I’m a huge fan of Graphic Audio. Looking back on the blog posts here from the last few years, I can’t believe I’ve not mentioned them before.
I spend a fair amount of time in my car each week. My daily commute is about 35 minutes each way. Plus, my day job often has me driving 30-50 miles or more each day. Hell, there are days I’m in the car for six or more hours. I find much of what passes for entertainment on the radio boring so some time ago I started listening to books on CD. One thing I learned early on was that the quality of an audiobook really hinged on the narrator. I know, sounds obvious. The thing is, a narrator can make or break the audiobook. Doesn’t matter how good the story might be, if the narrator’s voice isn’t right, the book fails. At least, that’s how I feel about the whole thing.
Then, a buddy of mine introduced me to Graphic Audio. This was way different from any other audiobook I’d listened to before. These books aren’t narrated, they are performed! Each one has a full cast, with different actors and actresses playing roles. Throughout the performance you’ll hear sound effects, from gunshots to engines revving. If you’ve ever listened to any of the old radio shows from back in the day, these audiobooks are the modern equivalent.
For those interested in post-apocalyptic stuff, they have the following series:
On top of those, they have a ton of science fiction, action/adventure, westerns, and comic related novels.
You can purchase the audiobooks either as downloads or CDs. The latter is a little more expensive since there is a physical product that has to be shipped out. They do have a lot of samples available on their site so you can check out the quality before buying. Or, see if your local library has any of these productions or if they can order them in through interlibrary loan.
Seriously, I can’t say enough about these audiobooks. They are very well done.
As an author who has had a book or two negatively reviewed because it turned out not to be what the reader had expected, let me tell you a few things up front about Prepper’s Natural Medicine by Cat Ellis.
1) If you’re looking for a field identification guide that will help you locate and procure wild medicinal plants, this isn’t it. There is nary a single photo in the entire book.
2) If you’re looking for a wild medicinal first aid guide that will tell you which plants you can gather for treating injuries and ailments while on the run, this has some of that but you’ll want to supplement with another manual.
3) If you’re looking for information on how to use natural remedies to combat infections and illnesses rather than visiting the pharmacy for everything, you’ll want to sit up and pay attention.
The author, Cat Ellis, comes by her knowledge honestly. She’s been a practicing herbalist since the 1990s and belongs to the American Herbalists Guild. Cat blogs at HerbalPrepper.com.
In Chapter 1, the author talks about the differences between natural medicine and the modern equivalent. She then goes on to explain why preppers should look at learning natural or traditional forms of medicine. Her top five reasons why preppers need to learn natural medicine are:
1) Natural medicine works. It has been used successfully for thousands of years.
2) Natural medicine belongs to everyone. You don’t need anyone’s permission to use it or learn it. The knowledge is all out there.
3) Natural medicine is easy to learn. The beginning techniques and skills can be learned quickly and require little in the way of expensive equipment.
4) Natural medicine is sustainable over the long term. Because it relies upon herbs and other renewable resources, you don’t run the risk of the shelves at the pharmacy being picked clean.
5) Natural medicine provides valuable barter items. I’ve talked about bartering a time or two myself and the importance of having not just gold coins and candy bars but actual skills you can provide. Any skills related to the medical arena will be highly prized in a total grid down scenario.
Chapter 2 is Stocking the Home Apothecary. This might be my favorite chapter in the whole book, to be honest. She goes into great detail on what supplies you’ll want to make sure you have on hand as you learn and utilize natural remedies. This goes beyond just a supply of herbs and such. Distilled grain alcohol is used to prepare tinctures and to dull pain. Glycerin is used for syrups and ear drops. Activated charcoal is great for pulling toxins from wounds. Those are just a few quick examples. In this chapter are several pages of discussion on the use of essential oils, which is great information to have.
Other essentials include containers for your supplies and concoctions as well as a mortar and pestle, blender, and scale.
