop: Joinery & Design Essentials for Building Traditional Timber Frames
- Building the Timber Frame House: The Revival of a Forgotten Art
- Revised Log Construction Manual – Ultimate Guide To Building Log Homes
- Effective Practices & Methods: For Handcrafted Log Home Construction (2020)
- Building a Sustainable Home: Practical Green Design Choices for Your Health, Wealth, and Soul
- Ultimate Guide: Barns, Sheds & Outbuildings, Updated 4th Edition, Plan/Design/Build: Step-by-Step Building and Design Instructions (Creative Homeowner) Catalog of Plans for More Than 100 Outbuildings
- The Complete Guide to Building Classic Barns, Fences, Storage Sheds, Animal Pens, Outbuilding, Greenhouses, Farm Equipment, & Tools: A Step-by-Step Guide
- How to Build Chicken Coops: Everything You Need to Know, Updated & Revised
- Buehler’s Backyard Boatbuilding for the 21st Century
Anyone who has ever done any plumbing knows that new challenges always lurk around the next pipe. This is another example of a skill you may need to repair a structure after a natural disaster or determine the best way to install plumbing for new construction.
- Ultimate Guide: Plumbing, Updated 5th Edition (Creative Homeowner) Beginner-Friendly Step-by-Step Projects, Comprehensive How-To Information, Code-Compliant Techniques for DIY, and Over 800 Photos
- Plumbing For Beginners: Step-By-Step Guide to Execute Plumbing Projects In and Around Your House (Including Plumbing For Sink, Under The Toilet, Plumbing For RV, and Much More)
- Guide to Plumbing Installation: Plumbing works on the simple concept of “water in — water out.” In a new home, the plumbing system
Gas Powered Equipment Maintenance and Repair
Assuming gasoline is still available, gas powered tools may be indispensable in a do-it-yourself environment. Whether it’s a generator that won’t start, a chain saw that keeps quitting, or a small tractor that bellows smoke like a semi, the ability to maintain and repair small engines can make life a whole lot easier in overwhelming times.
- Small Engines and Outdoor Power Equipment
- Two-Stroke Engine Repair and Maintenance
- Small Engine Repair Up to 20 Hp
- Small Engine Repair Haynes TECHBOOK for 5HP and Less
- Beachler’s Guide to Vehicle Care and Repair: Automotive Basics from Fluids to Flats
- The Mystery of Basic Automotive Repairs – Solved!
- Auto Repair For Dummies
Another critical subject for repairs or new construction including alternative energy wiring for solar and wind power.
- Ugly’s Electrical References, 2020 Edition
- Audel Electrician’s Pocket Manual
- Ultimate Guide: Wiring, 8th Updated Edition (Creative Homeowner) DIY Home Electrical Installations & Repairs from New Switches to Indoor & Outdoor Lighting with Step-by-Step Photos (Ultimate Guides)
- Solar & 12 Volt Power for beginners: off grid power for everyone
Even without the Internet, there could be plenty of uses for electronic devices, especially if Internet or cell phone service becomes available from time to time. This is one of those times when you definitely want a hard copy of the book rather than a digital version stored electronically.
- How to Diagnose and Fix Everything Electronic
- The Electronics Repair Cookbook: Save Time and Money by Fixing Electronics Yourself
- A step-by-step illustrative guide on how to troubleshoot Laptop and Pc: And how to repair hard drive
- Mobile Phones and Tablets Repairs: A Complete Guide for Beginners and Professionals (Smartphones and Tablets Repairs)
Alternative Electric Power
Possibly one of the most critical subjects to understand in a time without reliable electric power. It would be wise to have some of the equipment and supplies for an alternative power system, but you may need these books to figure out how to get them working.
- Prepper’s Total Grid Failure Handbook: Alternative Power, Energy Storage, Low Voltage Appliances and Other Lifesaving Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living
- Install Your Own Solar Panels: Designing and Installing a Photovoltaic System to Power Your Home
- DIY Solar Power: The Ultimate Guide to Building a Home Photovoltaic System and Achieving Energy Self-Sufficiency
- Wind Power Basics: The Ultimate Guide to Wind Energy Systems and Wind Generators for Homes
Many municipalities are already facing water shortages and, in desperate times, water may not be reliably available.
- The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide: A Complete Set of Life-Saving Methods You Can Depend On in Any Emergency. Discover How to Find, Collect, Filter, Purify and Store Water to Survive Living Off-Grid
- Water Storage: Tanks, Cisterns, Aquifers, and Ponds for Domestic Supply, Fire and Emergency Use–Includes How to Make Ferrocement Water Tanks
- Tapping Into Water Low Tech Well Drilling Techniques and Tools
- Dig Your Own Well: An Illustrated Resource Guide For Shallow Water Wells
- Off-Grid Water Systems: How To Bring Water To Your Homestead
Alternative Heating Sources
Heat is another comfort that we take for granted. Knowing how to improvise heat sources is a wise move and many alternatives like wood stoves can be improvised from a range of scavenged materials.
