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9 Best Self Sufficient Living Books for Homesteaders and Pioneers

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In most books, the definition of the word “self sufficient” is simple: If you are self-sufficient, then you need no outside help in satisfying your own needs, especially when it comes to producing your own food and living healthily.

However, you’ll probably need to know more about how to become more self reliant if off grid living appeals to you. So, what about the best self sufficient living books? Well, you have come to the right place!

For most people, the best self sufficient living books are The Encyclopedia of Country Living, which is best for people in the USA, and The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It, which has plenty of tips for people living in England.

In this article, we’ll show you all our favorite guides to self sufficient living and tell you why we love them. We’ve also ranked them based on how many of us had them on our shelves and used them regularly.

So, want to find a great guide to self reliance? Let’s talk books, then!

Best Self Sufficient Living Books

back to basics book reading in self sufficient herb garden
Having a permanent, reliable book to serve as your guide in off-grid living is great! You get some pleasant reading material for slow, sunny days. But most importantly, you have a physical companion that won’t fade away when the power goes out.

When your goal is to be self-sufficient, you can’t just start with no knowledge – that’s a recipe for disaster. Believe it or not, there’s a lot to learn about before you set out on a plot of land to grow your own food, find your own water supply, raise animals, and create a home.

But asking a personal trainer to teach you how to live off grid isn’t really an option for most people. Well, that’s just where the best self reliance books come in.

These books are worthy of your trust, whether you’re in a tight situation and have no water to drink or you want to use goat milk to make luxury homestead soaps.

So, before we get into the details, let’s take a quick overview of the books we use the most on our own homesteads:

  1. The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 50th Anniversary Edition
    $29.95 $17.69
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    06/07/2024 02:04 am GMT
  2. The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It: The Complete Back-to-Basics Guide
    $35.00 $26.20
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    06/06/2024 10:53 pm GMT
  3. Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living
    $35.00 $20.99
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    06/07/2024 03:44 pm GMT
  4. DIY Projects for the Self-Sufficient Homeowner: 25 Ways to Build a Self-Reliant Lifestyle
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    06/07/2024 12:13 pm GMT
  5. Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre
    $18.95 $10.49
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    06/06/2024 10:07 pm GMT
  6. Earth-Sheltered Houses: How to Build an Affordable Underground Home
    $39.99 $21.99
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    06/07/2024 02:08 am GMT
  7. Back to Basics: How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills
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    06/07/2024 11:00 pm GMT
  8. The Complete Guide to Water Storage How to Use Gray Water and Rainwater Systems
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    06/07/2024 02:04 am GMT
  9. One Acre and Security: How to Live Off the Earth Without Ruining It
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    06/07/2024 05:45 pm GMT

Alrighty! Now, let’s take a deeper look between the pages of each book and discuss why you might or might not want some of them depending on the types of self reliance you value most:

1. Best Overall: The Encyclopedia of Country Living

This book cannot be recommended enough for those eager to start homesteading!

If you want to know the key details of basic farm life then you will get 928 pages of high-quality information.

It covers almost everything you’d ever need to know about living off the grid. If you intend to raise farm animals like goats, for example, then there is a section in this book dedicated to that topic. Want to build your own barn or plan a sustainable garden? This book covers all that, too – and much more.

Carla Emery does a fantastic job putting out all the details you will need to get a better understanding of things like how to raise farm animals, how to preserve food, and how to deal with trees, vines, bushes, and brambles.

If you are looking for a book loaded with explanations on how to perform self-sufficient homesteading tasks, then this is your book. 

If you are getting started in homesteading, you can go check out our post on the top 18 homesteading books. Spoiler: this book was one of our top picks over there, too. It’s just that great!

2. Runner-Up: The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It

This textbook-like comprehensive guide to self sufficient life is basically the British version of the The Encyclopedia of Country Living. This volume takes you through careful explanations of how to develop the most basic homesteading skills.

Being a pioneer of the “Back to Basics” movement, John Seymour will walk you through the philosophy of self-sufficiency and how it can change lives and create functional communities.

One example of how to become more self-sufficient, according to Seymour, is how you go about making a chicken coop. Branches, poultry wire, and empty feed bags are basically all you need to make the coop.

The details provided in this book are enough to empower the reader to take on homesteading tasks that previously may have been viewed as impossible. 

3. Best For Homemaking Off-Grid: Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living

Whether you live in a city, suburban or rural location, this book will help you figure out how to find the homesteading pace that is right for you.

Being named the Best How-to Book of 2020 by the American Society of Journalists and Authors, you will receive an abundance of tips on how to do outdoor projects such as cast iron cooking, beekeeping, and foraging for wild berries.