Chapter 3 discusses the basic skills involved with natural medicine. This also is where we begin to see a lot of the jargon involved with natural medicine – tisanes (herbal tea), infusions, decoctions, tinctures, elixirs, electuaries, pastilles, and more. Don’t worry, though. The author goes to great lengths to ensure the reader fully understands each term used. This chapter basically describes all the different ways you’ll be using the herbs and such, whether you’ll be ingesting it, spreading it on your skin, or inhaling vapors.
Chapter 4 is the nitty gritty, so to speak. In this chapter, she details 50 plants that have medicinal qualities. Here’s what I really appreciate in this section. For each plant, she provides the following information:
Parts of the plant used (flowers, leaves, etc.)
Actions (what the plant is used for, such as an analgesic or astringent)
Preparations (how the plant is used, such as tincture or poultice)
Uses (ailments or illnesses it alleviates)
Contraindications (when NOT to use the plant)
That last one is pretty valuable information. For example, Lobelia is one of only a couple of herbs capable of effectively dealing with an asthma attack. However, it could cause problems for someone with cardiac problems. Good to know.
As should be obvious, there are far more than just 50 known plants that have medicinal value. The author chose for inclusion in this book the ones that she felt were not only very important but were available throughout much of the United States. Again, though, this is not a field identification guide for plants. You’ll need something like the Peterson Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs for that purpose. http://amzn.to/1Zpyppn
Chapter 5 is all about first aid. Here is where we find dozens of recipes, for lack of a better term, where you learn how to combine and use the plants discussed in the previous chapter. Everything from burns to constipation, tooth infection to wound care is covered. For each, the author gives the list of ingredients and the steps to turn it into an effective treatment. Worth noting is that she suggests making some of these mixtures and such in advance rather than trying to toss it all together at the drop of a hat.
Throughout the book, the author stresses over and over the importance of labeling your medicines. This is crucial as you don’t want to have to guess at the contents of a container. Label everything right away so you don’t lose track of what you’re doing.
Next, in Chapter 6 the author discusses what she called Everyday Natural Medicine. Basically, here we’re talking about preventative care, chronic illness, and common ailments like the flu. Proper nutrition is discussed, of course, and there’s a recipe for “Cat’s Favorite Nutritional Syrup” included here. Among the chronic stuff discussed are arthritis and diabetes, the latter of which is very popular topic in the prepper community. The author suggests it is possible to at least address the blood sugar issues, if not alleviate the problems completely, through the use of natural medicine.
The book ends with an awesome appendix. Here, the author groups the plants by use (analgesics, antimicrobial, etc.). This is quite a time saver. When you’re faced with a specific type of ailment, you’ll want to be able to find what will help without having to page through the entire book. For each table, she lists the herbs by name and then a sentence or two on how the herb is used, such as topically or as a tincture.
Here’s the main reason I like this book. I’ve consulted several “natural medicine” books in the last few years. All are great at telling me that white willow bark can be used as a pain reliever. Few of them say anything about how you’re to use the bark for that purpose. Here, we’re given both the preparation and the recommended dose. This is valuable information to have in hard copy format. If the power goes out, so does your access to the Internet.
Highly recommended. You can find this book here on Amazon as well as through all major booksellers.
On the list of survival priorities, maintaining your core body temperature is number one. Hypothermia is a very real danger, even in relatively mild conditions. On top of that, working to make yourself at least somewhat comfortable has a tremendous impact on morale. You’ll feel better about your situation if you’re warm and dry, even if you’re still lost and hungry.
The Complete Survival Shelters Handbook is an excellent resource and instruction guide for all manner of methods for getting out of the rain and snow. The book starts, rightfully so, with a discussion on clothing and sleeping gear. Your clothes are always your first line of defense, your first shelter, in any situation. Ensuring you are properly dressed for conditions is important. There is ample information here on different fabrics to consider for the base, the mid, and the outer layers of clothing.
