I talked about my reading and learning on the podcast a few episodes ago and said that I would post my reading list for 2019. I believe that the books (or any content for that matter) someone is reading or owns can tell you quite a bit about them. Here you’ll see both what I read for fun as well as what I read to learn…. And often they are one and the same. I would say that this is a complete list, but alas, I had a computer malfunction last fall that wiped out the document I was keeping track in. These are ones that I have emailed library receipts from or distinctly remember reading– there are probably a few I missed.
Before jumping into the actual reading list I would like to make special mention of a couple of my favorites from the year.
First off, I highly recommend that you all read The Nature Fix by Florence Williams, while I’ve always personally believed in (and noticed in my own life) the benefit of being immersed in nature — and the corresponding issues caused by living in modern cities– it was nice to actually see some of what science says about that. Philosophy wise, another couple I really jived with were Deep Work and Digital Minimalism both by Cal Newport.
As far as instructional “how-to” books, David Asher’s The Art of Natural Cheesemaking was my favorite read of the year (I actually went through it twice)– now I just need to spend more time in the kitchen putting what I learned to use! I highly recommend the book, plan on owning it in the near future, and hope to eventually have him as a guest on the podcast.
I separated the book list into two segments, those I read and those I listened to as an audio book. . . not that it really matters to you, that was simply for my own convenience in keeping track of things. All told, I listened to 29 audio books and read 35 print books for a total of 64 books that I finished in 2019 (I didn’t include any books that I only partially read). Of those books only 4 were non-fiction, and I designated them with an * in front of the title.
2019 Books in Review
- Building Wooden Snowshoes and Snowshoe Furniture– Gil Gilpatrick
- The Morning Miracle– Hal Elrod
- Absinthe and Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously– William Gurstelle
- *Brian’s Winter– Gary Paulson
- The Five-Hour Workday– Stephan Aarstol
- The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to make the World’s Best Cheeses– David Asher
- The One Thing– Gary Keller
- Spruce Root Basketry of the Haida and Tlingit– Sharon Busby
- Digital Minimalism– Cal Newport
- The Man-eaters of Tsavo and other East African Adventures– John Henry Patterson
- Primitive Pottery– Hal Reigger
- The Natural House: A Complete Guide to Healthy, Energy-efficient, Natural Homes– Daniel Chiras
- North American Bows, Arrows, and Quivers: and Illustrated History– Otis T. Mason
- Wildwood Wisdom– Ellsworth Jaeger
- The Natural Way of Farming: The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy– Masanobu Fukuoka
- Jungle Lore– Jim Corbett
- Man-Eaters of Kumaon– Jim Corbett
- The Temple Tiger– Jim Corbett
- The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use– J.N. Liles
- Secrets of Eskimo Skin Sewing– Edna Wilder
- Shop Class as Soulcraft– Matthew Crawford
- Indian Fishing– Hilary Stewart
- Cedar: Tree of Life to the Northwest Coast Indians– Hilary Stewart
- Participating in Nature– Thomas J. Elpel
- Deep Work– Cal Newport
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity– David Allen
- The 4-Hour Workweek– Timothy Ferriss
- The Longevity Diet– Valter Longo
- *Jonathan Livingston Seagull– Richard Bach
- Wild Dyer– Abigail Boothe
- The Search– Tom Brown Jr.
- Father Water, Mother Woods– Gary Paulson
- Meat Smoking & Smokehouse Design– Stanley, Adam and Robert Marianski
- Duck, Duck, Goose: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Waterfowl, both Farmed and Wild– Hank Shaw
- Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance– Alex Hutchinson
- Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.– Ron Chernow
- *Origin– Dan Brown
- The More of Less– Joshua Becker
- Midnight in Chernobyl: the Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster– Adam Higginbotham
- Coyote America – Dan Flores
- Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea – Barbara Demick
- The Death and Life of the Great Lakes– Dan Egan
- Skeletons on the Zahara: a True Story of Survival – Dean King
- The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival– John Vaillant
- In a Sunburned Country– Bill Bryson
- The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot– Robert Macfarlane
- The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt– Darrin Lunde
- The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors– Dan Jones
- Tribe: on Homecoming and Belonging– Sebastian Junger
- The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings– Lars Brownworth
- The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and more Creative– Florence Williams
- Desert Solitaire– Edward Abbey
- Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World’s Most Famous Human Fossils—Lydia Pyne
- Good to Great—Jim Collins
- Atlas of a Lost World– Craig Childs
- Leonardo da Vinci– Walter Isaacson
- The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic– and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World—Steven Johnson
- Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates– Brian Kilmeade
- The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps—Michael Blanding
- Born to Win– Zig Ziglar
- Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded– Simon Winchester
- *The Nightingale– Kristin Hannah
How about you? Any books you’ve read over the last year that you would recommend?
