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Homesteading, Back-To-The-Land, Rural Skills, Foodie, Self Sufficiency Books

By: Everett S

Homesteading, Voluntary Simplicity, Gardening and Preparedness Book ReviewsWhen we bought “the farm” it was our intent to put our city house up for sale and maybe live in it for another year while waiting for a buyer. To our surprise, someone snatched up our little wannabe-urban-homestead the 2nd week it was on the market. Unprepared, we rented a duplex and found a caretaker for our new 15-acre property on the other side of the country.

While we were able to do a few things in the duplex – like worm composting and making soap – most of our stuff was packed away.

What’s a wannabe dirt farmer to do when stuck in a duplex during a Colorado winter with no tools, no garden and no livestock?

Missy took up knitting and sewing with a passion while I devoured every back-to-the land memoir, country-skills book, apocalyptic preparedness & self sufficiency guide, food-supply rant and agrarian essay I could find.

My Big List of Homesteading, Foodie, Back-To-The-Land, Rural Skills, Voluntary Simplicity & Self Sufficiency Books:

Clickable Categories:
Botany & Gardening Guides
Self-Sufficiency Guides
Preserving Food
Survivalism / Preparedness / Apocalyptic
Essays & Meditations
Homesteading Fiction
Small-Scale Farming
Food & Cooking
Non-Fiction Creative Journalism
Green Building & Alternative Energy
My Wishlist


Walden by Henry David Thoreau – I’ve read this several times. Each time I find new things to appreciate, but each time it also takes me weeks to read. This is a sleeping pill for me in many respects. But it is a must-read for anyone considering going back to the land. Inevitably, every back-to-the-land memoir I read these days seems to want to compare itself, somewhat arrogantly, to Walden on the back cover. Five out of Five Stars

The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing – A memoir from the grandparents of the back-to-the-land movements of the 60s and 70s, these depression-era back-to-the-landers were very successful in their quest for a more simple way of life. Although quite militant in some of their views and practices, their dedication is something many modern-homesteaders strive for. Five out of Five Stars

Continuing The Good Life by Helen Nearing – Half a Century of Homesteading is discussed here in Scott and Helen Nearing’s sequel to Living The Good Life. Three out of Five Stars

Meanwhile, Next Door to the Good Life by Jean Hay Bright – Part her own memoir, part exposé on what the Nearing’s never told us, this book is an entertaining and revealing read about life next door to Helen and Scott Nearing. Three out of Five Stars

Harvest: A Year in the Life of an Organic Farm by Nicola Smith – This is part memoir and part coffee table photo book, thanks to the wonderful photography of Geoff Hansen. It was engaging and different from most memoirs in this genre. Four out of Five Stars

Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl by Susan McCorkindale – My wife thought this book was ok, but I thought it was terrible. I just didn’t identify with the main character, who spends half the book whining about not being able to sip lattes or shop for designer clothing. You might like it better if you can identify with the author. But from me… One out of Five Stars

Hit by a Farm by Catherine Friend – Mrs. Friend writes a profound and entertaining memoir about A: moving to the farm from the city; B: caring for sheep; and C: being one half of a lesbian couple in rural America. Although it was similar in many ways to most memoirs in this genre, I thoroughly enjoyed it and subscribe to their blog to this day. Four out of Five Stars

This Common Ground: Seasons on an Organic Farm by Scott Chaskey – My feelings about this book are mixed. I read it and liked it, but was ever-so-often interrupted in my reading by the thought that Mr. Chaskey is trying to be too poetic for his own good. The prose is mostly enchanting, but sometimes over the top. Three out of Five Stars

It’s a Long Road to a Tomato by Keith Stewart – Professional from the big city gets fed up with the daily grind and moves out to the country to start a farm. Sound familiar? Sure, this type of memoir is nothing new, but Mr. Steward does it well and I’m happy to recommend the book. Besides, as you might have noticed, I can’t get enough of these types of books. One part that sticks out in my memory as unique is how much he discusses the business side of going back to the land (costs, finding and keeping good interns, commuting to farmers markets…) which does make it a refreshing change in some ways. Four out of Five Stars

