Book reviews for Preppers

I love the public library. Ours in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand has a diverse stock of old and new, fiction and non-fiction books that keep me visiting time and again. My last visit I was looking for something to refer to to check my readiness for emergency/disaster situations.

The two books I picked up were Build the Perfect Survival Kit – 2nd Edition – by John D. McCann and The Ultimate Prepper’s Survival Guide by James Wesley Rawles…..subtitled Survive the End of the World as We Know It.

Both books were full of helpful information but I’ll start with the Prepper’s Survival Guide. It’s a very useful and easy to follow guide for beginner Preppers, but is also useful for people like myself, who have been prepping for a while, as a kind of check list to make sure we have all our ducks in a row. It’s a hard cover book with easy to follow chapters with bullet points about the risks we face and how to combat those risks. To quote a few lines from the introduction of the book….”We live in a fragile world. Modern societies are complex and surprisingly dependent on liquid fuels, power grids, telecommunications, and electronic funds transfers. Globe spanning supply chains provide our necessities of life. It doesn’t take much to disrupt any of those. If several of them went missing for an extended period, then the world would be plunged into a deep economic depression, and it is easy to see how it could descend into a full-scale collapse. Preparedness for disasters is not alarmist. Rather, given the many existential threats we face, it is wise and prudent.

Preppers used to be very much looked upon as gun loving red-necks with an arsenal of weapons, a fall-out shelter and a bunker full of freeze dried food to last them 20 years – as portrayed on the Nat. Geo. channel’s Doomsday Preppers programme. BUT, most Preppers are not like that. They are, for the most part, just ordinary people who have decided to take out some extra “insurance” against future dark days. I also believe that, since we have now been subject to around 20 months of Covid rules and regulations, the number of Preppers among us has grown considerably.

Rawles has been prepping for over 30 years now, so knows what he’s talking about and he certainly walks the talk. He has also been writing a regular Prepping blog post since 2005 called SurvivalBlog.com – The Daily Web Log for Prepared Individuals Living in Uncertain Times.

Of course being an American, the book is mainly written with Americans in mind and takes into consideration rules and regulations in force in the states, what is allowed there by right, and protected thanks to the US Constitution.

He begins by running through the many potential risks that affect us as humans – be they natural disasters like earthquakes or extreme weather, the logistical problems of feeding an ever growing world population with finite resources, possible economic/financial problems and of course political discourse, war (including biological warfare and pandemics) and climate change. It’s all written in easy to follow, straight forward language accompanied by colour and black and white illustrations, photos and maps.

Once he has explained how fragile our existence is and the hazards we face, he then goes about showing us how to prepare sufficiently to get through by not only having the right supplies and tools to cope with each potential disaster but also by preparing our minds (by having a “can do” attitude) and our bodies (health and fitness)…..because survival isn’t just about having stuff, it’s about being able to use that stuff, it’s about having a plan B and a plan C, thinking on your feet and solving problems, and it’s about eating a diet to provide you with everything your body needs to thrive in adversity.

The chapter on Self-Defense (American spelling) – is angled towards the 2nd amendment rights to have firearms (and lots of them), so is not applicable in some other countries – but he also covers Improvised Weapons, Intrusion Detection and how to Harden your House against potential marauders or robbers, by not only having affective perimeter fencing and gates and using thorny shrubs to funnel potential attackers into areas where they can be easily seen and “dealt with”, but he also discusses home improvements that can make your home much more secure. Some of his ideas seem to assume unlimited finances are available with things like security lighting, cameras, sensors, night vision and panic rooms…..things that are mostly not on my affordable things to do list. But that is the only downfall in an otherwise excellent guide book.

Other chapters deal with – The Prepared Mind – Water – Eating – Communications – Your Neighbors (American spelling) – Bugging Out or Staying Put – Plan A or Plan B – The Year After…. and finally a List of Lists (useful lists covering everything from Barter and Charity, Books, Bug-Out Bags, Vehicle Kits, Food and Water, Financial Preparation, Gardening and Outdoors, House and Home, Hygiene and Sanitation, Personal Preparations and Security).

There are notes in the book to encourage you to formulate plans tailored to your own circumstances. I enjoyed this book very much, learned a few things and had other ideas about disaster preparation confirmed.

Moving on to the 2nd book Build the Perfect Survival Kit by John D McCann…..and this will be brief.

The forward of the book says “The concept of survival can be reduced to two basic aspects: your experience and practical knowledge, and the gear you carry.”

I’ve read some very glowing reviews of this book…such as…. “This book does its job well, as it focuses on one aspect of emergency preparedness: the work you must do before the emergency itself. By focusing on the tools needed for survival, it manages to cover all the scenarios that may occur in different geographical locales, as well as what solutions must be in place (or in your pocket) before you even decide to venture outside the safety of civilization.”

And yes, it does do it’s job well, is very thorough, but is also very repetitive in places and compered to the earlier book – reviewed above – is quite a dry read. It’s more text book and less entertainment. It is thorough, but it also sent me to sleep.

The best piece of advice it gives though, as far as building your own emergency/survival kit, is to put together something that you will always have with you. Keep it small, keep it simple, keep it accessible. The most elaborate and complete Survival Kit will do you no good if its sitting on a shelf somewhere and not with you when you need it.

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