In this first part of the book, there is also some pretty good instruction on making your own cordage. Why? Because cordage is extremely useful in a wide range of DIY shelters and if you don’t have paracord or bankline in your pocket or pack, you might need to improvise a bit.
From there, the book divides shelters into three basic categories:
–Shelters made from natural materials
–Shelters made with modern materials
–Shelters purchased from stores
In the natural materials section, the author covers nine different shelters, everything from a debris hut to snow caves. Each shelter is discussed in terms of its pros and cons and includes detailed instructions for construction, accompanied by several photos. I found it interesting that the author is not a fan of the lean to shelter, as this is one of the natural material shelters detailed in just about every single survival manual I’ve read. I don’t disagree with the points he makes, either. Lean to shelters are woefully ineffective when it comes to warmth. They are fun to build when you’re just out screwing around in the woods, as many a kid can attest. But, when it comes to true survival, there are far better options such as the classic debris hut.
The next section of the book tackles DIY shelters using modern materials. The materials used include the ever-popular reflective emergency blankets as well as tarps and the Scandinavian Lavvu. No, I’d never heard of that one, either. It is sort of like a short, squat Native American teepee made of canvas. A full ten pages of the book detail step-by-step instructions for making this particular shelter. It isn’t something you’ll slap together on the fly but it looks very durable and long-lasting.
Tarp shelters are mentioned but all too briefly, in my opinion. There are a ton of different tarp shelter layouts, each with different attributes and I wish the author would have gone into more detail on more of them. Still, the information provided is valuable and on point.
About 25 pages are devoted to the construction of a yurt. For those not in the know, a yurt is a traditional Mongolian shelter that has a circular shape and sort of a peaked or conical roof. Again, not something you’ll quickly build in an emergency but if you’re planning a long-term offgrid situation in the field, this might be the way to go.
The store-bought shelter section of the book covers tents, hammocks, and bivvy bags. For each, the author goes through the terminology involved as well as what to look for when shopping. I would have liked to see more information on choosing a hiking or backpacking tent as this portion of the chapter only runs a couple of pages. Hammocks get far more space than tents.
The last chapter of the book is a brief discussion of mental preparedness. Here, the author details four types of mental survival skills:
–Drilling or practicing
–Understanding emotions and stress
–Adopting the right mental attitude.
As he stresses, it isn’t enough to read through the book. You need to get out there and practice building these shelters. Make the mistakes now when you have the luxury of learning from them for next time.
Overall, I liked the book. I feel it has some great information that goes well beyond what I’ve seen in other survival manuals regarding shelter building. Some of the shelters discussed, like the yurt and the lavvu, I thought were interesting but not really “survival shelters” in the way I understand the term. While they’ll certainly keep you alive, constructing them from scratch isn’t something you’ll be able to do in a couple of hours. In other words, these aren’t all expedient survival shelters, though many of them do fall into that category.
The author, Anthonio Akkermans, is well-versed in the subject. He grew up in the Netherlands and developed an affinity for the outdoors at a very young age. He has traveled the world learning and teaching primitive survival skills. He’s also worked as a consultant for TV and radio.
You can find The Complete Survival Shelter Handbook here on Amazon. It is also available from most other major booksellers.
Let me get this out of the way right up front. Neither the book nor the movie were at all what I was expecting. I’m reviewing them together as the movie very closely follows the book, unlike many movie adaptations today. I guess, with that in mind, I can’t say the movie was a total surprise since I’d read the book first.
Here’s what I thought I was getting. A woman’s adventure hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, complete with her personal observations on what worked and what didn’t. Basically, her adventures on the trail.
Here’s what I got. A woman who’s life has been falling apart for quite some time, despite the fact that she’s only 26, decides to embark upon a journey of self-discovery on the Pacific Crest Trail. Roughly half of said journey is spent inside her own head, revisiting traumatic experiences (many of them self-inflicted) and infidelities. Much of the time actually spent on the trail is focused on the ridiculously large pack she carries and the ill-fitting boots she wears.
