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Forum Administrator
16,843 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
One of the common questions I see repeated over and over on the forum - What are the best books for a survivalist library?

Since the topic of books is brought up so much, I would like to post an article books.

Some books should be a given, such as religious books and first aid books. Who in their right mind does not have a first aid book in their preps? Saying that you should have a first aid book in your preps, is like saying the sky is blue and the grass is green.

Asking if you have a military survival manual in your preps, is like asking if you took a shower and brushed your teeth this morning.

Lets move past the books that should be a given.

Example forum threads
A must have for your library
Starting My SHTF Library
Survival Library
Survivalist Library
Your Survival library

My personal opinion, the only wrong answer is not doing anything at all. If you are doing "something", then you are on the right path.

One piece of advice that I can offer, is to focus on books that are directly related to your long term SHTF survival plans.

If you live in the middle of a city, why would you buy a bunch of farming and gardening books? The key words there are "a bunch". I can see someone in the city having some chickens, or a small backyard garden, but not on the scale that someone with 100 acres has.

The books we are going to talk about are in no way a complete collection. In my opinion, it would be almost impossible to have a "complete" library.

How my personal library is setup

History books - My library has several non-fiction history books. I wanted to know what problems people faced in outbreaks of the black death. In what ways did society break down? What were the hardships that people faced during the Black Death of 1348 - 1350.

In addition to the problems people faced, I wanted to know what day-to-day life was like. So my library also includes several books on what life was like in the middle ages. What kind of crops did people grow, what kind of livestock did people raise, what kind of justice system did people have in the middle ages?

If there is a complete collapse of society, knowledge will not be forgotten overnight. Mankind will not return to the stone age overnight.
How can we take knowledge that we have right now, and apply it to lessons from the past?

Some of my history books

The great mortality, an intimate history of the Black Death
The Black Death, a chronicle of the plague
Return of the Black Death, the worlds greatest serial killer
Life in a medieval village
The civilization of the middle ages
Legionary, the Roman soldiers unofficial handbook
Caesar: Life of a Colossus
Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

That list of books spans close to 1,500 years of human history. From that list of books we should know what hardships people faced in their everyday lives.

This is in no way a perfect list, its not even close to a perfect list. There is no such thing as a perfect list of books.

Gardening, Livestock and Homesteading

This is where my personal library is rather lacking.

Some of the books in my Farming, Gardening and Livestock section
Raising chickens for dummies
Chickens, by Derek Hall
Readers Digest, Back to Basics
All new square foot gardening by Mel Bartholomew

Instead of buying books on gardening, I study gardening websites, such as Aggie Horticulture - Texas A&M University.

When my wife and I decided to get some chickens, I bought 2 books on chickens - Raising chickens for dummies and Chickens, by Derek Hall

One book on farming / homesteading that I have is a wealth of information, and that is Readers Digest, Back to Basics. This book was sent to me by a member of the forum (you know who you are), and I would like to say "thank you" for the book. Back to Basics by Readers Digest covers everything from planning your homestead, to raising livestock.

All new square foot gardening by Mel Bartholomew was given to me by a forum member (you know who you are), and I would like to say "thank you" once again.

For the Urban Survivalist, square foot gardening would be an ideal solution for growing a small garden in the backyard.

I need to pick up some books on rabbits, goats, pigs and cattle.

The books on livestock goes back to the books about life in medieval times. Is it worth the time and effort to raise cattle and pigs, as opposed to goats and chickens? Not saying that books on pigs and cattle are a waste of time. I think its important to set your priorities. From previous examples, what is the best livestock to raise? The answer to that question should determine the first books you buy.

Some topics on homesteading I want to buy

Blacksmithing - you never know when you might have to make a hoe, knife, plow,,, from scrap metal.
Nutrition - what crops offer the best nutrition punch
Raising cattle
Raising pigs
Raising rabbits
Some kind of general gardening books
Canning and preserving food

Preserving our history

In a worse case situation, I feel that it is important to have some kind of literature and history books.

If you want a literature book, a good place to start is the local college book store. While I was going to college I took a couple of classes in literature. After the semester was over, instead of selling the books back to the book store, I kept the books and they were added to my collection.

After my grandfather passed away I inherited his book collection. This included books covering the U.S. Civil War and a wide range of U.S. history books.


Who said your library "has" to be made up of hardback books? In my opinion, magazines are an often overlooked as part of a SHTF library. Why buy a book, when you can buy a subscription and have the magazine mailed to your home monthly?

There are a lot of good magazines on the market that could be associated with survivalism. Some examples include backpacker, field and stream and popular mechanics.

I like to keep a stash of hunting magazines and American Survival Guide magazines at the Bug Out Location.

Having reading material at the camp / Bug Out Location gives people something to do and helps to break the boredom. During hunting season and the days are short, we have something to keep our minds occupied with besides watching TV.

Hunting and fishing magazines provide good tips for around the camp, and of course hunting and fishing.

Military Survival Manuals

Military survival manuals such as the SAS survival manual, FM21-76,and the Air Force offer a wealth of information.

As already stated previously in this article, military survival manuals should be a given. Buy a couple, put read them, and put them in your library.

One survival manual that I think is a step above the rest is The Survival Handbook, essential skills for outdoor adventure. Besides covering a wife range of topics, the book has a hardcover. It might be just me, but I like it when publishers make a book with a hardcover.

I got my copy of The Survival Handbook from

The Survival Handbook measures 10 1/4 by 7 3/4 inches. Its a little large for a backpacking survival manual. But it has a place in my survival library.

Instead of posting book topics that you want or have, lets focus on books that you currently have in your library, and where you want to improve.

