Monday, April 25, 2011

Books Rule!

I think one of the things that sets my book apart from other similar books (i.e. one's that are about "survival" in the face of TEOTWAWKI) is that I place some emphasis on things that other authors/writers never consider. Specifically, I recommend building a library.

When people ask me why I include that recommendation, I have, what I think are, a few good reasons. One is that we are not a society that teaches "life skills", and by that I mean every day, useful kinds of skills that help make life more simple - from homesteading skills like how to grow and preserve food, how to raise and butcher an animal and tan the hide, and how to make lye soap to more specialized tasks like how to spin animal fur into fiber and then weave that fiber into cloth, how to forage spring greens or medicinal plants, or even something as (seemingly) simple as splitting wood for the woodstove.

How many of us have been taught these skills today?

Elliot Wigginton and his students attempted to perserve this knowledge in The Foxfire Book series. What they discovered, though, and what I realized, as I was reading the Foxfire books and writing my own, is that our society has an incredible dearth of knowledge of how perform very simple, every day tasks, that the people interviewed by Wigginton and his students simply took for granted.

First off, we should note that those people interviewed didn't live hundreds of years ago. In fact, it is only within the last generation or two that this wealth of information and skill has been lost. What's even more interesting is that by and large those people would have been considered less worldly and less intelligent than most of us consider ourselves. Yet, they had skills and knowledge that would help them survive in conditions we couldn't even fathom living in. Without our modern amenities, most of us would die. Without modern amenities, those people would continue to live ... and THRIVE ... just like they always had.

Today, in an interview with Carl Etnier we talked about the loss of those skills, and I said, basically, that we no longer have those very simple, life-enriching and potentially life saving skills, and it will be only through books that most of us will learn them. In fact, it was through books that I learned the skills I needed to safely preserve food for my family, and Deus Ex Machina learned to harvest our rabbits and tan the hides.

The best reason for collecting books and caring for them, though, came in the comments section of this article about a 500 year old book that was found in an attic in Sandy, Utah. Commenter Gsfish said, imagine 500 years from now. Now imagine that someone finds a disk with digital books on it. They won't have much of a chance of reading them with technology in that time even if the files stayed intact. However, this book will be 1,000 years old by then and still be readable. Books rule!

I couldn't have said it better myself.


  1. I'm 70+ and cannot remember a time in my life without books. During WWII my grandmother would set me in a chair in the kitchen while she was cooking, give me a book or magazine, and say "Read,"... and I'd turn the pages saying, "Read, read, read" long before I could actually read.

    When I moved the last time, I discarded hundreds of fiction books, saving only some classics, and began adding to my already extensive collection of books that taught skills.

    As you say, there are many that talk about lost skills, such as the Foxfire books, but not in enough detail to do what is necessary to perform them. If we don't do what is necessary to learn those old skills, they will be lost. Having them on a piece of plastic disk or film is not sufficient for their survival.

    I agree, books rule!

  2. I have to admit, I always get excited when I read something like this because it means further justification for more books.

    But, book fetish aside, I think that keeping around a library of books of practical skills is one thing that is very important. I realised awhile back - with a great deal of horror - how few actual skills I have, especially in terms of those that will help me to stay alive. And so reference books entered my life in much greater numbers than before, and I also started printing out online information that I might want or need.

    As much as possible I still hold onto fiction as well, since it makes for cheap entertainment (and entertainment in the face of a harder life is appealing, I think), but a lot of my focus now is on making sure I have the reference books to do what I need to do.

    I really need to practice some of the skills in order to get used to using them, which scares me a bit, but at least knowing that I have the information in book form is somewhat reassuring.

  3. So this means I can buy more books? Yah!

    I could build my bunker out of books.

    Of course my first grader could build his out of Legos.

  4. I agree with the previous comments...I have let most of my fiction books go, except for the classics, but am expanding the books that teach and explain basic skills...that's where your book will go when I finally get a chance to finish reading it! ;)

  5. russell1200 *grin*! I was talking with my neighbor one day. He's a much older gentleman, and when he was younger, he and his father built a house on an island off the coast - so he's really old school and an experienced homesteader/survivalist kind of guy. I said something about all of the books in my house, and he said, "Well, you know, you can use them as insulation if you put the shelves along external walls."

    So, yes, buy books, if for no other reason than that you can put the shelves against the external walls of your house and use them as insulation :).

  6. Just ordered your book; looking forward to receiving it! Thanks for putting all of your info out there....

    Always learning,