Living The Good Life by Linda Cockburn – is a modern-day “Good Life” memoir that takes place in Australia as one woman and her family try not to spend money for an entire year. This was one of the first voluntary simplicity memoirs I read and, although I’ve read much better since, it will always have a special place on my bookshelf. Three out of Five Stars

A Very Small Farm by William Paul Winchester – I like Mr. Winchester’s prose. The book, another back-the-the-land memoir whose back cover mentions Walden (as if…), is a short little thing that can be read in a night if you have the inclination. I ate it up and enjoyed every page. Four out of Five Stars

At Home in Nature by Rebecca Kneale Gould – Written by someone who has actually lived in Helen and Scott Nearing’s home, this book reveals a deep knowledge of the back-to-the-land movement as the author explores it through the eyes of a theology scholar. At times pompous, often dry and academic, I am glad I put up with 75% of the book I didn’t enjoy because the other 25% introduced me to people, history and authors that were completely new to me. I found Wendell Berry, Ralph Borsodi, Harlan Hubbard and William Coperwaite through this book. For that alone I give it: Four out of Five Stars

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver – This book follows Mrs. Kingsolver during a year in the life of eating locally grown food. It is the kind of book you end up devouring (no pun intended) as fast as you can. I think I will read it again next winter and savor like it deserves to be savored. I hear she write great fiction, but I haven’t read any. Five out of Five Stars

Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan – This was a disappointing read for me. It was an earlier book by Pollan, but I had already read In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma so this one seemed a little dry. Michael Pollan is a much better writer now than he was at the time of this book. Two out of Five Stars

See You in a Hundred Years by Logan Ward – I had a great time reading this book. It had been a long time since I read a really good voluntary simplicity memoir and I was afraid I’d be disappointed. I wasn’t. Mr. Ward and his family really do spend an entire year living like they would have in the year 1900. It was an eye opener and inspirational, but I was a little disappointed afterward to find out that the Wards moved into town and took full time jobs again. Five out of Five Stars

Made from Scratch by Jenna Woginrich – This is an entertaining book about a young woman who lives with a rural family while learning how to enter the world of self-sufficiency herself. It’s the usual memoir-fare, but well done. Mrs. Woginrich is a talented writer and I still subscribe to her blog. Four out of Five Stars

Better Off by Eric Brende – Here is a chronicle of Mr. Brende’s 18-month journey of self-discovery in an Amish-like settlement somewhere in middle-America. My favorite part of this book is how he seeks to reach a balance between technology and simplicity. This really struck a chord with me. Five out of Five Stars. Read a more in-depth review of Better Off here.

Gardening Guides

Rodale’s Chemical-Free Yard and Garden by various authors – Can anyone with an organic garden argue with the value of having this book around the house? It is both broad and deep, covering everything from the temperature at which soil can be heated before killing different lifeforms to the profiles of different insects and bug control methods. Five out of Five Stars, although I still like Garden Insects of North America better for bug profiles.

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control edited by Barbara Ellis and Fern Marshall Bradley – This is a good handbook to have around, but I had two small problems with it. First, I was hoping for more natural recipes for chemical pesticide alternatives. Second, there isn’t much in here that I didn’t find in the Garden Insects of North America book below. Three out of Five Stars

Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw – As it’s subtitle would suggest, this is “the ultimate guide to backyard bugs”. It is like an encyclopedia of insects. I pick it up every week during the summer to identify a new insect, or sign of an insect, and learn A: whether it is good or bad for my garden and B: if it’s bad, how do I get rid of it without chemicals. Five out of Five Stars