*Full disclosure - I received my copy of The Survival Handbook from safecastle at no cost to myself.

Super Moderator and Walking Methane Refinery
67,105 Posts
Life in a Medieval Village is one of my favorites. Really gives a taste for how things once were.

A few that I've come to appreciate greatly for their self sufficiency information are Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living and the Foxfire Series. And Sam's Club has some huge books full of more good info than can be imagined, called Country Wisdom and Know How, Garden Wisdom and Know How and Survival Wisdom and Know How. For me, all of the above are mandatory for the survival library too.

81 Posts
To add to your list of books about the Black Death, you should read The Great Famine, by William Jordan.

Happening in the early 14th century, the Great Famine occurred when it rained almost constantly for 2 years. Crops failed, livestock fell sick and died, mud and slime everywhere. Along with famine was the problem of food hoarding, price gouging, and anti-noble violence.

Many think that the Black Death (30 or so years later) was so bad because people were so weakened by the famine earlier.

I had to read it for grad school, but it was one of the few that stuck with me.

81 Posts
Actually, anything by Plato would be good. Especially the four books usually lumped together and called "The Trial and Death of Socrates." They show a philosophical approach to facing hardship and are very easy to read, even for non-philosphical types.

With all due respect....
1,837 Posts
Some other history books I might suggest are:
The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution 1763-1789
The Journals of Lewis and Clark
Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege
The Manifesto of the Communist Party
Mein Kampf (Ford Translation)
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
The Warrior Ethos
The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land
The Civilization of the Middle Ages: A Completely Revised and Expanded Edition of Medieval History
The Rise of Fascism
The Russian Revolution
The Twelve Ceasers
Washington: A Life
The Histories
On War (von Clausewitz)
The Divine Comedies

39,500 Posts
I have to be honest, the amount of books the DW and I were collecting were starting to overrun my storage space for food preps.

Several years of my back issues of back woods home, backwoods man, Hobby poultry, Hobby Farm Living, Popular Mechanics and Science, and Mother Earth etc.. The foxfire series... military survival manuals, medical books, Tech manuals for equipment that are in my preps, Firearms references etc….

about a year ago I started finding the books on PDF and have taken the plunge to go that rout.

Many thanks to Kev and the downloadable files that are available here with a VIP membership.

my family have invested in either Kindle Fire tablets or Nooks. I have set up solar charging stations for each of the devices.

all the books have been saved on thumb drives, including scanned images of all our important papers, credit card numbers, photos etc.

Now I know the argument about electronics re a SHTF but if we are to Bug Out there is no way we could take all the paper books with us.

It was a hard decision.

21,805 Posts
A few of my favorites:

"Living off the land in the city and the country" - Ragnar Benson
"Citizen Soldier - A Manual of Community Based Defense"
"Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants"

5,718 Posts
I just finished 'Salt, A World History.'

It has TONS of information, starting from the centuries BC about finding and producing salt.

And preserving and pickling food with it.

It goes into the economic value of it...which it could again be integral in if SHTF.

I thought it was an interesting and easy read, dry in a few places, complete with recipes (altho what people ate in the past was often just vile....but then again, the masses didnt have many choices.) Salt: A World History (9780142001615): Mark Kurlansky: Books

Daughter OfThe Revolution
31,990 Posts
Well I just spent $90! :eek::

But I got these books!:D: Thanks guys for the tips!

Dare to Prepare! - Holly Drennan Deyo
$42.67 - Quantity: 1

•Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places - Steve Brill
$14.95 - Quantity: 1

•The Black Death: A Chronicle of the Plague - Johannes Nohl
$6.25 - Quantity: 1

•Life in a Medieval Village - Frances Gies
$9.20 - Quantity: 1

I'll add a few I consider 'must haves'.:thumb:

The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds by Robert Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough
Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel
Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning by The Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante.
Kitchen Table Book by the Editors of FC& A Medical Publishing
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine.
Do-It-Yourself Medicine by Ragnar Benson.

I have a jillion more on the subjects of history, food, home remedies, livestock care and breeding. I'll just leave you with these few of my favorites now!

Daughter OfThe Revolution
31,990 Posts
:rolleyes:Okay, Thanks again guys and now I've ordered

The Great Famine, by William Jordan
Where There Is No Doctor
Where There Is No Dentist
Ditch Medicine.

Now.... I have to 'ditch' this thread for obvious reasons!:xeye: :whip:

Deo iuvante
4,977 Posts
Storey's Basic Country Skills
The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Emery
Making & Using Dried Foods by Phyllis Hobson
The Amazing Wheat Book by LeArta Moulton
How to Live on Wheat by John Hill
Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon
366 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans and Grains by Andrea Chesman
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
Beans by Aliza Green
Putting Food By by Janet Greene, et al
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe
The Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashford

Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook
The Sandford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy
First Aid Manual by American College of Emergency Physicians
The Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine Handbook by Joseph and Amy Alton

Manual for your firearms such as:
The AR-15 Complete Assembly Guide by Walt Kuleck
Army TM 9-1005-319-23&P Support Maintenance Manual for M16A2 and M4

A good herbal medicine reference.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
The Writings of Thomas Jefferson
Common Sense by Thomas Paine
Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
The Federalist Papers
The Anti-Federalist Papers
Second Treatise of Government by John Locke
The Republic by Plato
The Politics by Aristotle
Anything you can get your hands on from The Loeb Classical Library
Roots of Strategy Vol I-IV
The Traditional Bowyer's Bible
War in the Shadows by by Robert Asprey
Modern Welding by Andrew Althouse, et al.
The Skills of a Blacksmith, Vol I, by Mark Aspery
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