The web is awesome. But what happens when a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, or grid collapse knocks out your power and internet service? We certainly won't be able to google "How to set a broken arm," or "Edible Florida plants" at the exact time we'll need to. This is where a thorough non-fiction library of survival books comes into play. It's critical to have a little reference shelf to help us figure out what to do when we need advice.
Selected here are a smattering of the wide range of great survival books on offer. These are, in our opinion, the best references in each category.
Overall Prepping Survival Books: How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, by James Wesley, Rawles
How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times by James Wesley, Rawles focuses on how to prepare for a medium to long term breakdown of what he terms our "fragile society." He posits that in the midst of a global pandemic or financial melt down infrastructure, food supply chains, and essential services such as police and fire departments will shut down while citizens focus on the safety of their families. Looting and rioting will follow, and most families will be out of food by the end of the week. Rawles recommends thorough, decisive action to prepare to hunker down for at least three to four months. His plan, however, can prepare you to live on your own for a decade or more.
We recommend Rawles book as the #1 place to start for initial preparation mentality. It's not an enormous tome, but the amount of times you'll say to yourself "I never would have thought of that" will leave you primed to get started on your own journey of self sufficiency.
Covered in the book are: The Survival Mindset; The List of Lists; The Survival Retreat; Water; Food Storage; Fuel and Home Power; Gardens and Livestock; Medicine; Communications; Home Defense; Firearms; Getting Out of Dodge; Investing, Barter, and Home Based Business
Wilderness Skills Survival Books: Bushcraft 101, by Dave Canterbury
Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival by Dave Canterbury is, by the author's own admission, "not about Bugging Out, SHTF, or the Zombie Apocalypse." Instead, it's "a book on how to better enjoy time spent in God's creation whether you are there because you choose to be or got stuck there temporarily due to misfortune while recreating." Instead Canterbury has taken experimental Archeology to a new level and focuses on how to use basic, high quality gear to thrive in the wilderness.
Canterbury's tips are based off of many, many years spent in the wilderness and can help anyone accelerate their learning curve through his extensive experience. In it you'll find sections on: Your Pack; Tools; Rope, Cordage, and Knots; Containers and Cooking Tools; Shelter; Fire; Setting Up Camp; Navigating Terrain; and Trapping/Processing Game.
As a bonus, he has close to 1,000 videos posted on youtube which demonstrate each skill in his book and hundreds more. If you're looking for a resource that will teach you the basics and then some, Canterbury's Bushcraft 101 is the place to start.
A Survival Skills Bible: Survival Wisdom & Know How: Everything You Need to Know to Subsist in the Wilderness, by Stackpole Books
Survival Wisdom & Know How: Everything You Need to Know to Thrive in the Wilderness is the bible of wilderness survival books. From building outdoor shelters to cooking to surviving in the desert, this book has absolutely everything.
A 10 x 13 paperback with 480 pages, Survival Wisdom is much more like a phone book or encyclopedia than a basic skills guide. The tome boasts "7,845 Useful Skills and Step-By-Step Instructions" along with over 1,000 diagrams and photos.
Survival Wisdom is a reference, not something you'd stash in your bug out bag for a long walk to your hunker-down location. Especially useful are the sections on identifying edible wild plants, surviving in the desert, orienteering, and hunting/trapping.
The best recommendation for this book is to take it camping with you and use it to guide your camp misadventures. Also recommended are Country Wisdom & Know How and Garden Wisdom & Know How.
First Aid: The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is Not on the Way, by Joe and Amy Alton
Covering over 100 medical issues from dental problems to seizures to food poisoning, there is no clearer, more thorough medical resource available to the general public. Its sections cover the Principals of Medical Preparedness; Hygiene & Sanitation; Infections; Environmental Factors; Injuries; Chronic Medical Problems; and Medicines.
Written by a husband (MD) and wife (Nurse Practitioner & Midwife) team who specializes in 19th century "off the grid" medicine with modern quality of care, each condition described comes with step-by-step treatment discussions. Most importantly, the Altons spend time describing how to deal with unexpected problems in the middle of medical emergency situations.
More than just a book for preppers, this manual belongs in every home.
General Outdoor Survival: SAS Survival Handbook, Third Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere, by John "Lofty" Wiseman
SAS Survival Handbook, Third Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere is the classic all-around survival manual. It has been updated in this third edition to include topics such as urban survival and terrorism.
Written by the venerable John "Lofty" Wiseman, the SAS manual is a complete short term survival course covering basic skills, making camp, food, first aid, disaster survival, self defense, security, climate, & terrain. Especially unique are his sections on surviving at sea, navigation using the stars, and how to get rescued.
We like it because it's thorough enough (672 pages of thorough!) that if the great Google were to go down indefinitely, we would still have somewhere to turn for answers.
The illustrations are excellent, and there are sections about preparing your survival kit with well researched and well thought out tutorials for each piece of essential gear.
Soon we'll be reviewing the best survivalist fiction available. While survivalist fiction may sound a little silly to some, there's a lot to be said for getting lost in a story and putting yourself in the mindset of people going through situations we all may face sometime. Until then, get your library in order with these great reference survival books.