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon – Mr. Solomon has written a great book here that is a very interesting read with a lot of practical advice. With that said, I got sick of his “I know how to do this better than you” attitude, especially in the face of proven techniques like raised beds. It’s worth a read but should be taken as one man’s experience and opinion as opposed to the gospel of gardening. Three out of Four Stars

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew – I have mixed thoughts about this book. On the positive side, I got the idea of a raised-bed instant hoop-house using PVC pipe from Mr Baartholomew. On the negative side, I’ve outgrown square foot gardening quickly and can’t see it as being at all scalable for rural agriculture. Three out of Four Stars

The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman – This “A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener” is a must-read for anyone interested in organic gardening, including soil health, permaculture, marketing, extending the growing season, etc… Five out of Five Stars

The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman: This book is about “year round vegetable production using deep organic techniques and unheated greenhouses”. That sums it up pretty well. Mr. Coleman is a highly respected gardener/farmer and he doesn’t disappoint readers in this book. Who says you can’t eat fresh lettuce and root crops out of the garden in the middle of winter? Five out of Five Stars

Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual by Bill Mollison and Reny Mia Slay – This book is a fantastic starting place for learning about becoming self-sufficient through permaculture and sustainable gardening. I must admit that I’m not a big fan of permaculture. It’s too messy and disorganized for me. I do know a lot of permaculture fans though, and they all love this book. Four out of Five Stars

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth and Kent Whealy – Looking for a great book about seed saving? I can’t say it’s the “best” because I haven’t read many others, but this book has a ton of information about saving seeds, including – but also way beyond – the basics. Four out of Five Stars

Self-Sufficiency Guides

Homesteading: A Back to Basics Guide… by Abigail Gehring – I wasn’t impressed by this book. It glosses over things regarding self sufficiency. Why does a homesteader want to read about buying food from CSAs and farmers markets? Shouldn’t they have a big garden of their own? And why do they need to know about hanging wallpaper or how to using Feng Shui to decorate their house. But it’s a pretty thing to have on the coffee table. One out of Five Stars

The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen – An easy-to-digest guide that provides a lot of motivation and a few practical projects for urban homesteaders. This book even has a few things that “country folk” might learn from. I read their blog too, but might unsubscribe soon if they don’t cut out the hyper-leftist political crap. I’m neither right-wing nor left-wing and can put up with a lot – until it starts to overshadow the real reason I visit a website. Luckily the book isn’t very political so… Three out of Four Stars

Storey’s Guides to… I’m going to lump these all together because there are so many of them. I’ve read the ones for raising dairy goats, chickens and sheep, to building coops, growing blueberries… and a few others are sitting in a box waiting for me to actually get started on the farm. I’m sure I’ll keep checking back with them as I begin to get my feet wet. An average of Four out of Five Stars

Story’s Basic Country Skills is a practical guide to self-reliance written by several contributing authors. This thing is a big, fat, heavy bible of country living and rural skills for people who are moving to the country from the city. Five out of Five Stars

The Self-Reliant Homestead by Charles Sanders – This “Book of Country Skills” has some interesting features I haven’t seen in others of its kind, such as the gestation period of different livestock species. But in general it is very similar to other “country skills” books. That’s not to say it isn’t good, but they all share in common a sacrifice of depth for breadth. Three out of Five Stars

The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan – It sets out to teach you how to produce all the food you need on just a quarter-acre, but ends up just glossing over most things. It was a good read and I don’t regret buying it, but there are just way too many better books in this scene for me to gush over this one. Two out of Five Stars

The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour – This serves as both an inviting, colorful coffee-table book, and a practical guide to back-to-basic skills. I liked The Encyclopedia of Country Living (see below) and Storey’s Basic Country Skills (see above) slightly better, but perhaps that’s just because John Seymour writes from the perspective of someone living in the UK. Overall though, I thought it was a fantastic book and will read it again and again. Four out of Five Stars

