> TEOTWAWKI Blog: The Value of Books Post-Collapse



The Value of Books Post-Collapse

In the comet/apocalypse classic Lucifer's Hammer, one of the survivors takes the effort to cache hundreds of books--individually sealed and then buried an a cleared out septic tank. They're books on a wide range of topics--science, industry, history--with the intent that they could be used to one day rebuild civilization.

No survivor should be without a library of useful books, be they military manuals and survival guides, technical manuals, religious texts, histories or more theoretical. They can teach useful skills and knowledge pre-collapse, and help with survival and rebuilding efforts if/when the collapse comes.

In this day and age of easily available internet info and digital readers, physical printed books are often overlooked. Unfortunately, in a collapse scenario, this information would quickly become unavailable. Good luck getting those how-to's on YouTube when the grid is down.

Printing could quickly become a valued skill post-collapse. Community bulletins, newsletters and updates could become a primary means of communication. Then there's of course the ability to copy other books and print new ones--the printing press is hailed as one of man's greatest achievements for a reason. Something to think about for those considering their role in an apocalyptic society.

A library of useful books could also become a source of barter and support--some books could become essentially priceless. Without the grid--computers, TV, movies--even B-grade novels would be highly valued as forms of diversion and escape.

I'm one of those who dislikes the massive clutter that comes with a large book collection, so the siren's call of digital readers is sweet to me. An eReader like a Kindle powered by a solar set up is a potential option, and a heck of a lot more mobile than a library of a couple thousand books. Unfortunately, they're prone to damage, breaking, etc. We have printed books that are centuries old--let's see your Kindle last that long.

What are some of your must-have books for after the fall of civilization? What's your strategy--are you focused on a single topic of interest (woodlands survival, blacksmithing, medical, etc.) or more widely spread?


  1. Besides the Bible, I would have books on repairing engines, food preservation, edible plants, and first aid. I have a currently useless 30 yr old encyclopedia set, but I'll keep it boxed up... just in case.

  2. One really great resource is (was?) the CD of the 1st 20 years of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Back in early 1970s when the magazine begun (iirc), John Shuttleworth created a magazine with DIY projects, complete with diagrams so that the reader had a good start on recreating it. Owning the magazines themselves would be great - if you could only print out the CD and make copies of the relevant articles, that would be a really good start.

    The magazine Countryside when Berlanger was the editer (pre 2000) are also pretty good, the magazines just before Y2K were especially good.

    1. foxfire link to pdf


  3. This is what my website is all about if you don't mind me mentioning it here.

    Downloadable chapters of How-to and DIY from the pioneers and settlers of the 1800's - pre-oil and pre-electricity. As we may be again one day in the future.

    It's all free and I encourage sharing...

    The PDF's should go straight into a kindle or similar if you don't mind loss of formating. I think that's a great solution as they are searchable that way and the units draw so little power they could probably be powered by a mouse on an exercise wheel.

    1. This is great! Thanks for passing on all this knowledge. Suggestion: it would be great if you compiled all these handbooks/pdfs and such into a giant ZIP. That way people could download everything all at once and have it all for whenever they needs it. Thanks again tho!

  4. Beyond technical books and manuals on various topics from food production, architectural engineering, metallurgy, radio communication, alternative medicine, nutrition and beyond. I would have the following...

    Our Enemy, the State by Albert J. Nock
    The Law by Frederic Bastiat
    For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto by Murray N. Rothbard
    Man, Economy and State by Murray N. Rothbard
    Human Action by Ludwig Von Mises

  5. Dave Gingery: Build Your Own Metalworking Shop from Scrap

  6. A few thoughts.

    1) I think a permanent complete electrical blackout is very unlikely. Don't get me wrong, our crappy grid is very vulnerable--the whole thing can come down for hours, even days, just from some city electrician splicing the wrong cable. In fact I think a SHORT TERM widespread loss of electricity is one of the most likely SHORT TERM TEOTWAWKI scenarios. But one way or another we'll get our precious electricity back. Even in an all our nuclear holocaust scenario, if there's people left there are most definitely generators (big and small) left too. Sooner or later we'll have electricity back, although perhaps not as abundantly as we do now. Either way we should have enough to charge a Kindle. Even in Book of Eli--in which there is basically NOTHING left...not even books--Eli gets his little mp3 player thing charged for some KFC wipes and a lighter. After TSHTF electricity will become an available commodity just like everything else. I doubt charging your kindle once every 2 months is going to cost you an arm and a leg.

