8 Essential Books For the Homesteader | Required Reading | Off Grid Permaculture
Best Homestead Book Recommendation

8 Essential Books For the Homesteader | Required Reading

November 25, 2020

Daniel Mark Schwartz Profile Picture

With hundreds of books available on homesteading, self-sufficiency, gardening, raising livestock, storing food, and more related to living off the grid, which ones are worth the money? Here are my picks for eight essential homesteading book that every survivalist or off grid enthusiast must have on their book shelf.

Best All Around Book for the Homesteader

The Encyclopedia of Country Living

This book should to be on every homesteader’s shelf. Of all the homesteading books that I own, this is my number 1 go to resource. Whenever I start researching a topic or plan a new project, I’ll reach for this book first. With clear and concise coverage of almost every topic you might encounter on a homestead, you get the answers fast. And since it was written by homesteader with a lifetime of experience, you know you can trust the answers that you get.

View The Encyclopedia of Country Living on Amazon

This book covers a huge range of topics, including —

  • Live sustainably
  • Raise chickens
  • Mix herbal remedies
  • Plan your garden
  • Build a barn
  • Mill your own flour
  • Forage
  • Make soap
  • Preserve fruits and vegetables
  • Deliver a baby
  • Learn bee keeping
  • Spin wool into yarn
  • Make sausage
  • Tap maple trees
  • Milk a cow or goat
  • Create natural skincare products
  • Make cheese

While many of us might turn to a quick Google search to answer questions of the type this book covers, it is very rare to find a page online or YouTube video that answers so clearly or directly. Likewise, should you ever find yourself without power or internet access you will be thankful you own this Encyclopedia of Country Living.

Well worth every penny spent.

View The Encyclopedia of Country Living on Amazon

Essential Permaculture Reading

Permaculture is a method of designing homesteads, farms, and homes that seeks to integrate man and nature in a low effort and sustainable system. What sets permaculture apart is that it copies the patterns nature uses, and apply that knowledge to the design of human systems.

Every homesteader and off grid enthusiast should study a little permaculture.

In this category I will present two options, because the Permaculture A Designers’ Manual (PDM) is currently out of print, and difficult to obtain. But, PDM is by far the best resource, in my opinion.

Permaculture A Designers’ Manual

Essential reading for any serious Permaculturist. This is the classic text by Bill Mollison himself, and is probably the most significant work in the history of permaculture. My copy of this book is my go-to reference when I am working with a permaculture design or teaching permaculture . I honestly believe that every high school student should be taught a course in permaculture, and this should be the text book that they use. Well worth a place in any permaculturist’s personal library!

View Permaculture A Designers’ Manual on Amazon

As a second option, since Permaculture A Designers’ Manual is currently out of print, is —

Gaia’s Garden

This is the best book for beginners to learn permaculture. I have read most of the beginner permaculture books on the market, and this is hands down the best. Relatively short, concise, and easy to read. While permaculture design courses and huge reference books can be a nice way to grow in your permaculture practice, this book introduces permaculture so nicely, that it should be the first thing that every new permaculturist reads.

View Gaia’s Garden on Amazon

Best Book for Off Grid Skills

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills

Solid gold for those learning or relearning practical country skills. Like the Encyclopedia of Country Living, this book covers a lot of ground and is a extremely valuable and cost effective resource to have on your shelf. What sets this book apart is the plentiful and extremely detailed illustrations and photos. Unlike other books on the market, this book literally shows you what you need to do. If you are like me, you will have this book open next to you every time you are learning a new off grid skill.

View Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills on Amazon

Best Book for Off Grid Food Storage

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables

You will need this book for self sufficiency. Root cellars are a effective and low cost method for storing large quantities off food with relatively little effort. At on time in history practically everyone had a root cellar, but now they are almost a lost art. While the general reference books say very little about the trick and pitfalls of storing vegetables in a root cellar, this book fills in where they left off. Don’t build a root cellar unless you have this book.

View Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables on Amazon

Food forest are Permaculture food systems where the “garden” is modeled after how a forest works. No one plans out a forest, or labors in it, yet it grows every year and produces tons of food for no effort.

This book teaches you how to build a food forest that can feed your family, yet requires few or no inputs and takes almost no effort to maintain.

Edible Forest Gardens

The essential reference on food forest design. There is no other book on the market that even compares to this work, in the realm of self-sufficient, autonomous food producing gardens. This book will save you thousands in mistakes over the years. And, is probably worth more than most bachelor’s degrees when it comes to practical, real world knowledge. Even if you don’t read the whole thing straight through, it is worth having just to refer to when design or improving your garden.

View Edible Forest Gardens on Amazon

Top Gardening Books for the Homesteader

Some people prefer to have some or all of their vegetables grown in a more traditional house garden. For this, I recommend two books.

This first book teaches you a low effort and highly productive means of “no dig” gardening.

Charles Dowding’s No Dig Gardening, Course 1: From Weeds to Vegetables Easily and Quickly

By far the best gardening system out there. Charles makes gardening seem easy and effortless. His decades of experience have culminated in this super efficient method that produces bountiful harvests. No gardening experience necessary. Forget plowing, turning, and digging. This method is far superior to your grandmas gardening techniques. And, will put her harvests to shame with the shear mass of high quality beautiful vegetables it will produce.

View Charles Dowding’s No Dig Gardening, Course 1: From Weeds to Vegetables Easily and Quickly on Amazon

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners

This book will pay for it self the first year you buy it. For those of us interested in self-sufficiency, learning to save your own seeds frees you from the need to buy seeds every year. It also saves the casual gardener $100s per year in seed costs. While saving a seed is easy, knowing how to properly plant, pollinate, and select verities so your garden maintains productivity year after years isn’t. This book is an essential reference that isn’t covered by other gardening books or general homestead reference guides.

View Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners on Amazon

Best Book for Homestead Remedies and Herbal Medicine

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments

Required reference for the homestead. Learning to heal yourself with plants is essential homestead knowledge for both nature loving naturalists and rugged individualists. In the past, every village had wise elders who knew what planet to use for what illness, passing down the knowledge of generations. This book takes their place as a complete reference guide. This book is easy to read, and doesn’t require deep knowledge in of herbology in order to be useful. And, has full color illustrations and photos on almost every page.

View Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments on Amazon

Haven’t found the book that you are looking for? See additional book recommendations our recommended resources page.