The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour – I’m not sure why Mr. Seymour chose to publish three books (one of which is in this post) about the same topic, organized in much the same way. I thought the book was good but didn’t learn much that wasn’t in his other book, which I read first. Three out of Five Stars

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery – This book is every bit as good, information-wise, as The Self Sufficient Life (see above) but usually sells for less than half the price. It isn’t as pretty or colorful, but Carla Emery proves to be a national treasure that ensures her legacy through this book. Highly recommended. Five out of Five Stars

Preserving Food

Growing and Canning Your Own Food by Jackie Clay – The copy I have of this book is spiral bound. At first I thought the publishers were just cheap, but I soon realized this is the best possible way to bind a book that usually sits on the kitchen counter while the reader has his or her hands full of jars and veggies. Jackie is the queen of canning. Four out of Five Stars

Self Reliance: Recession-Proof Your Pantry by Jackie Clay – I think Jackie wrote this, although I don’t have it in front of me. It is part of a large library from Backwoods Home Magazine. There are some great canning and other food preservation recipes in here. Three out of Five Stars

Ball Blue Book of Preserving – This is the BIBLE (a thin one) of canning food, including water bath and pressure canning charts, recipes, history and more. Five out of Five Stars

Putting Food By; by Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg and Beatrice Vaughan – Along with the Blue Ball Book of Preserving, this is a must-have for anyone who “puts food by” in mason jars, hanging from rafters, in the barn, in root cellars, freezers… I will be referring to this guide over and over again for many years to come. Five out of Five Stars

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables by Mike Bubel – This book has everything you want or need to know about root cellars. From temperature and humidity ranges for different fruits and veggies to the history and pictures of root cellars around the world. Mr. Bubel also talks about some alternatives to root cellars that can be much faster and cheaper than building one. Five out of Five Stars

Preparedness / Survivalism / Apocalyptic

When Technology Fails by Matthew Stein – This “manual for self-reliance, sustainability, and surviving the long emergency” is one of my favorite in the apocalyptic preparedness genre because it doesn’t sound like it was written by some guy wearing camo fatigues and a confederate flag bandanna playing with machine guns in the woods of Arkansas. At the same time, some of the more “hardcore” survivalist books would come in handy where this one might fail, such as a long-term emergency – AKA the end of modern civilization. This one is geared for temporary emergencies of up to several months, not several years. Four out of Five Stars

Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton – I think this is generally a handy book to have around and fills in many of the gaps left from other food storage books, such as those dealing only with canning or only with root cellaring. It also has some good information on what to have packed and ready to go, or in your trunk in case of an emergency requiring you to leave home, or something that happens on the road. Four out of Five Stars

First Aid & Emergency Preparedness Quick Reference Guide – Everyone who lives more than 50 miles from the nearest hospital should read this book by the Red Cross. Five out of Five Stars

collapse how societies choose to fail or succeeed by Jared Diamond – I had some second thoughts about adding this to the reading list here because it is starting to get a bit off-topic. The book is more academic than most apocalyptic preparedess books, but I wanted to include it to show that not everyone who thinks the inevitable fall of the American empire (or indeed modern civilization) means the coming of Jesus or total annihilation of the human race. Sometimes it just means a readjustment period (eg modern-day Iceland) and sometimes it means environmental and cultural catastrophe (eg Eastern Island) but every situation is different. If a collapse is likely, let’s try to prevent it by learning from the past. If a collapse imminent, let’s be prepared for it. Either way, this is an interesting read, if you can get past the academic tone at times. Four out of five stars

Essays and Meditations

Bringing it To The Table by Wendell Berry – A collection of essays about farming that I enjoyed very much. The version I have is introduced by none other than Michael Pollan, who admits at his disappointment when he found out his thoughts weren’t as original as he’d previously imagined. Pollan even went so far as to say there is little that we can discuss about food, farming and rural values that Wendell Berry has not already said, often decades earlier, and often much more eloquently. I am inclined to agree. Five out of Five Stars