Survival seems to attract a few different types of people with vastly different approaches to emergency situations and how to prepare for and handle them. Most people will never actually be in a situation that tests their approach but I thought it would be fun to briefly breakdown and compare the attitudes and emphasis of the various survival cultures. Keep in mind, this is a personal opinion, some of it may not apply to you, or you may find that you identify with multiple segments. That’s great! I personally identify with several of these categories as well. I just find it interesting the various frameworks people take and how they differ. So what are the distinct groups in the survival community? I primarily see 4 categories: preppers, bushcrafters, military and primitive technologists.
Ranging the gamut from well stocked 72 hour kits to complete bug out bunkers stocked with supplies for years, this group seems to find reassurance in gear. And often plenty of it. While I don’t strongly identify with this category I know plenty of preppers, and find this approach quite fascinating. Usual scenarios that they talk about are societal collapse or extreme natural disaster events. The skills they focus on overlap into some bushcraft or homesteading areas such as food preservation. But it seems that by and large this is a community who focuses on having equipment for just about any possible scenario. Stockpiles of guns and ammo, water purifiers, 100’s of MRE’s, gas masks, massive first aid kits….. Some preppers I know would be useful ’72 hour kits’ for half the town they live in! In all honesty though, this segment has some useful ideas that needs to be implemented by a greater portion of the population. For example, in the event of a semi-serious natural disaster what are you going to do for water? It is not all that rare for a storm to knock everything out for a few days to where you can’t get necessary supplies– hurricanes, snowstorms, earthquakes, heck even wildfires these days. It just makes sense to have what you would truly need in order to get by for a few days– I have a water filter and a few dehydrated meals in my pantry (but I don’t have three 50 gallon drums of stale water and an entire room full of MRE’s in the basement). Possibility of no power or heat? Have some flashlights and a couple sleeping bags in the house. However, most preppers take this to the extremes and have specialized gear for everything from a zombie apocalypse to nuclear war. I personally know a few people who have entire garages or basements full (and I mean FULL! To the point you can barely walk down an aisle in the middle of their double car garage– with no car in it!) of supplies…. which they have never used before, don’t know how to use, and probably couldn’t find anymore even if they remembered they had it. Food storage is a big one for folks around here, bulk beans, buckets of wheat, cans of oil, etc– but ask yourself one question, would you really want to eat your 20 year old wheat anymore? Food storage is only useful so long as you cycle through it! By and large in my opinion it’s wise to be prepared to fend for yourself for a few days. And yes, have some bulk food for longer periods, but only stuff you actually use and cook with on a weekly basis. The main problem I have with this community is it’s always focused on acquiring more gear so you’ll have what you need ‘just in case’. I always feel like I’m getting sold on some new piece of equipment (which in all honesty 90% of the time isn’t really that useful) when I browse through prepper sites and blogs. And my question is, what happens if you’re not near your house or bug out location when SHTF? Can you function without all that stuff you bought? Gear, in my opinion, is not the answer. And frankly, I don’t want to have to buy more all the time in order to have peace of mind– my house is cluttered enough as it is!
This approach is perhaps a little more common in Northern Europe, Canada and Australia– at least that’s where I see most of the content online coming from. Actually, this movement seems to be picking up traction and attracting more people here as well… or maybe my computer is just sending me more stuff like this! Bushcrafting seems to focus more on traditional camping and wilderness experience with some basic hand tools. Often very nice tools though. Leather/canvas backpacks with an ax slung across it sums up this group in my mind. That may be an oversimplification though! Wall tents, log cabins, dutch ovens, good knife and ax work, bushcrafters tend to be much more focused on building a knowledge base then preppers, with an approach that is an interesting cross of early colonial America (or the exploration age of Europe) and recreation. Want to know how to pitch a shelter using a tarp, cook a fish over an open fire or start a fire using flint and steel? This might be the place to look. Perhaps similar to historical reenactment expeditions used to take (do folks still do these?). I like this approach, it gets people out in nature learning some good skills and giving them some self confidence and teaching self reliance. Knowing how to take care of your basic needs with just a few tools is a tremendous thing if a natural disaster ever did take out our infrastructure for an extended period. Besides, very few of us really desire to be truly primitive anymore. As such, you’ll find many skills and projects on this site that are representative of this group. And, in fact, there are many skills represented in this segment of the survival culture that I want to get better at– dutch oven cookery for example.
