Homesteading and self-sufficient living are easier than ever,
thanks to a wide range of modern low-tech tools and techniques.
While our ancestors cut sod to build their house, today’s modern
homesteaders look for the best energy-efficient building materials.
Pioneers used buckets to haul water from the creek, but now
homeowners can choose solar irrigation pumps or rainwater catchment
systems to irrigate their gardens and yards.
You don’t have to live on 40 acres to experience the joy and
satisfaction of self-reliance and working with your hands, whether
it’s growing food, raising chickens or undertaking DIY projects.
Whether you are a city, suburban or rural ‘homesteader,’ there are
still some basic skills and techniques, ones your great
grandparents would have practiced, that will make your sustainable
living experience successful and enjoyable. Here are some of our
top recommendations for books to inform and inspire you.
Choose any homesteading question and Carla Emery’s The
Encyclopedia of Country Living will almost always provide your
answer. What sets this homesteading bible apart from other
homesteading books are the stories of Emery’s personal successes,
failures, joys and sorrows as she wrote the book while raising a
family on her Idaho farm.
Our other favorite comprehensive homesteading book is The
Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It. First published in
the United Kingdom in 1975, the updated version is filled with
marvelous illustrations and drawings that give you step-by-step
instructions on making butter, brewing rose hip wine, sharpening a
scythe, building a fence, shearing a sheep, laying out a garden and
much, much more.
There also are many books that each focus on individual
If ‘putting up’ the produce from your garden is a priority,
check out Keeping the Harvest. This book details how to
preserve fruits and vegetables by canning, freezing, pickling,
drying, curing and using cold storage.
The Woodburner’s Companion offers the pros and cons of
heating with wood using woodstoves, fireplaces, wood furnaces and
boilers, masonry heaters and pellet stoves. It includes advice on
installing stoves, troubleshooting chimney problems and how to
If you’re planning to design your own water or septic system,
read Wells and Septic Systems. You will learn where your
water supply comes from, how to find it and the best way to get it
to the surface. The section on septic tanks explains how to build a
tank, lay the leach fields and connect the system to your
For inspiration, read the experiences of other
back-to-the-landers, such as the 20th century homesteaders Helen
and Scott Nearing. We highly recommend their classic book, The Good Life,which documents their homesteading experiences in
Vermont and Maine, where they built their own stone houses and grew
almost all of their own food.
To find books that compliment whatever stage of modern
homesteading you are in, spend some time at your library or peruse
the offerings at
Mother Earth News Store. (Order $50 or more of books and you’ll
get free shipping.)
You can share your favorite modern homesteading books by posting
a comment below.