Home Economics by Wendell Berry – This was my introduction to Mr. Berry’s prolific writings and I loved it so much I went out and bought every Wendell Berry book I could find, including his non-fiction. Five out of Five Stars

Homesteading Fiction

That Distant Land by Wendell Berry – This is a collection of fictional stories about Mr. Berry’s town of Port William, KY. Knowing what I know now about Wendell Berry, I can see that many of the stories have some truth in them, and are somewhat timeless despite the dates accompanying each chapter. For instance, I remember a story in this book about a newlywed family and a wife who was taken in by her neighbors, and how the families maintained autonomy and self-reliance on most projects, but worked together on larger projects. This exact theme was discussed again in Bringing it To The Table (see below), which is a collection of non-fiction essays. Five out of Five Stars

Small-Scale Farming

Mini Farming for Self Sufficiency by Brett Markham – Mr. Markham sells his self-published book for too much. The copy I got was glue-bound (something you can have done at Kinko’s) with standard printer paper. The information inside was good, but nothing you couldn’t get from a better book for less money. There are plenty of examples in this post of just such books. Two out of Five Stars

Five Acres and Independence by MG Kains – This “handbook for small farm management” was written in 1935 and therefore much of the information is outdated to modern farmers. However, it does watch over some long-lost farming knowledge and a respect for a certain scale of sustainable agriculture. Two out of Five Stars

Veterinary Guide for Animal Owners by CE Spaulding and Jackie Clay – I haven’t read this from front to back because I don’t own most of the animals it covers. But my wife did use it to diagnose some issues with her rabbits, and I’ve browsed through it many times looking at information about animals we might have in the future (milking cow, goats, sheep, pigs, poultry…). Having read Jackie Clay’s columns in Backwoods Home magazine (and other books, see below) I was not surprised at how well-written, organized and in-depth the information seemed. I won’t know for sure how valuable the book is until I actually need it someday. Four out of Five Stars

Handy Farm Devices And How to Make Them by Rolfe Cobleigh – the chance of me actually making most of these tools is slim-to-none, but there are a few in there that I’ll try out and – more importantly – it was an entertaining history of pre-industrial farm equipment and tools. I’ll read it many times. Four out of Five Stars

Successful Small-Scale Farming: An Organic Approach by Karl Schwenke seeks to help people make a living off their small farm. It is a great introduction to small-scale agriculture but wouldn’t be of much use to someone seeking self-sufficiency with no desire to sell produce from the farm. Three out of Five Stars

Food and Cooking

Recipes From America’s Small Farms by Joanne Hays – This is a cook-book with recipes from experienced small-scale farmers across the country. If you like cooking you’ll like this book. My wife is the cook in our family (though she doesn’t “love” cooking either) so it wasn’t a fantastic read for me. Two out of Three Stars (would probably be four out of five if you like cookbooks).

Home Cheese Making Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses by Ricki Carroll – If you need proof that I’ve read all of these books (well at least this one) pay attention to the counter-top in this video. I could have picked any book as my cheesemaking guide, but I chose this one and am very satisfied with it. So is everyone who tastes my farmhouse cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Four out of Five Stars

The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Brown – I’m not a big fan of cookbooks, but this one is different. It teaches you how to make bread from scratch using whole grains and simple ingredients. The book also has a very zen-like vibe to it, which you may or may not fully appreciate. I do. Four out of Five Stars

Non-Fiction Creative Journalism

The Foxfire Books – This series of books by Foxfire is a national treasure documenting the collective knowledge of rural Appalachia before much of the area caught up to the industrial revolution. They are classics and must-haves. They still put out a magazine, though it isn’t as good these days. Five out of Five Stars

Rural Renaissance by John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist – This Mother Earth News book wasn’t one of my favorites. It was too modular to be entertaining and too introductory to be very informative. There are things I enjoyed about it, like the “sources and resources” at the end of each chapter, but much of the book was wishy-washy (think, the flow of energy through a labyrinth garden) for my taste. Two out of Five Stars

