Practical Self-Reliance by John D. McCann

Posted on: July 15, 2014

Those of you who know me or are frequent fliers here or on my Facebook page know full well just how much of an avid reader I am. While I don’t limit my book consumption to strictly survival-related stuff, that has been the bulk of it for quite some time now. In spite of having read hundreds of “prepper” and related types of books, the list of titles I suggest to everyone is rather small. There’s just a lot of crap floating out there and it seems like the good ones are becoming fewer and further between, y’know? I’m going to tell you right up front that Practical Self-Reliance by John D. McCann is a book I consider to be required reading for anyone wishing to pursue any sort of independent lifestyle. Yes, it is that good.

There are 16 chapters spanning a little over 320 pages. The book is profusely illustrated, with rarely more than a page or two between photos. From cover to cover, McCann goes through a wide range of topics, talking about everything from growing and foraging food to financial preparedness to staying comfortable in hot or cold climates, all with an eye toward doing for yourself rather than waiting for someone to do it for you.

Perhaps the best part about this whole book is the fact that the knowledge McCann is imparting isn’t just theoretical. These are lessons that have obviously been learned through hard work and real world implementation.

One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 6 — Recycle and Repurpose. As McCann notes in the book, “As you become more self reliant, old things start to take on new meaning.” Here, he shows us how to reuse and repurpose things like newspaper, wine bottles, cardboard tubes, and pallets. For those with the prepper mindset, information like this will make it easier to use supplies you scrounge after an event, allowing you to make do with what you have rather than just longing for what you lack.

As with McCann’s previous books (Build the Perfect Survival Kit and Stay Alive!), he has recommendations for specific products here and there, identifying them by brand name. This is great as it narrows down the search when it comes time to obtain the items yourself. However, on top of that, if there’s a DIY approach that is just as good if not better than a store-bought item, McCann shows us that as well. A great example of this is found in Chapter 10 — Water is Essential. Here, McCann takes us step by step through the process of building a 5 Gallon Gravity Filter System for making water potable. Honestly, folks, this project along with the smaller 2 gallon model he also includes in the text is worth the price of admission. With any of the projects in this book, the instructions are easy to follow and understand, with little left to the imagination.

One of the neatest little projects is making what McCann calls a “slush lamp.” This is the type of oil lamp where the wick floats on the fuel. Of course, I’ve seen these types of lamps in the store but hadn’t given much thought as to how I’d build one at home. Using jute twine, a cork, and a container for the fuel, McCann makes it very easy to do. This is a great option for backup illumination during a power outage, using olive oil from the kitchen for the fuel.

If you’re looking to get off the grid, either partially or completely, McCann has you covered in Chapter 12 — Alternative Power. Here again, this isn’t just information cobbled together from Wikipedia entries but projects and ideas McCann has tested and found work. For example, the idea of using solar landscape lights to provide illumination indoors at night has been around for a while. But, have you considered using them to recharge AA batteries for your flashlights and such? Of course, the information doesn’t stop there. McCann covers not only solar panel systems but also wind, water, and human power generation.

All in all, as I mentioned at the beginning, Practical Self-Reliance belongs on every prepper or homesteader’s bookshelf. It is a resource you’ll find yourself turning to again and again. To be clear, this isn’t any sort of “live off the land” survival manual. While there is some great information on foraging and such, the focus here is on how to be self-sufficient, providing for your own needs in all areas of your life as much as possible. Highly recommended!

Oh, one last thing. The back cover contains what might very well be the only known photograph of the author actually smiling. That alone should be enough to pique your interest.

Practical Self-Reliance can be found here on Amazon or here at Survival Resources.

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