See, here’s what happened. I saw a trailer for the movie version of Wild at the beginning of one or another movie we’d picked up at Redbox. The trailer focused on the hiking and the camping, the difficulties and such. Plus, I and my wife both like Reese Witherspoon. She’s a tremendously talented actress who’s often a lot of fun. So, a week or two later when I saw a copy of the book at a bookstore, I bought it without even glancing through it.
Now, to be fair, this isn’t a bad book. Cheryl Strayed is actually a pretty talented writer. My problem isn’t with the competency of the writing but with the perceived misrepresentation of the story. I signed on for hiking, camping, encounters with wild animals and Mother Nature. What I got was whining, innumerable flashbacks to sex and drug use, and then a bit more whining.
The movie was well done. The scenery was outstanding and, thankfully, the movie wasn’t filled with “shaky cam” like so many films today. Ms. Witherspoon does quite well in the role. She’s very believable. But, again, the movie I saw wasn’t the movie I’d been led to believe it would be. There weren’t quite as many flashback scenes as there are in the book, of course, but there’s still quite a few. Not quite as much whining as in the book, either, which was refreshing.
Now, why in the world would I have wanted to see the movie after having read the book? I figured I’d give it a shot and see if it mirrored the book or if it followed more closely the way the trailer made it look.
All in all, like I said, the book nor the movie are inherently bad. Both are well executed and interesting. But, if you’re looking for a true “trail” book, you’re going to have to search elsewhere.
Max Rockatansky and I met back in 1983 or thereabouts. We were introduced by my father, who brought home a VHS copy of The Road Warrior to watch on our fairly new VCR. My Dad had won the gadget at work a couple of months prior, as I recall, and picked up the movie at one of the video rental businesses that had just started cropping up.
Simply put, I was blown away. This was the first post-apocalyptic movie I’d seen and it immediately cemented my love for the genre. The cars were awesome, as was Max’s sawed-off double barrel shotgun. In due course, I tracked down a copy of the first movie, Mad Max. I thought it was okay but not nearly as awesome as the sequel.
Then, a few years later in 1985 came Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. While better than the first Mad Max, at least in my estimation, it still wasn’t as good as Road Warrior. It does, however, have one of the best fight scenes in the history of cinema, when Max takes on Blaster inside Thunderdome. Very original and well done.
While I’m not enough of a Road Warrior fan to have attended one of the various conventions and events that have gone on, I’m enough of a geek to have known about them. Heck, I even had a toy sawed-off double barrel shotgun when I was a kid. Can’t for the life of me find even a pic of it today but I assure you, they existed and were sold at Toys R Us and elsewhere.
Over the last 30 years, we’d been given hints, teasers, that we’d someday see a new Mad Max adventure. Various rumors were floated around so many times, it was almost ridiculous. When we found out it was truly going to happen, that a script was finalized and shooting had begun, the excitement was off the charts.
When Mad Max: Fury Road hit theaters, many of my friends were first in line. They, like me, had been waiting three decades for this. Almost without exception, reviews from them were extremely positive. Great movie! Worth the wait!
Last night, my wife and picked up Fury Road at Redbox. We grabbed some chips and candy, dimmed the lights, and let ‘er rip.
Seriously, that’s what I thought about this movie I’d waited much of my life to see. Meh.
The plot, such as it is, is very muddled at the beginning. Granted, none of the Mad Max movies are really known for intricate storytelling. But, I had a difficult time understanding quite a bit of the garbled dialogue in Fury Road, so following the plot was sort of like trying to read braille while wearing gloves. I could get a general sense of what was going on but that’s about it.
Near as I can tell, the gist of the story is that there’s this community of survivors in the middle of the wastelands. The leader, Immortan Joe, controls access to water, so he sort of has everyone under his thumb. Now, this dude is pretty scary, what with hoses and what not connecting him to the life giving apparatus he wears. He also has a harem, filled with about a half dozen scantily clad young women. Apparently the idea is to use these women not only for his own entertainment but for breeding.