- DIY Wood Gas Stove and Biochar / Charcoal maker. (How to Kill your Debt with Free Renewable Energy
- Wood Stoves: How to Make and Use Them
- The Renewable Energy Home Handbook: Insulation & energy saving, Living off-grid, Bio-mass heating, Wind turbines, Solar electric PV generation, Solar water heating, Heat pumps, & more
- Wood Gasifier: Living off the Grid: Construction of a Simplified Wood Gas Generator. Guide for beginners on how to Build your gasification system
Civilization began 10,000 years ago when Mesopotamian farmers figured out how to plant seeds to raise crops. If you want to retain a civilized lifestyle when grocery stores are a thing of the past, it makes sense to understand the dynamics of gardening.
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook
- The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd Edition
- Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners
- Field Guide to Urban Gardening: How to Grow Plants, No Matter Where You Live: Raised Beds • Vertical Gardening • Indoor Edibles • Balconies and Rooftops • Hydroponics
- Small-Scale Grain Raising: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers, 2nd Edition
- Urban Gardening: Everything You Need to become a Self Sufficient Urban Gardener and Flourish your own City Apartment Vegetable Garden
- All New Square Foot Gardening, 3rd Edition, Fully Updated: MORE Projects – NEW Solutions – GROW Vegetables Anywhere
- Raised Bed & Container Gardening Handbook For Beginners: Successfully Growing Your Own Self-Sufficiency Garden
- How to Garden Indoors & Grow Your Own Food Year Round: Ultimate Guide to Vertical, Container, and Hydroponic Gardening
A big, second step at the dawn of civilization was the domestication of animals. You don’t need a farm to raise chickens, rabbits, and other small animals, and these books cover all of the basics for this fundamental source of protein.
- The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals: Choose the Best Breeds for Small-Space Farming, Produce Your Own Grass-Fed Meat, Gather Fresh … Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, Pigs, Cattle, & Bees
- The Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens: How to Raise a Happy Backyard Flock (Raising Chickens Guide)
- The Backyard Beekeeper, 4th Edition: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden
- Butchering Poultry, Rabbit, Lamb, Goat, and Pork: The Comprehensive Photographic Guide to Humane Slaughtering and Butchering
All you need is a book to successfully walk through forests, fields and even cities to find wild edible plants. They may not become your total diet but are an excellent and highly nutritional addition to every meal.
- Foraging: The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Foraging Wild Edible Plants and Medicinal Herbs
- The Prepper’s Ultimate Forager’s Bible: Identify, Harvest, and Prepare Edible Wild Plants to Be Ready Even in the Most Critical Situation
- Foraging in 2021: The Ultimate Guide to Foraging and Preparing Edible Wild Plants With Over 50 Plant Based Recipes
- Urban Foraging: Find, Gather, and Cook 50 Wild Plants
- The Urban Forager: How to find and cook wild food in the city
Hunting & Fishing
This is an obvious food alternative, and while many people feel they can easily hunt or fish, there are alternative methods from trapping to nets that are worth knowing.
- Survival Basics Hunting, Fishing, Gathering and Cooking in the Wild
- The Hunting & Fishing For Survival Handbook
- Survival Prepping: Hunting, Fishing, Foraging, Trapping and Eating Insects: Prepping to Survive, 3 Books in 1
- Survival Guide: Learn to Survive Like a Mountain Man: Hunting, Fishing, Trapping + Complete Survival Medicine Book
- Hunting, Trapping, Fishing and Outdoor Cooking: Wilderness and Survival Skills When SHTF
Anyone who gardens, wild forages, hunts, or fishes may find they need to preserve any excess food they produce. At a time when refrigeration and freezing may not be an option, these are skills that are necessary to long-term survival.
- The Complete Guide to Food Preservation Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Freeze, Dry, Can, and Preserve Food
- The Prepper’s Ultimate Food-Storage Guide: Your Complete Resource to Create a Long-Term, Lifesaving Supply of Nutritious, Shelf-Stable Meals, Snacks, and More
- Root Cellaring: The Ultimate Guide to Building a Root Cellar and Keeping Food in Cold Storage (Preserving Food)
- Home Preserving Recipes: A Foolproof Guide to Conservation, Preserved Meats, Fruits And Sugar Free Jams
- The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables: Canning, Pickling, Fermenting, Dehydrating and Freezing Your Favorite Fresh Produce
- The Complete Guide to Pressure Canning: Everything You Need to Know to Can Meats, Vegetables, Meals in a Jar, and More
- The Prepper’s Canning & Preserving Bible: [5 in 1] Water Bath & Pressure Canning, Dehydrating and Fermenting to Stockpiling and Storing Food | Fill Your Pantry to Survive After the Society Collapse
Pioneer methods and some good advice from campers about cooking without conventional convenience.
