The amount of survival and emergency preparedness books in existence is overwhelming.
While I think this massive variety is a great thing, it can also be a little distracting.
In a true grid-down emergency scenario where you and your family need to focus on immediate survival, a huge percentage of the “prepping” books won’t be of use until much, much later.
This post is meant to highlight the most essential books, in my opinion, that you should have in your library to increase your chances of survival right after a breakdown of societal structure.
The focus is on procuring food and knowing how to tend to medical issues that may arise. It doesn’t matter how much food and water you have stored if an infection from a small cut leads to blood poisoning that kills you or a loved one, a terror that is preventable with the right knowledge.
So without further ado, here are the books I think we will all wish we had in a survival situation. Enjoy, and please add to the list in the comments section at the bottom of this article.
Medical is crucial. As mentioned above, a cut not treated properly can turn into an infection that could evolve to blood poisoning, loss of limb, and eventually death if no one knows the proper treatments and prevention measures.
Having thorough medical guides is a priceless investment, and at the very top of my list of must-have prepping books.
Where There Is No Doctor
Hesperian's classic manual, Where There Is No Doctor, is arguably the most widely-used health care manual in the world.
All Hesperian books are regularly updated and reprinted to reflect accurate medical information.
The manual provides practical, easily understood information on how to diagnose, treat, and prevent common diseases. Special attention is focused on nutrition, infection and disease prevention, and diagnostic techniques as primary ways to prevent and treat health problems.
This book's broad focus makes it an invaluable resource. The author uses straightforward language and careful instructions to explain how to
diagnose common dental problems
make and use dental equipment
use local anesthetics
and remove teeth
The 2nd edition Survival Medicine Handbook is a guide for those who want to be medically prepared for any disaster where help is NOT on the way.
This book is written by Joe Alton, M.D. and Amy Alton, A.R.N.P., the premiere Medical Preparedness Professionals from the top ten survival website doomandbloom.net
The Survival Medicine Handbook is not your standard first aid book. It assumes that no hospital or doctor is available in the aftermath of a catastrophic event. This book will give you the tools to handle injuries and illness for when YOU might be the end of the line with regards to your family's medical well-being. In circumstances where medical personnel are overwhelmed and access to modern technology is limited or non-existent, The Survival Medicine Handbook is the essential reference book for every prepper’s library.
Hunting + Butchering
Whatever dietary label you’ve assigned yourself in our wonderfully comfortable modern world of supermarkets and all that you could possibly dream of to eat right at your fingertips, if you’re hungry or your loved ones are hungry, calories are what will matter, not so much which diet you’re on.
Not many of us have ever experienced true hunger. Even if you fast or have fasted, it is a different mindset entirely to know that you can have food if you want it badly enough. Imagine the feeling of a fast paired with not knowing when you will eat again.
Now factor in all of the other stressors you might be enduring like figuring out clean water, keeping your home protected from marauders, trying to comfort your children, not getting sleep… yes, I can almost guarantee any diet you’re on will turn into the “whatever you can get” diet.
If you’re still thinking, “Ugh. No. It wouldn’t be like that…” then you might be a little detached from [UNcivilized] reality.
If you want to provide for yourself and your loved ones, you need to know how to hunt.
But just as important, you need to know how to handle wild game after you’ve killed it. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up transmitting disease, pathogens, and bacteria to your family. You can end up wasting the meat, destroying it entirely because you stuck a knife in the wrong place.
Go ahead and prevent this by adding these books to your collection.
This invaluable book includes:
recommendations on what equipment you will need—and what you can do without—from clothing to cutlery to camping gear to weapons
basic and advanced hunting strategies, including spot-and-stalk hunting, ambush hunting, still hunting, drive hunting, and backpack hunting
how to effectively use decoys and calling for big game
how to find hunting locations, on both public and private land, and how to locate areas that other hunters aren’t using
how and when to scout hunting locations for maximum effectiveness
a species-by-species description of fourteen big-game animals, from their mating rituals and preferred habitats to the best hunting techniques—both firearm and archery—for each species
how to plan and pack for backcountry hunts
instructions on how to break down any big-game animal and transport it from your hunting site
how to butcher your own big-game animals and select the proper cuts for sausages, roasts, and steaks, and how to utilize underappreciated cuts such as ribs and shanks
cooking techniques and recipes, for both outdoor and indoor preparation of wild game
This guide takes the mystery out of butchering, covering everything you need to know to produce your own expert cuts of beef, venison, pork, lamb, poultry, and small game.
John J. Mettler Jr. provides easy-to-follow instructions that walk you through every step of the slaughtering and butchering process, as well as plenty of advice on everything from how to dress game in a field to salting, smoking, and curing techniques.
Wild Edible Plants
Growing a garden takes time and a certain level of stability.
In the first phase of an emergency/grid-down/societal collapse scenario, you would need to be able to harvest food off of your local landscape.
This is important - meat can only take you so far, beans and rice can only take you so far (assuming you have dried goods stored away), you need the wonderful vitamins and minerals that plants give us in order to stay strong and resilient.
I recommend taking up wild edible identification now as a hobby so that you’re well-acquainted with your go-to spots for certain edibles— you need to know where the nettle patch is or the wild hyacinth field before things crumble.
Most wild foods have a more dynamic nutritional profile than modern genetically-modified veggies (all veggies in the supermarket have been genetically-modified from their native form), so learning to forage your landscape has a whole array of benefits.
The following are my favorite foraging books, all of them containing color photos (which I find to be invaluable when you’re out in the field).
A guide to 32 of the best and most common edible wild plants in North America, with detailed information on how to identify them, where they are found, how and when they are harvested, which parts are used, how they are prepared, as well as their culinary use, ecology, conservation, and cultural history.
512 color photos, demonstrating each edible part in the proper stage of harvest, plus showing important identifying features
Acorns! - everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask
Step-by-step tutorial to positive plant identification
Photos and text comparing potentially confusing plants
Thorough discussion on how to gather and use the plants
This Peterson Field Guide was my first ever foraging book, almost a decade ago.
This is the tool that taught me most of the wild plants I know so well today.
Features color photos for solid identifying and a small compact size for tossing in your satchel and heading to the woods.
There are a ton of incredibly useful books out there for your preparedness library, but in my opinion these are the absolute essentials, the books that could be the difference between life or death.
So if you’re on a budget or are new to prepping and want to start with the most important first - these are my recommendations.
Which titles do you think are absolutely necessary? Please help add to this list by leaving a comment below letting me (and everyone who reads this) know what books you think would be invaluable in a grid-down scenario.
Thanks so much for reading, folks!
Until next time…
Related Products >
My husband and I are working to build a Nordic-inspired homestead in the Washington wilderness slowly with cash and no debt. You can follow the journey here!
I write about:
our homestead journey
health & wellness
wild food foraging
DIY & craft projects
making a living online from home (or anywhere)
my own recipes from scratch
and much more