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan – What can I say about this book except that I read the entire thing in two sessions and that it, along with Barbara Kingslover’s book above, introduced me to Joel Salatin. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Five out of Five Stars

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan – This is another great look at food, our relationship to it, and the dangers of a centralized, industrialized food supply. I liked The Omnivore’s Dilemma better, but would still recommend this to anyone who enjoyed it. Four out of Five Stars

The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan – I have a confession to make. I didn’t actually read this book. I watched the documentary before having a chance to read the book, and after watching it I made up my mind that I didn’t need to read the book. The idea is that plants take advantage of man, in certain ways, by making themselves attractive to us. We then distribute their seed and sometimes even help them evolve faster than they would have in the wild. Three out of Five Stars

Everything I Want to Do is Illegal by Joel Salatin – Don’t read this book if you are afraid of understandng Libertarians. I was leaning that way before I ever started reading it, but just couldn’t get past all of the bible-beating, hateful tea baggers the party has become associated with. A lot of people loved this book. A lot of people were offended by it. Many were inspired, and some shocked and horrified. I doubt any were bored. Five out of Five Stars

In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore – This book challenges the cult of speed and is an ok read. I thought the author spent way too much time on the “slow food” movement and too much time rehashing arguments and observations made earlier in the book. I also felt like he bent over overplayed statistics to fit his argument. For instance, “some of the students from these slow schools went on to win college scholarships”. So what? Don’t “some” students from most schools go on to get scholarships? What about the rest of them? It did make me want to stop driving so fast though. Three out of Five Stars

The Gentle People: An Inside View of Amish Life by Joe Wittmer – After reading “See You in a Hundred Years” I went on an Amish kick and bought three books about them. This is one of them. It was very informative but not very entertaining. So I guess it will depend on what your goal is as to whether you buy this one or another. Three out of Five Stars

Green Building & Alternative Energy

Solar Living Sourcebook by John Schaeffer – A great starting point for exploring alternative and green architecture, renewable energy, and eco gadgets. This book has a lot of great graphs and charts for things like calculating sun angles and water pressure. It comes from the same people who run Real Goods, Real Goods Solar and the Solar Living Institute so you can bet the chapters on solar power are well researched. Four out of Five Stars

Microhydro by Scott Davis – If you have a water source and are thinking of generating power from it, this is the book you should start with. There are very clear pictures and explanations of concepts and components. This book makes me wish I remembered everything I read in books. Four out of Five Stars

Water Storage by Art Ludwig – This book covers most of what you’ll need to know about catching and storing rainwater, including water tanks, cisterns, aquifers, ponds… as well as fire and emergency use water. I particularly liked the information on how to make water tanks with ferrocement that blend into the natural surroundings. I’ve never been a fan of those ugly plastic tanks you see everywhere. Four out of Five stars

Building Green by Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan – Green building books deserve their own genre, but I read a few of them back when I was deciding whether to build our own place on vacant land (debt free) or to buy an old farmhouse. This was a good overview, but covered too many building styles to go into depth on any of them. Three out of Five Stars

Building with Cob by Adam Weismann and Katy Bryce – This is more of a step-by-step guide than an overview. The book can afford to go in depth on things since it only deals with one style of natural building. Four out of Five Stars

I also have a lot of books on my shelf waiting to be read. I’ll give them a short review and move them to the above section as I read them…

Books I Own but Haven’t Read Yet


And of course I always have a just-read or about-to-be-read magazine laying around. Mostly I read Backwoods Home (Libertarian leaning) and Back Home (liberal leaning) but sometimes – when I am able to put up with all of the ads – I’ll pick up a copy of Mother Earth News or one of the dozens of “urban farming” style magazines just starting to come out. I also like Acres U.S.A.