    2) NEVERTHELESS, I don't think its the need for electricity the is the downfall of pdfs, e-books, and the like. The problem is anything electric is plain old super duper fragile. Just ask your computer--its probably broken in some way right now! How many times have I turned a computer on to find out that for some reason something is horribly wrong for no real reason? Most of my computers last 1 maybe 2 years before they are a smoldering piece of shudder-inducing brokenness. If you are super lucky and sacrifice the right sheep to the pagan gods of computers your computer might make it to year 5. Now throw in bugging out, nukes going off, running around trying not to get zombified, earthquakes, flooding, modern warfare--your lappy's prolly not making past week 2. iPhones and Kindles tend to be a bit tougher--I'm shocked at what my iPhone has endured. But the fact remains anything electronic has a short shelf life. If you rely on that giant library of pdfs and all of a sudden you press ON then your screwed. You can't call Apple Support and you can't return it to Walmart. "Uh, I lost the receipt."

    3. NEVERTHELESS AGAIN...I recommend maintaining a large and growing digital survival library. I have one. If you do have power than you have a huge pool of knowledge you can reference. The best strategy is, however, to READ the mountains of digital crap you get your hands on. Study and when possible apply what you learn and then who cares whether you have it or not when the T-800s start knocking on your door. This is something I suck at and I imagine lots of others suck at too. Also I agree on printing out crucial stuff. Maybe keep a big binder of survival related printed out PDFS. To me the problem with books is the cost--it really adds up. In an age where information is free why pay $10-$20 on a survival book when the information is probably sitting online somewhere. If you spend the cash on an actual book it better have some GOOD and RARE information--and lots of it.

  7. Just wanted to say that I would back up all of my digital materials on various different formats. for instance, I store all of my documents on my iPad. However, these are also on a flash drive, on my laptop, and stored on a jump drive as well. I also put them on a secure remote server in the event that the outage is localized and I can get to them from an alternate location. BTW, great book. I often read these sort of books and am amazed at how many of these books from the cold war era had extremely good information provided in the form of entertainment. Check out Dean Ing's classic Pulling Through.

  8. I agree with having a big digital library. Books are still good too (hey, I'm old..)

    A book storage suggestion, based on a product an old company of mine used to sell to university students who moved at least 1x/year:

    1) Measure your books. They usually fall into "paperback", "trade paperback", "Large hardback" or "coffee table" sizes (4x7, 9x7, 8.5x11 and 12x9)

    2) slice up sheets of particleboard/waferboard/plywood into appropriate widths. The lumberyard guy can do this for you, often for free.

    3) Cut some into appropriate height "end pieces" . Allow an inch for your fingers. Cut the top and bottom boards to 2feet (half a sheet)

    4) glue and screw them together.

    5) cut up some 1/8" masonite to fit the backs of your shelves (diagonal reinforcement - you'll get some waste here because of the extra thickness- use something cheap. Signboard plastic might even work.)

    6) assemble, paint/varnish/finish as you like, stack with biggest at bottom.

    7) If the time comes to move, wrap each stacked "box" with Duck tape and carry out to the BOV. The whole shelf stack will weigh a boatload, but each level is very manageable. wrap with paper first, if you dont want to mess up the finish on the books or the shelves.

    Cheap, easy, portable.

  9. I've had this ideal for a few years now. I buy old history books (1800's)on E-bay for $5-30, usually $10-15. They contain ALOT of info you won't find in the modern crappy history books. I'm sure old technical books from that time period would be even more interesting.

  10. Okay all, if you are looking for old technical books then look no further than www.lindsaybks.com. Lots of old books especially on steam power.

    There is even a section containing books by one Steven Chastain. If you do not know who this man is, then go here. www.stephenchastain.com.

  11. I never really considered how important novels would be in a long-term situation. I stock plenty of board games, cards, and such but not novels. Thanks for the suggestion.

  12. Karen CookMarch 16, 2012

    I have a backup for the Internet: Encyclopedia Britannica, 80's version; I have a well-rounded collection of how-to books...but I've been collecting books on living without electricity for about 30 years now (I'm not *that* old, but I love books).

    Be forewarned about any old books you run into; many books in contain outdated information on topics such as how to can, odd terms you won't find in modern cookbooks, medical treatments, etc. Don't just download a book thinking you have the solution to a non-electric situation; read the thing and look up any terms you don't recognize, and make sure you are looking at usable information.

    For medical treatment, IMHO nothing beats the 'Where there is no...' series.