Emergency Preparedness: Personal Library Essentials

When people think about preparing for emergencies, they usually think about the obvious first: food storage, water, and guns. I’m afraid that often people forget how important it is to have a well established personal library comprised of different “how to” type books.

Today, I’d like to make some suggestions for books that would be very useful to have on hand in case the internet was lost and the only information you could access was what knowledge you’ve tucked away for a rainy day, and the books you have with you.

weeds and bugs identification flip books
weeds and bugs identification flip books

They say “Knowledge is power”, but in a survival situation it could mean more than that, because your life will be on the line. The right kind of books can help you get through the hardest of times. Here are some titles you might consider putting on your wishlist this year.

I can only comment on books that I personally own, but I’ll also share a few with you that I have on my wishlist (if I had all the money in the world, I’d have a massive library!).  I’d love to hear your recommendations if you don’t see one of your favorites mentioned.

There are so many good books out there, but here are a few I’m pleased to own:


Disclosure: if you visit an external link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Read my full earnings disclosure here.

Since I’ve begun using a variety of gardening methods, there are several different books I refer back to quite often.

I find value in knowing various gardening techniques, so my library includes Lasagna Gardening, Square Foot Gardening, Organic Gardening, Hidden Survival Gardening, and traditional methods. I’m also interested in the French Intensive Method, Hugelkultur, and Permaculture. Here are a few of my most referenced gardening books…

Reader’s Digest Illustrated Guide To Gardening). This book is great because it covers almost every plant you can think of, including flowers, fruits, nuts, and berries. It gives lots of information on planting, propagating, fertilizing, pruning, and pest control. I reference this book all the time when planning my garden.

Step by Step Organic Vegetable Gardening by Shepherd Ogden. We found this oldie but goodie in my husband’s grandpa’s house after he passed away. Lots of old fashioned gardening wisdom in this book.

The Frugal Gardener by Catriona Tudor Erler. This book is packed full of money saving tips to help you have the best garden for the least money.

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. Learn how to make the best use of every square foot of your garden.

What’s Wrong With My Vegetable Garden by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth. Diagnose disease and pest problems and learn organic solutions for your vegetable garden. Lots of great photos.

Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth. Everything you’ll ever need to know about saving seeds for your garden.

Homesteading / Living Off The Land

Building Your Survival Library: 40 plus books you'll want to have!

I have a ton of homesteading books on my bookshelf, but if you’re looking for literature that covers everything you would need to survive using primitive skills, my suggestion boils down to two books and a great series.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. The Bible of homesteading. Every serious homesteader should own a copy of this book.

Reader’s Digest Back To Basics. I LOVE this book. It’s packed full of pioneer skills with step-by-step instructions and lots of great pictures. I often flip through it just for fun and inspiration.

The Foxfire Series. Our set was also salvaged from my husband’s grandfather’s old house. They’re well worn, and thoroughly enjoyed. Each of these books follows a crew of students deep into the Appalachian mountains, where they interview old timers who have been living primitively in an off-grid cabin their whole lives.

These folks teach us how they survive on whatever resources they have available to them. Fascinating stories.

Wild Foraging

Building Your Survival Library: 40 plus books you'll want to have!

With foraging books in your library to learn from and practice with, you will never have to fear starvation as long as you are free to roam.

The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide, by Linda Runyon. I love everything Linda has put out. Not only does she help you identify edible plants, she also gives you plenty of recipes to try.

I also have her book, Eat the Trees!, and her Wild Food Identification Guide (which has color photos instead of drawings). I think my favorite, though, are her Wild Cards– a pack of cards with photos of edible plants and identification information. I love to take these cards with me on walks and use them to find new wild edibles around our property.

The Wild Wisdom of Weeds by Katrina Blair. This is the newest addition to my bookshelf and has quickly become one of my most referenced foraging books. It goes over just a handful of the most common wild edibles, and includes plenty of recipes to help you begin incorporating wild foods into your everyday meals.

Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians by Patricia Howell. I like this book because it goes over tons and tons of plants that grow in my region. What I don’t like about this book is that there are no pictures.

Several people have recommended that you accompany this book with Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs, which I have on my wishlist.

The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer. Another good reference book with color photos and tons of descriptions.

The Pocket Guide to Wild Mushrooms by Holmberg and Marklund. This book is fantastic for anyone with little to no knowledge of wild mushrooms. It sorts the mushrooms by foraging level: safe for beginners (no poisonous look-a likes), intermediate skill (with some mildly toxic look-a likes), and advanced (mushrooms which can easily be confused with dangerously poisonous look-a likes). Tons of color photos to help you properly identify mushrooms in the wild.

Health and Medicine

Building Your Survival Library: 40 plus books you'll want to have!

If I had to pick two genres as the most important for my library, they would be foraging and medicinal books. Without food and medicine, survival would be impossible.

What happens when you are faced with a medical emergency, and you have no way of getting to a doctor? What if over the counter medications are no longer available?

When conventional medicines are no longer within arms reach, you may be scrambling to find something to alleviate whatever ails you. It is incredibly important to have good resources on hand to help you make the best decisions possible in critical situations.

The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody. This is my absolute favorite book on how to make your own herbal medicines from plants you can grow yourself or find in your very backyard. I reference it constantly.

Modern Essentials by Aroma Tools. An amazing resource. This book goes over pretty much all of the essential oils you can buy, tells you how to use them, and then also has ailments listed alphabetically so you can find your issue and see which oils would help relieve the trouble as well as how exactly to use them.

Out of all of my medicinal books, I use this one the most often.  The FDA won’t allow me to tell you on my blog what brand of essential oils I use and recommend.

The Ship’s Medicine Chest and Medical Aid at Sea (1978). This is one of those books that “preppers” say is a must -have. To be honest, I’ve read quite a bit of it and have found it to be somewhat impractical information for the everyday person. Some of the procedures/recommendations are outdated, and some are still sound.

There are good protocols in the book, and some I’m sure would be frowned upon today. If you have access to pharmaceuticals, it would be more applicable. I keep this book because it was a government issued text, and the medical practices within have been used for a long time. It covers everything from handling disease and death to giving birth unassisted. A good resource to have ‘just in case’, but not something I reference on a regular basis.

The American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook. A good basic first aid guide.

Where There Is No Doctor by David Werner. Although this is not one of my favorite resources, it does have some good info in it for third world country health and living conditions. The information is good, but many of the treatments require pharmaceuticals which may or may not be easy to obtain in a crisis. A good overall reference, but I’d definitely recommend that you learn natural alternatives to the conventional medicine used in the recommended treatments.

Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson. I think my thoughts on Where There is No Doctor would equally apply to this book. A good reference, but have knowledge of natural alternatives as backup.

Be Your Own Doctor by Rachel Weaver. Written by a mother of many and a healer in her community, Rachel shares tons of home remedies that have worked for her family and her clients over the years. I’ve really enjoyed using this book.

Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel. A fascinating study of how you can reverse tooth decay through a proper diet, and regenerate your teeth with nutrition. Cavities and dental troubles are no fun. In a long term survival situation it would be imperative to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Surviving When Modern Medicine Fails by Dr. Scott A. Johnson. Another great resource for using essential oils for natural relief. This book has more specific “recipes” for using the oils than the Modern Essentials Guide, though lacks the scientific data found in the latter. I like to use these books side-by-side.

Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs, and Herbal Recipes For Vibrant Health. What I love about these books is that they show you how to use plants that you can grow right in your own yard to treat your family naturally. I prefer to use essential oils because they are so concentrated, but I also enjoy growing herbs and practicing using them for times when I might not have access to the essential oils I need. Rosemary has some fantastic resources full of recipes to try.