Early in the movie, Max is attacked and captured by a patrol of “war boys” who belong to this little community. They bring him in to use as a source of blood for transfusions. The war boys are all extremely pale skinned, almost albino in appearance, and there are references to them being short-lived due to radiation sickness or something. Not too long after Max is hooked up to one of these war boys, the harem is found missing. Joe immediately calls up all of his war boys to go out in search of the women. The one attached to Max, apparently named Nux, figures out a way to keep his “blood bag” with him – strapping Max to the front of his vehicle.
The idea of using radiation diseased people as soldiers was explored quite a bit in the Outrider series by Richard Harding. There, the Radleps (radiation lepers) were given the best of everything by their leader in exchange for complete loyalty to the end of their lives. I find this particularly interesting in that the Outrider series, published 1984-1985 or thereabouts, was itself obviously inspired by The Road Warrior.
From there, the story gets increasingly outlandish as it progresses. While the car chases and crashes are indeed quite well done, that’s about all the movie had going for it. I mean, at various stages throughout the battles and chases, you see that Immortan Joe has a war wag equipped with a wall of speakers and a guy playing a giant, fire throwing electric guitar as they scream through the desert. Yes, I’m aware of the long history of music being played during battles and such. This, however, was just a bit over the top.
Another befuddlement, and this is true of all of the Mad Max movies, is the subject of fuel. On one hand, fuel is said to be very scarce and is probably the single most valuable commodity in the world of Mad Max. On the other hand, these guys have so many vehicles and go pedal to the metal for hours on end, you have to wonder just where the gas is supposed to be coming from. I mean, in Road Warrior, they at least addressed this a little bit by having an oil refinery be present in the story. Here, not so much.
I know, I know, this sort of movie is supposed to be escapism at its best. Logic and common sense aren’t applicable here.
The other problem I had with Fury Road was the excessive use of flashbacks. Max suffers from rapidly occurring hallucinations of people, specifically a young girl, whom he apparently failed to save at some point prior to this movie. Some have mentioned that this is supposed to be his child, killed in the first Mad Max movie. That’s incorrect. The child killed in that movie was an infant boy, not a toddler or older girl. The reason the flashbacks were bothersome to me is because it was as though we the viewers were supposed to know and understand the backstory alluded to in them. Part of the problem, too, is that we really don’t know where in Max’s life Fury Road takes place. George Miller himself has said the chronology of the movies is a bit fuzzy. While ostensibly this movie takes place after Thunderdome, we have no idea how much time has really passed. This leads to a rather interesting fan-based theory on the whole Mad Max mythology.
Now, all of that said, I do think Tom Hardy did well with the material he’d been given. Max had originally been brought to life by Mel Gibson, of course. Hardy’s version of Max appears a little beefier than Gibson’s but just as much of a “loner who eventually develops a heart” as the original. Personally, as much of a fan of the character as I am, I had no issues with another actor taking the reins. Hardy did a fine job.
I don’t know. Maybe the movie was just too hyped, too anticipated, for it to be anything other than a disappointment to me. Sort of like when you’re a kid and you want this one certain toy so badly and when you finally get it for Christmas or your birthday, it just isn’t nearly as much fun as the commercials said it would. As a movie, Fury Road was okay. Not great, not horrible, just okay. As a follow up to Road Warrior, though, I was greatly disappointed. I wanted to badly to enjoy this movie….
I’m told there are more Mad Max movies in the works, but I have no idea just how far along in the process they are at this time. Fury Road was, by all accounts, a successful movie so I have no doubt the powers that be in Hollywood are interested in adding another car or two to the money train, so to speak. If/when a new Mad Max hits, I’ll see it. I’m too much of a fan to not do so. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.