You will also get great recipes for meals involving a smoky hot sauce and crusty sourdough baguette bread.

Love DIY projects?

Kris Bordessa has got you covered with crafts like dipping candles and dyeing fabrics. This book wonderfully hits the target as to why you should be more self-sufficient. 

4. Best For Beginner Building: DIY Projects for the Self-Sufficient Homeowner

The homesteading lifestyle would be boring if you didn’t have any DIY projects to do!

Thankfully, this book will keep you motivated to take on such projects. Especially if you have limited DIY skills, this book , complete with plans to help you increase your self reliance skill,s will help you manage each project by breaking it down into a parts list and a set of instructions for construction.

It’s all in good fun to learn how to do even one DIY project, and this book can fittingly be called a “springboard book” as it introduces you to self-sufficiency without taking many hits to your wallet.

Betsy Matheson keeps it simple and practical, as you can easily follow along with the process of new DIY projects like building greenhouses, garden beds, root cellars, solar systems, rainwater irrigation systems, and beehives.

Because of its blueprint-like approach to self sufficient living, this is one of the best books for people who want to learn to construct different structures on their homestead.

5. Best For Self Reliance on Small Plots: Mini-Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre

Is producing 85% of your family’s food supplies in just under one acre possible?

According to this book, the answer is absolutely yes!

If you have never been a farmer or gardener before, don’t worry! This book will share all sorts of tips on how to become self-sufficient with limited land.

Author Brett Markham will explain how to buy and save seeds, how to start seedlings, create raised beds, and how to handle potential pest and disease problems.

Want to raise backyard chickens and start canning? This book covers that too. As someone who owns under one acre of land, I myself can relate to a book like this one.

Its paperback price is a complete bargain!

6. Best For Construction: Earth-Sheltered Houses

Want to go underground and have an earth-roofed home that is off grid? Do you have a tight budget to work with? This book goes into great detail about why it is beneficial to shelter a home with earth.

Author Rob Roy has a ton of experience building and living in earth-sheltered homes, and he clearly presents the information necessary to create an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient home.

Rob specializes in cordwood construction and started the Earthwood Building School in 1981 to educate builders on cordwood materials.

Becoming self-sufficient typically starts with the foundation of your home, and you will get a finely written book that has 256 pages of valuable content that will last for years. 

7. Best Generalist Self Reliance Book: Back-to-Basics 4th Edition

Ambitious enough to add a well to your off-grid home? Want to dye your own wool with plant pigments? Want to craft a hutch table with hand tools?

This is one of the best, most famous books for self sufficient homesteaders, bushcrafters, and all types of people who care about self reliance.

It’s a complete back-to-basics guide to developing traditional skills like brewing, shoemaking, gardening, constructing buildings, selecting land, and crafting practical household items like fabric and gourd ladles.

This book is more than just practical advice, as it gives you illustrated examples of how to perform tasks. The illustrations go so far as to break down accurate floor plans for a new home.

You also get tasty recipes for great dishes, which is always helpful if you enjoy cooking. In 456 pages, you are getting a full experience of what to prepare for should you choose to live off the grid. 

The only downside is that it’s out of print, and finding a copy can be tricky. It’s on Amazon and available through many secondhand retailers, though.

8. Best For Saving Water: The Complete Guide to Water Storage

One overlooked aspect of what it takes to achieve self reliance is the ability to store water – something this book can really help you with! You need a fresh source of water to survive, and it will be an uphill battle if you don’t have a way of storing it.

You also need water to perform daily activities in and around the house, such as cooking, cleaning, and mowing the lawn. Author Julie Fryer takes you through all the necessary steps to store water for both emergency and future use.

There are also hazards involved in water storage that you will learn more about, which include bugs, rodents, drains, inlets, outlets, and service access. If you start an off grid homestead, consider picking up this book.

9. Best for Off-Gridders: One Acre and Security: How to Live Off the Earth Without Ruining It

This book was first published in 1972, but its relevance to topics related to self-sufficiency remains timeless.

This book goes into the details of how you need to prepare for organic gardening on just one acre of land, how to raise herbs for money, and how to make your own wine.

If you are interested in raising animals like sheep, pigs, rabbits, frogs, and turtles, then Bradford Angier has it covered in his clever text.

Angier’s legacy lives on in more than 35 books on how to survive in the wild and how to be a minimalist off grid.

You are getting a book that is very informative, has solid instructions, and provides guidelines that are easy to follow. 

Self Sufficiency Isn’t An Overnight Process

Keep in mind that self-sufficiency isn’t an overnight process. It takes time to really get a feel for the homesteading lifestyle.

