Best Books For a Survivalist Library

One of the common questions I see repeated over and over on the forum – What are the best books for a survivalist library? Since the topic of books is brought up so much, I would like to post an article books.

Some books should be a given, such as religious books and first aid books. Who in their right mind does not have a first aid book in their preps? Saying that you should have a first aid book in your preps, is like saying the sky is blue and the grass is green.

Asking if you have a military survival manual in your preps, is like asking if you took a shower and brushed your teeth this morning.

Books for a long term SHTF survival situation

Lets move past the books that should be a given.

My personal opinion, the only wrong answer is not doing anything at all.

If you are doing “something”, then you are on the right path.

One piece of advice that I can offer, is to focus on books that are directly related to your long term SHTF survival plans.

If you live in the middle of a city, why would you buy a bunch of farming and gardening books? The key words there are “a bunch”. I can see someone in the city having some chickens, or a small backyard garden, but not on the scale that someone with 100 acres has.

The books we are going to talk about are in no way a complete collection.  In my opinion, it would be almost impossible to have a “complete” library.

How My Personal Library is Setup

History books – My library has several non-fiction history books. I wanted to know what problems people faced in outbreaks of the black death. In what ways did society break down? What were the hardships that people faced during the Black Death of 1348 – 1350.

In addition to the problems people faced, I wanted to know what day-to-day life was like. So my library also includes several books on what life was like in the middle ages. What kind of crops did people grow, what kind of livestock did people raise, what kind of justice system did people have in the middle ages?

If there is a complete collapse of society, knowledge will not be forgotten overnight. Mankind will not return to the stone age overnight.

How can we take knowledge that we have right now, and apply it to lessons from the past?

Some of my history books

  • The great mortality, an intimate history of the Black Death
  • The Black Death, a chronicle of the plague
  • Return of the Black Death, the worlds greatest serial killer
  • Life in a medieval village
  • The civilization of the middle ages
  • Legionary, the Roman soldiers unofficial handbook
  • Caesar: Life of a Colossus


That list of books spans close to 1,500 years of human history. From that list of books we should know what hardships people faced in their everyday lives.

This is in no way a perfect list, its not even close to a perfect list. There is no such thing as a perfect list of books.

Gardening, Livestock and Homesteading

This is where my personal library is rather lacking.

Some of the books in my Farming, Gardening and Livestock section

  • Raising chickens for dummies
  • Chickens, by Derek Hall
  • Readers Digest, Back to Basics
  • All new square foot gardening by Mel Bartholomew

Instead of buying books on gardening, I study gardening websites, such as Aggie Horticulture – Texas A&M University.

When my wife and I decided to get some chickens, I bought 2 books on chickens – Raising chickens for dummies and Chickens, by Derek Hall

One book on farming / homesteading that I have is a wealth of information, and that is Readers Digest, Back to Basics. This book was sent to me by a member of the forum (you know who you are), and I would like to say “thank you” for the book.

Back to Basics by Readers Digest covers everything from planning your homestead, to raising livestock.

All new square foot gardening by Mel Bartholomew was given to me by a forum member (you know who you are), and I would like to say “thank you” once again.

For the Urban Survivalist, square foot gardening would be an ideal solution for growing a small garden in the backyard.

I need to pick up some books on rabbits, goats, pigs and cattle.

The books on livestock goes back to the books about life in medieval times. Is it worth the time and effort to raise cattle and pigs, as opposed to goats and chickens? Not saying that books on pigs and cattle are a waste of time. I think its important to set your priorities. From previous examples, what is the best livestock to raise? The answer to that question should determine the first books you buy.

Some topics on homesteading I want to buy

Blacksmithing – you never know when you might have to make a hoe, knife, plow,,, from scrap metal.
Nutrition – what crops offer the best nutrition punch
Raising cattle
Raising pigs
Raising rabbits
Some kind of general gardening books
Canning and preserving food

Preserving History

In a worse case situation, I feel that it is important to have some kind of literature and history books.

If you want a literature book, a good place to start is the local college book store. While I was going to college I took a couple of classes in literature. After the semester was over, instead of selling the books back to the book store, I kept the books and they were added to my collection.

After my grandfather passed away I inherited his book collection. This included books covering the U.S. Civil War and a wide range of U.S. history books.


Who said your library “has” to be made up of hardback books?  In my opinion, magazines are an often overlooked as part of a SHTF library.  Why buy a book, when you can buy a subscription and have the magazine mailed to your home monthly?

There are a lot of good magazines on the market that could be associated with survivalism.  Some examples include backpacker, field and stream and popular mechanics.

I like to keep a stash of hunting magazines and American Survival Guide magazines at the Bug Out Location.

Having reading material at the camp / Bug Out Location gives people something to do and helps to break the boredom.  During hunting season and the days are short, we have something to keep our minds occupied  with besides watching TV.

Hunting and fishing magazines provide good tips for around the camp, and of course hunting and fishing.

Military Survival Manuals

Military survival manuals such as the SAS survival manual, FM21-76,and the Air Force offer a wealth of information.

As already stated previously in this article, military survival manuals should be a given. Buy a couple, put read them, and put them in your library.

One survival manual that I think is a step above the rest is The Survival Handbook, essential skills for outdoor adventure. Besides covering a wife range of topics, the book has a hardcover. It might be just me, but I like it when publishers make a book with a hardcover.

The Survival Handbook measures 10 1/4 by 7 3/4 inches. Its a little large for a backpacking survival manual. But it has a place in my survival library.

*Full disclosure – I received my copy of The Survival Handbook from safecastle at no cost to myself.