You can find Mad Max: Fury Road here on Amazon, should you be looking to keep a copy on hand. I might still pick it up on DVD, if only for the bonus material. I’m sort of waiting to see if they are going to come out with a box set of all four movies. Not sure if there are rights issues or anything with regards to that but it would seem to be a slam dunk, especially as we get closer to the holiday shopping season.
My show last night on Around the Cabin was focused on survival fiction, both novels and movies. As promised during the show, I’ve compiled the following list of books and movies that I discussed during the show. All of these links lead to Amazon but I’d encourage you to seek out the titles at your local library. Even if they don’t have it on their shelves, they can probably order it for you via interlibrary loan.
For the book series I mentioned during the show, I’ve linked to the first book in the series.
Also, as I mentioned during the show, this list isn’t all-inclusive of every novel or movie I’ve enjoyed, read, or watched. Nobody has time for a list that large. If you don’t see your own favorites listed, feel free to add them in the comments below.
Ashfall series by Mike Mullin
Rule of Three series by Eric Walters
Pandemic by Yvonne Ventresca
Wake Up Call by John D McCann
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
One Second After by William R Forstchen
World War Z by Max Brooks
Survivalist Series by Arthur Bradley
The Weller by Adam Whitlatch
World Gone Wild is an excellent resource for finding additional disaster/survival movies. It is a comprehensive encyclopedia of end of the world movies. It is quite good and makes for rather entertaining reading all on its own. My full review of the book can be found here.
My show last night on Around the Cabin was focused on putting together a survival library. As promised during the show, I’ve assembled a quick list of the books I recommended all preppers have on hand in their survival library. You’ll note that I refrained from listing any of my books below. I was going to but then thought that might be uncouth or even downright rude. If you’re interested in my books, make with the clicky here.
As I noted during the show, it is critical that you don’t just stick these books on a shelf and forget about them. You should read through them, not only so you’ll know what information is found in each book but to learn the vital skills and knowledge you’ll need should disasters strike. Skills trump stuff, every single time.
Your survival library should also contain the instruction or operating manuals for all of your survival gear (water filters, radios, etc.), your home mechanicals (furnace, central air, water heater, etc.), your major appliances (stove, refrigerator, freezer, etc.), and your major tools (chainsaw, lawn tractor, etc.). A great way to store all of these manuals is to use a 3 ring binder and some page protectors.
It is important to keep your survival library at least somewhat organized, too. Knowing you have the information you need in a specific book and being able to find that book are two entirely different things.
I reviewed a previous issue of Be Ready! here. I certainly enjoyed it enough that I had to pick up the current issue when I came across it last week. This issue is even better than the last! I believe this is going to be a semi-annual publication going forward.
The first thing I noticed is that the table of contents is fairly small. A dozen articles total, not counting the editorial, that fill 94 pages. Hm, I thought, seems pretty sparse. Once I began reading, though, I understood. Where other magazines will devote perhaps a page or two for a given topic, Be Ready! will take all the space needed to cover the necessary information. For example, Don’t Leave Your Best Friend Behind by Richard King, an article that discusses how to prepare for bugging out with pets, runs 5 pages and is packed with great recommendations.
Another great article in this issue is Are You In The Dark About Night Vision? also by Richard King. As night vision technology has improved, the cost has dropped on older generations of devices. King does a fairly good job explaining the different types and generations of devices available today, allowing the reader to make a better informed decision on what to purchase.
The Prepared Purse by Peggy Robinson should be required reading for all those who carry shoulder bags. She gives some great advice on what to keep in a purse for emergencies large and small. Some of it is common sense, of course, but there are a few things you may not have thought of before.
I think my favorite article in this issue is Bugging Out by Bike (Part 1) by Alfredo Rico. Using a bicycle for a bug out vehicle is something many instructors, including myself, have discussed here and there. In this article, though, Rico goes into exquisite detail on exactly what you’ll need to pull it off. He talks about what to consider when purchasing a bike, as well as how to outfit it with bags and racks in order to carry what you’ll need. Rico also has recommendations for tools to keep you on the road, food to keep your body moving, and clothes to keep you warm and dry.