The amount of online publications, forums, newsletters and blogs I read on a weekly basis deserves a post of its own. In the meantime, here are some homesteading blogs to check out.

I’m hoping to find out about other books I haven’t heard of yet by collecting reader suggestions below. I’ll add them to my wishlist as I become aware of them. Also, feel free to comment on what you thought of the books on my wishlist below. Are any a waste of time or money?

Books I Don’t Have Yet – My Wish List:

  • Primitive Skills and Crafts Outdoorsman’s Guide by Richard Jamison
  • More stuff by John Muir (suggestions?)
  • Ultimate Guide to Wilderness Living by John McPherson
  • The Compassionate Carnivore by Catherine Friend
  • Survival Wisdom & Know How by The Editors of Stackpole Books
  • Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties by D. C. Beard
  • Wildwood Wisdom by Ellsworth Jaeger
  • Today’s Homestead: Volumes I, II… by Dona Grant
  • The Have-More Plan by Ed & Carolyn Robinson
  • Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom… by Suzanne Woods Fisher
  • A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity by William Coperthwaite
  • Don’t Kill the Cow… Homesteading in Panama by Malcolm Henderson
  • Forgotten Household Crafts by John Seymour
  • Goat Song by Brad Kessler (Reader Suggested!)
  • Edges of Bounty by William Emery and Scott Squire
    (see author’s comments below)

Category: Reviews, Roundups, The Transplants

Comments (27)

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  1. Jessica says:

    I’ll be adding those of these I haven’t already read to my library list. You know how long the hold list is on Food Rules? Scandalous!

  2. Jason says:

    “Some stuff by John Muir (suggestions?)”
    I’d start with “Mountains of California.” I snagged this at a used book store super cheap. You’re welcome to it if you’d like to read it.–jason

  3. Anna says:

    I enjoyed your list — added a few to my to-read list! I’m glad to see Five Acres and Independence on there — I know it’s not a great read and is out of date, but the title pretty much summed up my entire dreaming cycle before I got land. :-)

    I was going to recommend some permaculture books, but it sounds like they wouldn’t be your cup of tea. (Permaculture is too messy and disorganized for you?!? I may never be able to speak to you again…)

    Also, you should have read The Botany of Desire rather than watched the movie — I haven’t seen the movie yet, but gave the book five stars.

    You pretty much covered all of the bases, though. The only book that comes to mind is Goat Song, which I think you would really enjoy — it’s a back to the land memoir, specifically about raising dairy goats.

  4. Mr. Simpleton says:


    Yep messy and disorganized. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work! I’ll have to come and check out your forest garden sometime so you can prove me wrong. 😛

  5. Jessica says:

    I could easily recommend a few on self sufficient birth, but unless you’re planning on having a baby anytime soon, you probably wouldn’t be interested.

  6. William says:

    I just found your blog and will be reading more. Quite a list!

    I feel a little strange about suggesting my own book but am going to do so anyway. I spent a year of redemptive traveling in California’s Central Valley with a photographer and we published a book called Edges of Bounty. The website gives you a better idea.

    And to make up for the self-promotion, I also highly suggest French author Jean Giono. His book Harvest is a wonderful beginning– it’s fiction, but speaks directly and beautifully to the way of life you’ve chosen.

  7. Katherine Cornwell says:

    Great list! I just tore through Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter (owner of Ghost Town Farm in Oakland, CA). Really terrific read. With all these great books out there, I’m curious whether anyone might be interested in an urban homesteaders book club?

  8. Whoa… that’s quite the book list! The only one that I’ve read from that list is, ironically your first choice – Walden. Although it does have a ton of great thoughts, it’s not exactly a page turner, as you mentioned. However, I think everyone should read it once to understand the idea of self sufficiency and escaping the rat race illusion of society.

    This is my first time at your blog, I like the concept and that’s quite the original photo of you guys!

