My Ten Favorite Homesteading Books

Being frugal by living on less and making or growing your own things are basic tenets of the homesteading philosophy, one that is near and dear to my heart. While my wife and I have not made it to the country yet, it has been a goal for several years that we are still working on achieving. Our main obstacle is not finding a place but getting out of the one we are in. In the mean time we have incorporated many homesteading ways into our urban lifestyle by reading various homesteading books, and the following are my favorite books on the subject. You might notice some glaring exclusions, such as Scott Nearing and Gene Logsdon, but I decided to limit my list to books I actually own.

If you are interested in the subject and have some favorites of your own, feel free to share!

Homemade Contrivances and How to Make Them by Skyhorse Publishing

This is a reprint of a book originally published in 1897. The subtitle is 1001 Labor-Saving Devices for Farm, Garden, Dairy and Workshop and my little copy runs to 621 pages. While there might not be many people needing to know how to make an ice-hook, or a tool box for a wagon these days there are plenty of other contrivances listed in this book that are still useful today. Bonus: several pages on how to blow up rocks and stumps with dynamite.

How to Make a Living on Almost Nothing and Have Plenty by Janet Chadwick

My copy is dated 1979 but does not really seem out of date. Janet draws from her personal homesteading experience with her family to cover everything from gardening to raising livestock to cooking. A good guide that covers basics that she admits she wrote for beginners.

Five Acres and Independence by M.G. Kains

My copy is dated 1946 and was the twenty third printing of this little book, which indicates it was popular in its time. This almost 400 page guide is a meaty, concise “road map” of how the author and his wife revived a neglected, poor piece of land and thrived.

The Big Book of Self-Reliant Living edited and compiled by Walter Szykitka

This reference book on self reliance was culled by the editor from U.S. Government agencies, State governments and university extension services. The chapters cover topics such as first aid, survival techniques, health, food, farm and home, tools and construction. A very handy book to have in your personal library.

Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Okay, so it’s eight books instead of one, but it’s my list and I can cheat if I want to. I was visiting with an author friend of mine the other day and the Little House books came up. He mentioned how, when reading them, he got “bogged down reading things like five pages on how to make soap.” Which is precisely why these books belong in your homesteading collection.

Living on an Acre edited by Christine Woodside

This is usually described as “the classic USDA handbook” for good reason. An excellent resource that covers most of the topics in Five Acres and Independence mentioned above, plus a few more.

The Foxfire Series edited by Eliot Wigginton

This time capsule of Appalachian country living is probably my favorite on this list. This series (cheating with more than one book again) had its genesis in getting Eliot’s high school class focused on something other than tormenting him. He suggested they gather some local poetry and include interviews with elderly locals, starting with their relatives. The first magazine was a hit and eventually led to a series of books on folklore stories and instructions on plain living. These books not only serve as a time capsule of simple Appalachian ways, but also ring with authority because the topics are described by the people who did them.

The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour

This book bills itself as “the complete back-to-basics guide,” and that claim gets no argument from me. It is packed with illustrations from cover to cover, which helps bring his narrative to life. I would encourage you to not only check out this book but also seek out some of the others John wrote.

Country Wisdom and Know How from the editors of Storey Books

This oversized, almost 500 page monster of a book is a compilation of reprinted homesteading booklets originally published by Storey in the 1970’s. It is, like they write in the introduction, like having “your grandfather or grandmother at your elbow, showing you how.”

Homesteading Your Way to Health and Happiness by Fred Moller, Jr.

My beat up copy of this little book was saved from a dumpster. The author describes he and his wife’s decision to move to the country, at ages 40 and 46, and their struggles and triumphs during their homesteading adventures.

Related Reading:

Six Great Gardening Websites

Ten Books to Have Around When the Internet Goes Down

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  1. I'll be looking out for these. Have you tried Storey's Basic Country Skills? In addition to a lot of little helps it helped me, the worst black thumb ever, to produce peppers and omatoes galore last summer and also put in a new well ourselves. Talk about saving $$$!

  2. I will check my library for a copy, thanks for adding to the list.

  3. Growing up some 50 miles from the school that produced them, I love the Foxfire Series! They sparked a life long interest in self reliance. A book that I have in my collection that you didn't mention is Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel. It contains a wealth of information on using cold storage just about anywhere as well as plans for having homegrown fruits and vegetables year round.


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