Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top 10 Homesteading Reference Books

My first Top Ten List wasn't in any particular order, and this one isn't really either except for #1 and #2, past that it is just personal preference as to which book is better.

1. Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery - No contest really. The Be-All-End-All of Homesteading books. If you can have only one, this is the one to have. Storey's Basic Country Skills and Back to Basics are similar books that are very good, just not as comprehensive as the Encyclopedia (I do happen to own all three).

2. Build It Better For Less by Organic Gardening Magazine - This is more a collection of plans and schematics for useful structures and tools to use around the homestead. Don't have the money for a wheelbarrow but have boards of wood? This book can show you how to make it into one. A pretty awesome used bookstore find from the 1970's.

3. The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading by Nicole Faires - More of a basic information guide on all topics homesteading than a true detailed encyclopedia, but still very useful. After 10 years of buying homesteading books and reference material I still found this book to have information that I didn't have other places in my library.

4. The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour - This tome falls in line with our first entry and the two subsequent similar books in that it covers so much info that it is extremely valuable. The author was known for his role in the Self-sufficiency movement and wrote over 40 books. This book might be considered a more idealized and philosophical version of the Encyclopedias and Guides in entry #1.

5. The Foxfire Book:  Volumes 1-12 by Eliot Wigginton & His Students - via Wikipedia: "The Foxfire books are a series of anthologies of articles originally written for the Foxfire magazine, along with additional content not suitable for the magazine format. Though first conceived primarily as a sociological work, recounting oral traditions, the books, particularly the early ones, were a commercial success as instructional works. Members of the 1970s back-to-the-land movement used the books as a basis to return to lives of simplicity."

6. The Barefoot Architect by Johan van Lengen - If you are truly starting from scratch in the wilderness or a third-world country this book is a must have. It could use a little more detail on some projects, but the sheer amount of Green Building knowledge in this book is mind-boggling. Has How-to's on: solar heating, stoves, mills, water filters and purification, cooling, making a welder, making a generator, and building out of any material you can imagine pretty much.

7. Storey's Guide to Raising ... Goats, Chickens, Poultry, Sheep, Pigs, Cattle, Honey Bees, etc. - These are very beneficial guides to have handy if you are attempting to raise any of the livestock listed. I referenced my goat books many times in the first couple of years having them, but now I don't have to go back and check them that often but I can if I need to.

8. Barnyard in your Backyard - This is a basic reference book but does have some animal housing plans in it that are useful. There is a lot of overlap between it and the Guides and Basic Country Skills. It is sort of a compilation of Storey's Guides to Raising animals with some other stuff thrown in. I actually checked this out from the Rogersville Library where they have multiple copies of it. This is one of the few homesteading books I don't actually own.

9. Country Wisdom: The Art of Successful Homesteading by Countryside Magazine - This is another old book I found at a used bookstore that is packed with all kinds of info useful around the country. It is more of a thick, compact encyclopedia covering everything from restoring old wood cook stoves to building windmills. And if you have never read Countryside Magazine you wouldn't know how jammed pack full of info each issue is, much like this book.

10. Country Wisdom & Know How by Storey Publishing - To be honest I haven't read through this book as much as I have most of the others on this list. It is more in an old newspaper/bulletin style, and I believe much of it was published from some old "Wisdom Bulletins" they maintained. The little I have looked through this I noticed a lot of overlap with some of the other books, but some good "old-timer" info in there as well.

Honorable Mention:

The Backyard Homestead - This book is geared more towards someone who has a very small amount of land to use (with 1 Acre being the largest amount they talk about utilizing in the book). If you already own Storey's Basic Country Skills or a couple of the Storey's Guide to books, don't bother with this one because it is redundant.


  1. I've collected a whole lot of homesteading-related books at garage sales and thrift stores, a number of them on your list. Now I just need to read them. :)

  2. I have found most of mine from Used Book Stores, but a few I ponied up and bought from Amazon or other places. I haven't read all these books cover to cover, but have referred to most of them multiple times for different topics. A couple of them I have pretty much read all the way through though...

  3. Hey just got The Back to Basics Handbook by Abigail R. Gehring and I like it.From Amazon and the price was pretty good. It has a little of everything in it .


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The Crowsons