Canning/Preserving Food

Building Your Survival Library: 40 plus books you'll want to have!

Any time you are canning or preserving food, it’s critical that you use tested and safe methods. Food poisoning can be deadly. You should never just wing it. These are my three favorite books on canning and dehydrating:

Ball Blue Book: Guide To Preserving. The #1 resource for approved canning recipes.

Growing and Canning your Own Food, by Jackie Clay. I like this book because it goes beyond the Ball Blue Book and adds new recipes to the repertoire, including more meals-in-a-jar.

How To Dry Foods, by Deanna DeLong. This book is all about how to dehydrate fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meats. My copy is pretty vintage, but she has an updated version available on Amazon.


In a survival situation it is likely that the only food you’ll have available to you is what you can grow with your two hands, what you’ve stored up, and what you can forage or hunt in the wild. You need to have a few good cookbooks which use these most basic ingredients to make delicious, wholesome meals your whole family will enjoy.

Cookbooks are important to me because I seriously have no creativity when it comes to the kitchen. I. Need. Recipes. The following are my favorite pioneer style/simple ingredient cookbooks, and a few on cooking with freeze dried and dehydrated foods.

Building Your Survival Library: 40 plus books you'll want to have!

Clara’s Kitchen, by Clara Cannucciari. If you read the review I wrote on this book a while back you already know how much I love these Depression Era recipes!

Dining During The Depression by Reminisce Books. More cheap and simple recipes from the Depression Era, and recollections from those who lived through those hard times.

Extending the Table, by Joetta Handrich Schlabach. A wonderful collection of recipes from around the world, made only from ingredients the tribal people could grow or gather themselves.

The Little House Cookbook. Pioneer recipes straight from the Little House series. I love these recipes because they are designed to be cooked without electricity from simple home grown and wild foods. The only store bought ingredients would be what the pioneers would have picked up at the general store, basic baking supplies.

Simple Food For The Good Life by Helen Nearing. A humorous and witty approach to cooking while spending as little time as possible in the kitchen using home grown ingredients. Helen tries to use fresh foods as much as possible, and despises time spent preparing food. My kind of lady. (I wrote a little more about the Nearings and their vegetarian homestead in this article.)

Woodstove Cookery by Jane Cooper. How to use a wood cookstove and simple recipes for woodstove cookery.

Cooking with Food Storage Made Easy, by Debbie G. Harman– A really useful book full of recipes to make from your food storage ingredients.

Thrive Cookbook. Amazing recipes using Thrive Freeze Dried foods. A great resource for using your food storage with plenty of mouth watering photos.

The Prepper’s Cookbook by Tess Pennington. More from scratch recipes using shelf stable foods from your food storage pantry.

*I would also recommend that you get a couple of good books on butchering large (and small) animals. Whole Beast Butchery is one I’ve been wanting to get.

Emergency Preparedness

Building Your Survival Library: 40 plus books you'll want to have!

A few basic wilderness survival and emergency preparedness manuals are incredibly important to have on your bookshelf. Because you never know what life will throw at you. These are the two books I find myself going back to time and time again.

SAS Survival Handbook by John “Lofty” Wiseman. Learn how to build your own shelter, make traps for catching wild game, start a fire without matches, navigate the wilderness, and so much more. Here’s an excellent resource for everything you would need to know to survive in an emergency situation.

The Survival Mom by Lisa Bedford. I love this book. I truly believe every mom should own a copy, and should follow the advice Lisa so painstakingly compiled.

Of course, we have many more books than this. But the ones I’ve listed here I feel are definitely worth having. We can’t always count on having the internet to surf, or the public library to borrow from, so it’s important to get copies of your own to keep at home. If you don’t have a good stack of “how to” books like these, I’d highly suggest adding a few at a time to your personal library.

Do you have a favorite book that would fit into one of these categories? Or did I forget to cover a crucial subject? I’m always looking for more great books to add to our library, so please share your suggestions!!