  9. julian says:

    this one is in the upper part of my list…

  10. Lance says:

    Wow what a great list! I’ve read a few of these and I’m so glad I came across this post. I’ve bookmarked it and now when I need a new book I know where to come to find one. Thanks!

  11. Lance says:

    Also, if you liked Walden, you should check out A Sand County Alamanac by Aldo Leopold. It is my absolute favorite book book on nature.

  12. Anisa says:

    Thanks for the comprehensive list!

    Good luck with the move. I can’t believe we’ve lived so close all this time and never really met! But thanks for starting the DUH meetup, and for all the work you’ve done here!

  13. marci357 says:

    Your subscribe button does not appear to be working…. Sign me up :) From rural NW Oregon

  14. marci357 says:

    Agree that the Fox Fire Books are a must have – mine are 1st editions one-owner and well worn :) Good luck finding them!

  15. Sundari says:

    Thanks so much for putting this together, Everett. I just *burned* through “Better Off” and “See You in a Hundred Years,” (and now I’m totally jonesing for my own rural homestead). I can’t wait to explore more of the books on your list!

  16. Phil Nichols says:


    If your readers would like to get a realtime sense of what a modern journey back to the land entails they might profit from from Ozarks Bound: Surviving the transition from city to country life.

    It can be obtained at

    A fellow homesteader

  17. Gretchen says:

    I’ve read quite a few of the same books as you and appreciated you rating them.

    Countryside magazine is great and the only magazine we continuously subscribe too.

    I have The Have-More Plan by Ed & Carolyn Robinson and enjoyed it. It is a very short read.

    I also ordered A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity by William Coperthwaite and cannot force myself through it. Maybe someday I will get through it, but wasn’t too impressed for the money.

    Better Off is wonderful. I’m a library junkie, so I don’t own all that many books, but do frequent the library. Someone has stolen nearly all the Foxfire books from there….so sad.

    Thanks for all the good information!

  18. Lili says:

    Would not recommend Henderson’s Don’t Kill the Cow too Quick. Mostly stories of what a clutz he is and most of the information is outdated. He is shunned in Bocas for being so conceited and walking around like Hemingway. More updated, informational books available.

  19. Will says:

    Great list of books! Thank you!

  20. Al Lorentz says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to put together a reading list. Thank you even more for taking the time to actually write a review of the books you have read.

    Thank you for this useful website!

  21. Christine OConnell says:

    I have a lot of the books you mentioned and highly recommend the Have More Plan. I also recommend Mother Earth News. Some day I look forward to reading the Whole Earth Catalogs.

  22. Christine OConnell says:

    I would also recommend Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and with (Almost) No Money – Dolly Freed, David Gates

  23. Christine OConnell says:

    May I also recommend:

    Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy (3rd …. Thomas Sowell

    I think it will change your view about Capitalism. I was once a Democrat and was even a union steward at one time. I lean Libertarian now because I don’t believe that anyone should force their views (religious or otherwise) on their neighbors/countrymen. I believe in Jeffersonian principles. I believe in the US Constitution and I fear the progressive movement. Watch Glenn Beck if you have an open mind.

  24. Christine OConnell says:

    I see that you have marxist leanings

  25. AdminAccount says:


    I respect your views and have published your comment about Glenn Beck, even though I disagree with every fiber in my body. But please do not make and post assumptions about my “leanings”. For the record – you are wrong about them. I consider myself socially liberal, legislatively libertarian and economically conservative. Sorry I don’t fit into your boxes, nor Mr. Beck’s. And that is all I’ll say on the subject, regardless of replies. This blog isn’t meant to be political in nature.



  26. […] invading broad swathes of the southern United States; the prepper/survivalist movement which seems to have grown out of post 9/11 fears of more terrorist attacks but in recent years has taken on a […]

  27. […] Also check out our list of homesteading, back-to-the-land, rural skills, foodie, self-sufficiency books (which I need to update), and this post about building book shelves with apple crates if you need a […]

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