Disaster Preparedness Books You Need on Your Shelf

Disaster Preparedness Books You Need on Your Shelf

September 11

There’s a wealth of free information about disaster preparedness online. The problem is that these resources could be completely useless when you need them the most.

As we’ve learned from disasters like Hurricane Sandy, you won’t always have access to power and Internet if there’s a disaster in your area. Printed books offer advantages no online resource can—they don’t need power, Internet access, or a special device. The information you need is in its raw form, right at your fingertips. A lot of people are moving away from print in favor of digital collections, but there are always some books you’ll want around in case of emergencies, whether it’s a massive catastrophe or a power outage lasting a few days. Your life, and the lives of those around you, might depend on it.

Practical Information

US Army Survival Manual

If you only had one thing from this list—make it this one. This guide is designed to help a soldier survive nearly any situation in nearly any area of the world. It covers everything from how to trap and hunt all the way to stress management, foraging, shelter-building, first aid, and more (skills we’ll look at in more detail). Best of all, you can find a PDF completely free, or buy a copy at a surplus store for a very low price. The information in here is essential.

Wilderness Medicine: Beyond First Aid

Typically, first aid is great to stabilize a person’s condition before they can be transported to an emergency room or until trained medical professionals arrive. But for survival, there can be situations where professional help won’t come for a long time, if it comes at all. Following a disaster, the skills you need to assist those around you or even yourself could very well go beyond basic first aid. This guide is great for understanding how to deal with a variety of situations you might encounter, even if help is a long way away.

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch

This book goes beyond the everyday practical survival knowledge you might find in the army survival guide. For instance, do you know how to make soap? Can you make textiles? What do you know about farming and agriculture? This book goes over the skills you’d need to create a new society.

The Disaster Diaries: One Man’s Quest to Learn Everything Necessary to Survive the Apocalypse

This book looks at potential survival scenarios through one man’s attempts to learn all there is to know about surviving in a variety of disasters and catastrophes. Survival in this book is seen through one person’s lens—an everyman, if you will. It’s a useful guide for understanding how an average person might survive various scenarios, and it really has a human element that’s missing from some of the guides above.


Survival specialists will tell you that you can go weeks without food and days without water, but in many cases, only hours without shelter. In addition to your wits and your knowledge, shelter is the single-most important thing you need to ensure survival in dire circumstances.

Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties: The Classic Guide to Building Wilderness Shelters

This guide was written by one of the original founders of the Boy Scouts of America in 1914. This guide contains nearly all the information you need about building a survival shelter with nearly anything you’ve got on hand. It’s got more detailed information on shelters than those listed in the US Army Survival Manual, and it’s the essential guide to making sure you stay warm and safe in even the harshest conditions. This book is available as a free PDF, so be sure to download and print your own copy if you’d rather not buy a pre-printed version.

How to Build an Igloo: And Other Snow Shelters

The guide above covers plenty, but for those of us that experience harsh winters, some of those shelters might not be ideal in all situations. Snow can really be your best friend if you’re surviving in the cold, and this guide goes over a variety of snow shelters you can build for survival in frigid winter environments.


Acquiring food might require skills as varied as foraging for edible plants to hunting and fishing to scavenging through abandoned homes á la the Walking Dead. These guides are some of the best when it comes to feeding yourself.

The Complete Guide to Edible Plants

There are hundreds of edible plants in the wild, but among them are many toxic and dangerous plants. If you’re foraging, you need to know the difference between a plant that will nourish you and one that will kill you. This guide will empower you to know the difference so you can survive on nature’s lavish bounty.

The NTA Trapper’s Handbook

Edible plants can take you a long way, but your body needs protein, which you get from eating animals. The authority on trapping small game is the National Trapping Association, and their guide, the NTA Trapper’s Handbook, covers a vast array of techniques for catching game like beaver, rabbit, and more.

Complete Guide to Hunting

There are many different animals to hunt and you can do so with many different weapons. This guide is a good overview of the types of game you might go after and the types of weapons you might use on them. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to hunting, but this guide is a great place to start.

Basic Fishing

Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime, or so the proverb goes. Fishing is another essential survival skill to learn. Like trapping and hunting, there are lots of techniques and subtle skills to develop. This guide has useful diagrams, techniques, and wisdom for catching lots of types of fish in lakes and rivers.


Look at just about any survival guide and you’ll see a section devoted to stress management. You’ve got to unwind when times are trying. These books will help you take your mind off of your stressful situation during free time.

The Ultimate Book of Card Games

A deck of cards can provide you with hours of entertainment in the form of hundreds of different games. This book goes over more than 350 games you can play with a simple deck of cards. Just be sure to keep a deck of cards along with this book so you can actually play the games.

Desert Island Books

We all have our favorite books—those books we’ve read over and over and still love. It’s wise to find a few of your favorites and keep hard copies in your home so you’ve got the comfort of your favorite books when times are hard—the warmth of a good book can get you through some of the toughest times you’ll ever encounter. Not sure what to include? The New York Times’ list of best novels of the 20th century is a great place to start.

Photo Credit: Alicia Martin via Flickr