17 thoughts on “Emergency Preparedness: Personal Library Essentials”

  1. Great list! Here are a few more books I’d recommend: Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel, Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Cookbook, The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook by Tammy Gangloff (of http://www.dehydrate2store.com), and The Dehydrator Bible by Jennifer MacKenzie, et al.

  2. Hi Kendra.
    Came over after reading your article on Soap plants on Prepper Project. Enjoyed your rational,logical common sence style of writing.

    Your “The Ship’s Medicine Chest and Medical Aid at Sea (1978)” can be updated at


    This is the newest complete addition, 8 July 2014 plus 2 annex’s that are in PDF for easy and printing. It is written for the lay-person with no medical training. Yes, Death and Dieing are covered very respectfully plus many other topics that you won’t find in a first aid book. Definately worth the time and effort to save and print. 280 pgs + the Annex’s. A+

    Happy to see you have Carla Emory’s “Encyclopedia of Country Living”. I have one of the original spiral bound mimeographed editions that is sadly fading plus the Anniversy Edition with 100+ pages.

    Enjoying your site and your commonsence writing style. As Sgt Joe Friday(Dragnet) would say “Just the facts mamam”

    Thank you for the time and effort in creating this site and sharing with those of us who seek knowledge.

    Respectfully yours,


  3. I would also recommend Dr. John Christopher’s book “School of Natural Healing”. It is a higher priced book, but the information in there is priceless! Margaret Grieve’s 2 volume set of “A Modern Herbal” is also extremely useful. I have quite a library on herbals and healing, including the books listed above. A lot of information is repeated in the books, but each has its own gems of knowledge not found anywhere else. I hope this helps someone trying to build their own library.

  4. I highly recommend the Foxfire Series. They are a collection of old old books, that teach it all. The writers interviewed those high in the mountains, who had no electricity and wrote step by step directions to canning, baking, gardening, butchering, making cheese, butter, medicines, I think moonshine is even covered!! We referred to it when we butchered our cow ourselves and found it very very useful!

  5. Great idea! We’ve become so dependent on the instant answers from the Web that we forget the importance of a good home library. Your list is great but you neglected to include books about how to care for critters in your life. The Natural Pet (forget the author) is a great book about natural home remedies for common housepets. Anyone who raises birds or livestock should also have books about animal first aid, bulding animal shelters, and finding alternate food sources for the animals they raise.

  6. Kendra,
    I can’t thank you enough for this post! I’m working on my library and I gave the book titles out for Christmas gift ideas.

  7. Just a couple of generations ago nobody would read the Canning/Preserving Food book – people knew how do it perfectly well because it was an essential part of their living. My mom still preserves home made jam from home grown strawberries and it tastes nothing like the store food.

  8. The Joy Of Cooking is a good cookbook too! I love it! Like Andrea said, The Better Homes and Gardens cookbook is a good one, and I’d definitely have to add a few DIY books!

  9. Tomorrow (Thursday Nov. 18th), Glenn Beck will be speaking about food storage and the importance of stocking up. He indicated his audience will be among those who do not put their head in the sand. This is his regular TV week night show on Fox (4:00 pm central). If you don’t have a TV…might want to visit someone who has one in order to see this!

    Yes, Food Storage and Stocking Up!
    Should be good!

  10. Good post! I love to read. I love the Lord, gardening, canning, cooking, and many other things. So I have books on many of these topics. The Encyclopedia for Country Living is a great resource!

  11. In the cookbook category, I’d add an old, old copy of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I have a copy from the late 1930’s and it is absolutely invaluable, in my opinion. The recipes are from scratch, no canned/boxed ingredients. It contains a lot of information on subjects like dressing fresh kills, using ingredients that we don’t use these days (such as organ meats) and using leftovers creatively.

    Very basic DIY books may be handy too. Like how to fix leaky pipes, small engine repair, that sort of thing.


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