There is a lot of great information here, spanning a wide range of subjects. Other topics addressed in this issue include fire starters, choosing firearms, building a short wave antenna, and even how to plan for sex in the apocalypse.
The entire magazine is extremely well illustrated. Photos aren’t just filler but provide clarification in many instances. Advertising is kept to a minimum, too. The focus of the magazine is on providing great information, that is abundantly clear. All in all, I’m pretty impressed with Be Ready! and I’m looking forward to the next issue, which should be arriving in August. Find this and future issues at bookstores and on newsstands pretty much everywhere.
Do you have a friend or family member who you’d love to get interested in prepping? Perhaps they’ve always sort of looked down upon the subject of disaster readiness, offering the opinion that preppers are mostly whack jobs and gun nuts? The Survival Savvy Family by Julie Sczerbinski would be an excellent introduction to preparedness for those folks.
The author bio blurb on the back cover says, Julie is “…a Coach purse carrying, Go-Bag packing wife and mom of two children living in the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina.” I’ve gotten to know Julie a little bit over the last year or so as we’re both members of a few online groups. One thing I can tell you about her is she is a very genuine person. By that, I mean what you see is what you get. She never comes across as fake or as though she’s trying to be someone she’s not. That, in and of itself, speaks volumes, in my opinion.
Every one of the 224 pages in The Survival Savvy Family is packed with solid information. Here’s the Table of Contents.
Chapter 1: Family Emergency Plan
Chapter 2: The Emergency Kit
Chapter 3: Be Ready in Your Pantry
Chapter 4: Medical Readiness
Chapter 5: Financial Readiness
Chapter 6: Away From Home
Chapter 7: Power Outages
Chapter 8: Be Ready to Stay or Go
Chapter 9: Natural Disaster Savvy
Chapter 10: House Fires
Chapter 11: Home Invasions
Chapter 12: Personal Safety
Chapter 13: Ready Kids are Safe Kids
Throughout each of those topics, the focus is on common sense solutions applicable for families. This isn’t any sort of “end of the world” survival manual but rather a great book to learn how to better navigate the more everyday sorts of emergencies.
One area where I think The Survival Savvy Family really shines is in Chapter 12 – Personal Safety. There is some great discussion there on situational awareness, including a tip or two on practicing to become more effective with it. One piece of advice Julie shares mirrors something I’ve also been saying for years — trust your gut. If something feels off about a situation, get out of there.
Another thing I really appreciate about the book is Chapter 9, which is all about natural disasters. Rather than going into a lengthy discussion about what causes various natural disasters, such as tsunamis and tornadoes, Julie cuts right to the chase and gives short lists of what to do before, during, and after each type of disaster. This is an excellent approach to the topic.
Within Chapter 1 – Family Emergency Plan, Julie has a two-page list of discussion questions to use when talking to your family about disaster planning. This is a really great tool for opening up discussions during dinner and such.
As I mentioned earlier, there is little to no discussion of “big” events like an EMP strike, pandemics, or war. That’s not a complaint or a knock against The Survival Savvy Family, though. Rather, I feel this book fills a niche in the market. It is designed and written for families who have little interest in end of the world prepping but want to be better prepared for power outages and other common sorts of emergencies. This is a great book for the suburban, soccer mom crowd.
The Survival Savvy Family is written in a rather conversational tone, much like sitting down with Julie for lunch. I highly recommend it as a great primer or introduction to disaster planning. You can pick it up here on Amazon as well as find it in all major bookstores.
I will admit up front that I’ve never been much of a fan of James Wesley, Rawles, at least as far as his fiction writing is concerned. I know that puts me in the minority among the fans of “prepper fiction” but it is what it is. Different strokes for different folks and all that, y’know?
That said, I did enjoy TOOLS FOR SURVIVAL. It rather nicely fills a niche in survival literature.
Tools, for the purposes of this book, is a pretty wide open category of gear. To give you an idea, here’s the chapter listing.
