The best books to survive the collapse of civilization

Jessica Carew Kraft Author Of Why We Need to Be Wild: One Woman's Quest for Ancient Human Answers to 21st Century Problems
By Jessica Carew Kraft

Who am I?

I am a writer, an anthropologist, and a mother. I spent five years researching ancient human survival skills and learning from modern wilderness survival experts about how to live the original Homo sapiens lifestyle. I became deeply invested in the importance of these skills amidst climate change and digital transformation because they connect us to our evolutionary heritage and safeguard our species’ survival into the future if and when our civilization collapses (as all past civilizations have done!) I find hope in being prepared for the possible demise of our industrial system, embracing the opportunities that arise instead of trying to preserve it at all costs. 

I wrote...

Why We Need to Be Wild: One Woman's Quest for Ancient Human Answers to 21st Century Problems

By Jessica Carew Kraft,

Book cover of Why We Need to Be Wild: One Woman's Quest for Ancient Human Answers to 21st Century Problems

What is my book about?

Jessica Carew Kraft, an urban wife and mom of two, was firmly rooted in the modern world, complete with a high-powered career in tech and the sneaking suspicion that her lifestyle was preventing her and her family from truly thriving. Determined to find a better way, Jessica quit her job and set out to learn about "rewilding" from people who reject the comforts and convenience of civilization by using ancient tools and skills to survive. Along the way, she learned how to turn sticks into fire, stones into axes, and bones into tools for harvesting wild food―and found an entire community walking the path back from our technology-focused, anxiety-ridden way of life to a simpler, more human experience.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A New Path: To Transcend the Great Forgetting Through Incorporating Ancestral Practices into Contemporary Living

Why did I love this book?

The secret to mastering your apocalypse experience is to think of it not as surviving, but as thrivingin the way that humans did for over 300,000 years as hunter-gatherers.

This book will drop you into that mindset as you read about how far our modern civilization has deviated from our original lifestyle, and the huge price we have paid for all of our comforts, conveniences, and technological wizardry.

This book may make you want to adopt an apocalypse-ready lifestyle even in the absence of societal collapse, since the new path he proposes offers so much in terms of improved health and wellbeing, rewarding outdoor activities, and IRL interaction (enjoy more sex, he says).  

By Arthur Haines,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A New Path as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New Path takes a candid look at the contemporary lifeway of humans in an attempt to reinstate our biological norms--patterns of living that define each species on the planet. Whether one is to discuss a wolf, a caribou, or an eagle, there are features of these animal's lives that define them. Given their unique adaptations, they are tailored, through evolution, to living in a particular way (e.g., a caribou cannot enjoy the diet of a wolf). This book presents the forgotten species' norms of Homo sapiens and explains that when we deviate from these patterns, we experience sickness of…

Book cover of The Essential Skills of Wilderness Survival: A Guide to Shelter, Water, Fire, Food, Navigation, and Survival Kits

Why did I love this book?

This is the book you want on your shelf if you plan to escape to the woods when SHTF (sh** hits the fan).

You can learn easy shelters to build, various friction-fire methods, cooking methods for campfire meals, and how to fashion just about any basic tool or useful item from wild materials, including weapons. You’ll also get acquainted with basic wilderness medicine and what the real threats are when you’re living outside full time.

But the true key to making this book useful is to really do and make the stuff. You can read all you want about the best knot for securing the poles of your tipi, but you won’t really get it until you try it (17 times). 

Book cover of The Forager’s Guide to Wild Foods

Why did I love this book?

Foraging is my favorite survival skill. Discovering food in the wild provides the perfect dopamine rush, and it’s exactly what we evolved to do as humans.

Nicole’s comprehensive guide covers so many edible plants and also gives fun, inventive recipes, so that even if it’s not the apocalypse, you might want to experiment with things like pickled magnolia leaves or elderberry pancakes.

When I find wild plants I intend to eat, I always like to double check with another field guide or the online citizen science database iNaturalist to make sure I did the ID correctly – nobody wants to end up like Into the Wild’s Christopher McCandless in that bus in the Alaska wilderness!

By Nicole Apelian,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Forager’s Guide to Wild Foods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

319 color pages, 400 wild foods, plant localization maps for each plant (400 maps), paperback, great print quality, superior plant identification guidelines, recipes for each plant, full page photos of the plants, at least 3 pictures for each plant, medicinal uses.

The Forager’s Guide to Wild Foods is probably the most important thing you want to have by your side when you go out foraging. Maybe there are times when you're still not sure about a certain plant and you need to consult the book, despite your vast experience. Or maybe you don’t have experience at all and just want…

Never Alone: A Solo Arctic Survival Journey

By Woniya Dawn Thibeault, Nathan B Peltier (illustrator), Gregg Segal (photographer)

Book cover of Never Alone: A Solo Arctic Survival Journey

Why did I love this book?

This book serves double duty as both a survival guide and an entertaining read you might be grateful for when the Internet goes out.

My pal Woniya was a top contender on the reality show Alone, and she survived over 70 days near the Arctic Circle using only ten basic tools, her wits, and determination. I learned that you need to be able to go without food for long stretches of time, keep up your self care routines, and challenge all of your negative thoughts with positive possibilities in order to stay on top of your game.

As one of the only female winners of the show, Woniya is also an inspiring woman role model for all of us ladybeasts. 

By Woniya Dawn Thibeault, Nathan B Peltier (illustrator), Gregg Segal (photographer)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Never Alone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Woniya Thibeault wasn't looking for an adventure of such magnitude, but when the opportunity to participate in Alone® Season 6 fell into her lap, she couldn't say no. Never Alone is the story of that journey.

Dropped into the Arctic wilderness—solo—as winter descended, Woniya intended not only to survive, but to thrive. With only a few tools and meager resources, she would need her survival skills, quick wits, and whole heart to make it through.

The skids scraped against the hard granite as the helicopter settled onto the barren peninsula. My fingers were shaking so badly from the adrenaline, it…

Book cover of The Natural Navigator: The Rediscovered Art of Letting Nature Be Your Guide

Why did I love this book?

One thing I realized in my rewilding journey was that I was totally dependent upon GPS – even when I was on an extended wander in nature and trying to feel at home in the wild.

Yet there are so many directional clues available to use for natural navigation, and Gooley makes it easy to learn how to read trees, water, animal sign, and plant growth to find our way. While paper and online maps give us a two-dimensional understanding of where we are, navigating with nature puts us in the center of the living world, engaged with everything around us.  

By Tristan Gooley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Natural Navigator as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times-bestselling author of How to Read a Tree and The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs, rediscover nature by noticing the hidden clues all around you

“A truly vital book for any outdoor adventurer.”—Cabin Life

Before GPS, before the compass, and even before cartography, humankind was navigating. A windswept tree, the depth of a puddle, or a trill of birdsong could point the way home, and they still do—if you know how to look.

With The Natural Navigator, his first book, Tristan Gooley invited us to notice the directional clues hidden all around: in the sun,…

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