I debated whether or not to make this a distinct segment in and of itself, the military guys I know tend to also fit into another one of the survival approaches. . . In my mind this type of survivalist is typified by a “suck it up and plow through it” attitude. Or maybe that’s just the survival tv dudes. I think this must be something that gets hammered into them while undergoing military training. Just learn to be miserable and force your way through it to get out of the situation. Which is great in the short term for getting out of a bad scenario….. but leads to some really stupid decisions when applied to an extended situation. Another thing which I tend to notice in this segment is an aptitude for scrounging and re-purposing urban junk into something new and useful. It’s really quite fascinating what some people can make out of stuff I would have passed by without a second thought! In fact, if you live in a really large city or urban environment, these urban survival skills might make the most sense to learn in case of a disaster or other survival situation. They would likely be the most applicable to the environment you find yourself in on a day to day basis. Knowing how to turn refuse and common urban supplies into something useful may not seem necessary at the moment– you’re probably thinking you could just go down and buy what you need– but I believe it’s valuable simply to get your brain in the proper frame of mind of trying to creatively solve your immediate problems with limited materials on hand. And that mindset is EXACTLY what you need in a survival scenario, regardless of your surroundings and what materials you’re working with.
Primitive skills enthusiasts are the final group I notice in the survival community. They range in skill, ability and desire to authentically practice ancient skills. Some lie on that somewhat blurry line between bushcraft and primitive technology, others attempt to practice their skills in 100% stone age fashion. Ie, they may both practice basketry, but one person will be using a modern knife to cut and process their material and the other will be using a rock flake and strict primitive only materials. One will be dressed in buckskin, the other in vegetable tanned leather. Primitive technologists as a whole though attempt to learn and practice the skills of the hunter-gatherer peoples of the world. While some are purists, many of them also tend to be interested in the skills that are a little further down the civilization timeline. This is the group I probably identify most with, it’s where I began and have since branched out and become interested in much wider variety of skills and projects. Perhaps these skills may never be necessary again, but they represent a huge portion of our existence as a species and they ground you to the reality of nature in a way that many people need in our modern life. This is exhibited in how common things like foraging edible plants is becoming– it is almost seeming faddish these days! People crave that connection and a simpler more direct lifestyle in our modern era. In the actual case of a survival scenario too (something longer than a couple of days), I tend to believe that this group would fare the best. This is mainly due to the fact they have been practicing skills (and hopefully the ability to do it without their favorite tools as well!) that develop ingenuity, self-reliance and creativity. That’s assuming they’ve been focused enough to actually hone their skills to the point they can cover the basics of life in the first few days before the rest of the skills become necessary. Ie, knowing how to flintknap an arrowhead is definitely NOT necessary in a short-term scenario, making a friction fire and shelter are. If you just focus on skills like flintknapping and braintanning you would be dead in a survival situation long before those skills actually became useful. I personally find it a struggle to stay focused on the basics though. . . it’s much more fun and sexy to tan your own buckskin than it is to practice primitive water filtration techniques!
Survival as a whole is becoming more popular and with reason, in today’s uncertain world people like to feel like they are in control of their lives and are prepared for what may happen. People take many different paths towards that goal, and sometimes approach that goal from another route where they may not identify with the survival community– like homesteading or gardening. Some “survivalists” may use the same techniques (and also identify as a part of the homesteading community), but the vast majority of homesteaders and gardeners I know are simply looking for a simpler more enjoyable lifestyle. Or the quality of food produced when you grow it yourself.
Which segment of the survival community do you identify with? To summarize and simplify….. Are you someone who LEARNS the knowledge necessary to produce what you need, or someone who acquires and HAS the supplies they may need?