- Fireless Cookers Haybox Cookers & Retained Heat Cookers: Making & Using Off-grid Cooking Devices
- The Homemade Flour Cookbook: The Home Cook’s Guide to Milling Nutritious Flours and Creating Delicious Recipes with Every Grain, Legume, Nut, and Seed from A-Z
- Wood Stove Cuisine Recipes: Historical Recipes Presented In The 1900s Fashion
- Cast-Iron Camping Cookbook: Easy Skillet Recipes for Outdoor Cooking
- The Brew Your Own Big Book of Homebrewing: All-Grain and Extract Brewing
- Wildcrafted Vinegars
At a time when everything is in short supply or simply unavailable, it makes sense to upcycle certain items to other or new uses. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of upcycling, you definitely need one of these books in your library.
- Upcycling Outdoors: 20 Creative Garden Projects Made from Reclaimed Materials
- Revive Your Ugly Clothes! Upcycling, Refashioning, Reusing, Recycling Old & Outdated Clothing
- REPURPOSED BUSHCRAFT EQUIPMENT
- How to Repair Everything: A Green Guide to Fixing Stuff
If you can’t sew a shirt from scratch or figure out how to repair shoes and boots, it’s time to get a few of these books on our shelf.
- Hand Mending Made Easy: Save Time and Money Repairing Your Own Clothes
- Ultimate Illustrated Guide to Sewing Clothes
- The DIY Guide To Leather Work: Step By Step Guide to Leather Crafting Process, Tips and Techniques
- A Manual of Shoemaking and Leather and Rubber Products
Buy all of them.
- NOLS Wilderness Medicine
- Emergency War Surgery: The Survivalist’s Medical Desk Reference
- Basic Life Support Provider Manual – A Comprehensive Guide Covering the Latest Guidelines
- U.S. Army First Aid Manual: Official Updated 2016 TC 4-02.1
- Tactical Combat Casualty Care and Wound Treatment
- The Merck Manual of Medical Information: 2nd Home Edition (MERCK MANUAL OF MEDICAL INFORMATION HOME EDITION)
When there is no toilet, you’ll need to explore your options. That goes for other things from washing dishes to laundry, and even making soap.
- Consumer Reports How to Clean Practically Anything Magazine May 2017
- All American Outhouse: Stories, Design & Construction
- Easy Soap Making: Natural Recipes for Creative Melt-and-Pour, Hand-Milled, and Cold-Process Soaps
- DIY Natural Body Cleansers & Liquid Soap Making at Home: A Comprehensive Guide for Making Your Own Liquid Soap, Face Wash, Shower Gel, Laundry Detergent & Much MORE!
- How To Make Your Own Toilet Paper
If you’re living without power, running water, central heat and a convenient grocery store, it’s worth tapping into the advice and practices of the people who lived that way for centuries: our pioneer ancestors.
- Blacksmithing Basics For The Homestead
- The Complete Guide to Gunsmithing: Gun Care and Repair
- The Ultimate Guide to Skinning and Tanning: A Complete Guide to Working with Pelts, Fur, and Leather
- Leathercraft: Traditional Handcrafted Leatherwork Skills and Projects
- Making Rustic Furniture: The Tradition, Spirit, and Technique with Dozens of Project Ideas
- Maple Sugaring at Home
- Harvest Your Own Lumber: How to Fell, Saw, Dry and Mill Wood
- Gun Owner’s Handbook: A Complete Guide To Maintaining And Repairing Your Firearms–In The Field Or At Your Workbench
- Camping And Woodcraft – Combined Two Volumes In One – The Expanded 1921 Version (Legacy Edition): The Deluxe Two-Book Masterpiece On Outdoors Living … (Library of American Outdoors Classics)
Pets are part of the family and their health may present issues that require knowledge related to veterinary medicine and nutrition.
- The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health: The complete pet health resource for your dog, cat, horse or other pets – in everyday language. (Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health (Home Edition)
- The Practical Home Veterinarian
- The First-Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats
- Dog Nutrition, Potty Training and Building a Dog House: Learn How to Quickly and Easily Make Homemade Meals for Your Dog, How to Potty Train a Puppy and How to Build a Dog House for Any Weather
This isn’t about fun and games but kid’s health, education, and nutrition.
- Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling
- First Aid Fast for Babies and Children: Emergency Procedures for all Parents and Caregivers
- Pediatric First Aid Manual: Emergency Care, CPR and First Aid for Infant, Toddler, Pre-School, and School Age Children
- The Family Nutrition Book: Everything You Need to Know About Feeding Your Children, from Birth Though adolescence
Do You Need All of These Books?
Probably not. It gets back to what you know and your skill level across a variety of tasks. Then again, your kids and others may need the knowledge these books provide. If you can think of a book or two that should be on this list, please add it in the comments section below.
In the grand scheme of things books are cheap, but the knowledge they contain are invaluable, especially when every day becomes an exercise in improvisation and survival.
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