Once you have a system in place that suits the needs of yourself, your family, and your home, then you will start the see the roots of self-sufficiency develop.

What is so good about reading the best self sufficient living books such as the ones listed above is that you get different perspectives on what it is like to live off grid and how to stay self sufficient after making all the right preparations. 

Feel free to share your own tips on how to be more self-sufficient in your home! We would love to know more about your journey!

More Reading:

9 Best Self Sufficient Living Books for Homesteaders and Pioneers

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  1. RE: The Encyclopedia of Country Living, there are 4 editions, which is the best one? Original. 2012, 40th anniversary, 50th anniversary, 10th edition
    Thank you. Good post

    1. Hi Carol!
      I have the 50th anniversary edition and love it!
      It has a description of the different editions on page 911, which I’ll copy below for you.

      First Edition. By subscription only, arriving in 4 consecutive shipments, mimeographed on Fibertint; 875 copies finished about March 1, 1974.

      Second Edition. Mimeographed on Carlton and Mustang paper with an ivory Plastisheen cover; 185 copies finished April 10, 1974.

      Third Edition. Contents expanded; 500 mimeo copies finished April 10, 1974.

      Fourth Edition. Colored photos added; 1,000 mimeo copies finished May 24, 1974.

      Fifth Edition. Index added; 13,000 mimeo copies started May 26, 1974.

      Sixth Edition. Black-and-white photos added; 34,000 mimeo copies started January 16, 1975.

      Sixth–Seventh Edition. Half new paging and half old paging; rewrites added. Index dropped due to confused paging; 4,000 mimeo copies started November 22, 1976.

      Seventh Edition. All chapters fully revised and also now illustrated by Cindy Davis; 25,000 (?) mimeo copies started March 12, 1977. The first 7 editions (before the Bantam edition) were 3-hole-punched and usually were bound with a bent length of plastic-coated copper wire in pretty colors or were Velo-bound (with a soft or hard cover).

      Bantam Printing of Seventh Edition. A different set of drawings by Cindy because a better printing method allowed more detail; same contents. Bantam first printed on alternating sections of yellow and green; in later press runs, all pages were green. A total of 200,000 printed in 6 different runs—November 1977, December 1977, September 1978, September 1979, April 1980, and March 1981. Softcover only.

      Eighth Edition. Chapters called “Poultry,” “Meats,” “Definitions and Measures,” “Home Industries,” “Vegetables,” “Sweets,” and “Oddments” were revised. Starting March 1990, about 3,000 copies were made by copy machine. Gradually upgraded through various printings; another 1,000 done by offset. Again 3-hole-punched, bound with 2-inch metal binder rings.

      Proto-Ninth Edition. All 12 chapters thoroughly revised, updated, and expanded. Chapters called “Sours” and “Home Industries” integrated with other chapters. Chapters called “Introduction to Plants” and “Bee, Rabbit, Sheep, and Pig” added. “Sweets” chapter renamed “Tree, Vine, Bush, and Bramble,” “Meats” now called “Introduction to Animals.” First time book ever printed on white paper. Bound like eighth edition.

      Ninth Edition. Title and much of “Definitions and Measures” chapter dropped to make room for new information. Indexed and fully illustrated; el supremo version so far. And massaged by Sasquatch’s editors to make my writing follow (most of) the rules that in the past I’ve been famous (infamous?) for spurning. No more world records for typos. Oh, well.

      Updated Ninth Edition. More than 1,500 mail-order sources, checked and updated, with the addition of websites and e-mail addresses.

      Tenth Edition. Coinciding with the thirty-fifth anniversary of the book’s beginning, many photos, text sections, and Cindy’s pictures from earlier editions are back, all recipes tested by the amazing volunteer team of testers, plus 200,000 new words, a recipe index, and new pictures by various artists, including many delightful new ones by Dan Emery!

      Updated Tenth Edition. Coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of the book’s beginning, all resource information has been brought up to date.

      Fiftieth Anniversary Edition. Coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of the book’s beginning, all resource information has been brought up to date.

      Emery, Carla. The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 50th Anniversary Edition (p. 911). Sasquatch Books.

      Unfortunately, it doesn’t show specific information about the 40th edition, but Amazon lists:

      The 40th anniversary edition offers up-to-date and detailed information on the fundamentals of topics like homegrown food; raising chickens, goats, and pigs; beekeeping; food preservation; mail-order supply sourcing; foraging; and much, much more (even how to deliver a baby)—everything you need to lead a self-sufficient lifestyle in the 21st century.

      Let us know which edition you decided on!

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