There are two general things you want out of your off-grid books. First, you need a general guide, that explains the basics to you and offers a starting point for the more advanced material. Then, you need books that go in-depth on specific topics, covering more ground than a general book ever could.
In this article, we’re going to cover both. We’ll point out the best of the general books, and bring in the more specific guides that you can pick and choose from to suit what off-grid knowledge you most need.
A Note on Books to Avoid
The market is absolutely inundated with off-grid books, and not all of them are worth your time. In particular, there are many “complete guide” books which really don’t offer more than the information on the subject provided in one of the foundational books listed below. That’s why it’s best to buy your foundational books, and see what they have to offer about more specific topics, first. That way you’ll be able to see which “complete guides” really aren’t that at all.
Secondly, there are many books which serve more as off-grid inspiration than sources of information.
These are characterized by what I like to call the three “P”s: politics, personal anecdotes, and pretty pictures.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out these inspirational books if that’s what you’re looking for, just don’t expect to learn any skills from them. And, many good books will have the three Ps in them too, but they’ll be offering some good information along side them. It’s just important to be aware that there are many more inspirational books on the shelves than there are informational books.
General Off-Grid Guides
In all of these books you can expect information on all of the typical self-sufficiency topics, from growing your own food up to making some finished goods with those basic materials. When dealing with these giant resources the question becomes: which one or two of them is right for me? Therefore, I’ve included information on the strengths these books have over each other.
This book began its long history as an old fashioned cook-book and as such it distinguishes itself with better information about cooking and preserving than the others. The canning information is up to date in the fortieth anniversary edition. The book also goes far beyond the kitchen now, from harvesting wood to emergency childbirth. It was my first off-grid guide book and, personally, it is still my top recommendation for newbies.
The book begins with information about building your home and adding a well, and it continues to provide better information on building and related materials than the other guides. I have also found its information on soil to be quite useful. There is some dispute on whether the older or newer edition is more useful, with some saying the earlier versions were more practical. I haven’t been able to get my hands on an older copy to see for myself.
The pages of this book are full of excellent illustrations that serve to guide you, not just amuse you. It also has more information on energy than is typical– which is a must-cover topic for those off-grid. Another strength is in it’s hunting and fabric information. On the other hand, this book has suffered from not having thorough enough updates. While much of the information is still on-point, the canning information, for example, is no longer considered safe.
There is more prepping information in this book than the strictly off-grid family is likely to be interested in, but that is the only reason this book ranked fourth. Though, if you’re also interested in prepping, or don’t mind sifting through it, there is more practical hygiene, water, defense, and medical information here than offered in the other foundational books. For that reason it is a good companion to the others. Yet, by itself, it’s just not quite enough for you to leave the grid in good hands.
Best Books on Off-Grid Energy
There’s a reason plenty of basic books do not go over energy very much. It’s a difficult topic both to cover and make easy to understand. Therefore, it’s pretty reasonable that this book is rather dry. Yet, it does covers the basics very clearly, and remains practical and honest about what you can financially achieve. Plenty of other authors have taken off-grid living to a very idealistic, even unrealistic, place, but Kemp does not.
If you’d rather DIY than hire someone to build your off-grid home, or you’re just seeking simple DIY projects to make yourself less dependent on the grid, you may prefer starting with this book over Kemp’s. It’s less technical, its more entertaining. It still covers the topics comprehensively, just with less detail.
Best Books on Survival
This is, by far, the most recommended survival book for beginners, and with good reason. It is simply an indispensable guide on surviving without society, and those who live off-grid will particularly appreciate its navigation and health information. The book covers a huge variety of environments, so wherever your off-grid hideaway is located the advice will be applicable to you.
We’ve covered this book during one of our prepper book festivals, so you can read our interview with the author here. It’s important to remember that even when you’re off-grid you still need a community, and this book covers that topic, and others, quite well.
Best Books on Survival Food and Homesteading
Which of these books you’ll want largely depends on which kind of food growing or food harvesting you’re thinking of doing.
Best Books on Off-Grid Water Supply
This book has every water-based solution that off-griders may want to use, from composting toilets to grey water systems. It covers the basics of storing and capturing as well.
This is a more detailed look at water storage and includes information about emergency water issues as well.
Best Off-Grid Books on “Other” Related Topics
Together, these fourteen books could rank as the fifth general guide. As individuals, you could pick up any of these books to gain more specific information about a huge variety of topics. Of particular interest is book five, which details iron-making and blacksmithing, which aren’t usually covered in the general guides.
We’ve sat down with Tim for an interview about this book. It’s a unique guide to teaching children all kinds of off-grid related skills and attitudes.
For the third edition of this book we sat down with Dr. Alton to discuss it, here. It is still the primary resource for dealing with medical issues as a prepper, or as someone who lives dangerously far from medical help (as most people living off-grid do).
Best Off-Grid Books for 2021
At this point, there isn’t much room in the market for more general off-grid guides. The texts we’ve already listed here are so expansive and have such a long publication history, that anyone trying to compete with them is really going to need to knock our socks off. I haven’t found anyone who’s managed it (but let us know if you have!). On the other hand, there are lots of new more specific guides published this year that are filling the gaps in the off-grid book world.
Sometimes the best new things are old things in disguise. This was originally published in 1918, but its lessons are essential for those looking to breed their own chickens instead of re-supplying from others.
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