Chapter 1 — Setting Up Shop
Chapter 2 — Food Preservation and Cooking Tools
Chapter 3 — Gardening, Farm, and Ranch Tools
Chapter 4 — Sewing and Leatherworking Tools
Chapter 5 — Shop Tools and Tool Making
Chapter 6 — Electrical and Electronic Tools
Chapter 7 — Mobility and Countermobility Tools
Chapter 8 — Welding and Blacksmithing Tools
Chapter 9 — Fire Prevention and Firefighting Tools
Chapter 10 — Timber, Firewood, and Lumber Tools
Chapter 11 — Rifles, Shotguns, and Handguns
Chapter 12 — Archery
Chapter 13 — Medical and Sanitation Tools and Supplies
Chapter 14 — Knives and Traditional Hand Tools
Chapter 15 — Lifelong Learning and Skill Building
Within each chapter, Rawles provides a fairly extensive overview of the tools available today to do the jobs that might be necessary tomorrow. With many tools, he goes so far as to recommend specific makes and models, based on his own experience with them. This is great information to have, especially if you are largely unfamiliar with that category of tools.
Throughout the book, Rawles also provides quick little tips or insight as appropriate. For example, buying a one-inch micrometer so you can ensure your drill bits haven’t narrowed after repeated use. He also regularly mentions investing in “old school” tools, ones that don’t require batteries or AC power, such as the old eggbeater style of hand drill. While he does feature many cordless and other power tools, Rawles points out that electrical power may not always be available.
I also appreciated the repeated insistence upon working safely. Throughout TOOLS FOR SURVIVAL, Rawles mentions the use of safety gear, such as goggles and gloves, to avoid injury. Entirely too many people overlook these simple precautions, often to their detriment.
It should be noted that a fair amount of the material in TOOLS FOR SURVIVAL wasn’t actually written by Rawles but was contributed to his website by readers. Apparently, his site is set up such that material submitted to and subsequently published on his site is covered under his own copyright, rather than being owned by the person submitting it. This isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things and he is is quick to note the source of the material when it is shared in the book.
There are some sections I found lacking. For example, in the chapter on medical tools, there are several pages devoted to first aid supplies but a grand total of two sentences on dental needs. Given the known strong correlation between dental health and overall body well being, I felt this section could have been greatly expanded.
The final chapter, Lifelong Learning and Skill Building, outlines many resources for adding to your skill sets, such as joining hobby clubs and reenactment groups. These can be great, low cost ways to learn new skills and brush up on old ones, while also networking with folks who have similar interests.
At the end of the book are four appendices.
Appendix A — Your Retreat Library
Appendix B — Recommended Gunsmithing Service Providers
Appendix C — The Pre-1899 Antique Guns FAQ
Appendix D — Useful Formulas
There is also an extensive glossary. Rawles notes in the beginning of the book that he isn’t going to define terms within the text itself and instructs the reader to check the glossary as needed. I actually appreciated this because while some readers who are new to survival literature might need those definitions, most of us are already familiar with the majority of the terms used and reading the definitions within the text can be cumbersome.
It is also important to understand that, for the most part, this is not a guide on how to use the tools described. Rather, it is a very comprehensive listing of just about any tool you can imagine being used on a homestead or becoming necessary in a grid down event. Rawles gives concrete reasoning on why you’d need each tool mentioned, the purposes of the tool, and in many cases he gives information on where to obtain the tool. He also provides suggestions on what to look for if you run across a used tool at a thrift store or rummage sale, which is valuable information to have.
All in all, TOOLS FOR SURVIVAL would be a good addition to the prepper library. However, I must stress that this book will likely be of little use AFTER a grid down event. Instead, this should be treated as more of a shopping list of items to hunt down and acquire before you actually need the tools.
You can find TOOLS FOR SURVIVAL here on Amazon as well as just about any other bookstore, online or brick-n-mortar.