Back to Basics

Back to Basics Book

Back To Basics- How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills is about just that, learning the skills that our forefathers used in their everyday life. Every independent minded American would enjoy this book. It includes everything from building log cabins to churning butter the old fashioned way.

Guest Post by Josh from Surviving and Thriving


Back to Basics was originally published in 1981, but is now currently in it’s 3rd edition, published in 2008. It has 464 pages of information. The book is divided up into six major sections.

  1. Land: Buying It- Building On
  2. Energy From Wood, Water, Wind, and Sun
  3. Raising Your Own Vegetables, Fruit, And Livestock
  4. Enjoying Your Harvest Year Round
  5. Skills and Crafts for House and Homestead
  6. Recreation at Home and in the Wild

The book is fairly easy to understand, there are some parts that are illustrated in great detail but they are not overly technical. The book is full of pictures and illustrations. Throughout the book there are interviews with people that have applied the skills described and their experiences.


Back to Basics was compiled by about forty members of the staff of Reader’s Digest. I am not aware of the individual qualifications of the authors but I do know that the book was very skillfully put together.

Survival Applications

Back To Basics is written to assist people in being self sufficient and in homesteading, not survival. At the same time Back To Basics is probably THE survival book I would want in a long-term survival/collapse of society situation, the reason being it’s full of information on everything you could ever want to know in a crisis.

It has in depth info on planning homes and building them out of a variety of materials including logs, adobe and stone. It also talks about developing a water supply and Log Cabinsanitation, as well as fireplace construction and design.

The energy section covers how to build and install wind mills and to harness the power of water. The farming and livestock section is full of great ideas on growing all sorts of plants and also gardening in limited spaces. It also covers the basics of animal husbandry.

Part Four: Enjoying Your Harvest Year Round is full of recipes and advice for drying, canning, baking and lots more. Skills and Crafts for House and Homestead talks about spinning, weaving, rug making, quilting, rope-making, tanning and leather-working, wood-working, broom-making, metal-working, soap-making and candle-making. The last part covers more modern outdoor activities like camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and wilderness survival.

Favorite Part

I remember going over to my great-grandparents house when I was younger and spending hours on end looking though this book. My favorite part was probably the part on skills and crafts. Everything in that chapter I found useful. I really got a lot from the part on soap making.


Some may argue that the information is out of date, but I think this just adds to the feeling of learning old fashioned skills. I really don’t have any complaints about this book.

Back to Basics BookOverall Summary

I found this book immensely useful. I would highly recommend this book as an overall guide for thriving self-sufficiently . There really is no reason not to get a copy of this book as it is very reasonably priced for what you get, almost 500 pages of information and illustrations.

Back to Basics is now in it’s Third Edition, which is available on Amazon where it has 90+ 5 Star Reviews.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

_Rudy_ September 20, 2010 at 3:23 am

haha, you can download it for a Kindle… that wouldnt work well, would it!


Jack November 5, 2010 at 11:43 am

@_Rudy_ if you have an iPad, it has full color images with the Kindle app. It really is nice to use.

This book was great. I have it in hard cover, and it covers almost everything. I've had it for well over a year, and like to reference it when I need to, which isn't as often as I like because I live in the suburbs of NYC.


Cortney November 10, 2010 at 3:34 pm

This book was awesome! It covers everything. I always go to it, and I like to go out.


CaptBart December 31, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I've had 4 copies. The first 3 were given away. I also have the first 5 Fire Fox books. Good basic skills and I highly recommend it.


CO_horseman March 8, 2011 at 5:12 pm

I've had this book for quite some time and found it wonderful for stimulating the imagination. However, to take it one step further if you seek true knowledge and wisdom about living on your own. Try checking out the "Fox Fire" series. It is a 10 or 11 volume series now that documents first hand info from the "Old Timers" in the Smokey Mountains. Hill Billies as most of you would probably refer to them as. The project was sponsored by the North Carolina University back in the early 70's.


Josh March 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm

See the above string of comments.


Gloria April 19, 2012 at 5:09 am

Did someone say you can download this, Back to Basics Book?
That would be great. Would really appreciate the address.
We have the first edition and refer to it often. Now the kids would like one.
Can anyone help?


morrisst85 October 26, 2012 at 9:57 pm

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college used books March 20, 2013 at 11:58 pm

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Willow June 21, 2013 at 12:58 pm

My dad bought the first edition of this book when I was about ten, I am now 25. I used to read through it regularly along with his Native American craft books, as a result I have some basic survival skills and can keep myself in food, primitive weapons, and clothing. My favorite parts were how to tell where there’s water and the livestock section. I loved this book for its easy to follow format, have ordered the third edition and am awaiting it in the mail. While its not comprehensive, its a good starting point for the inexperienced.


Chuck July 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Corny as it may sound, I VALUE my Boy Scout and Explorer handbooks. I'm 57 y/o, live in a rural area of SC and have trapped, hunted and fished all of my life. I grow and can veggies and fruit, raise meat rabbits and feel fairly comfortable that I can make ends meet. Don't forget the BASICS. All else are luxories….


@traciesopinion January 22, 2014 at 3:50 pm

I have had the Back to Basics books since it was first introduced in 1981. This is the ultimate book for homesteaders. I also have the Foxfire series of books but I always come back to my Back to Basics book. I would love to have the newest edition since my book is getting a little ragged from all the use. If you want to raise chickens, grow a garden full of veggies or learn how to construct you own solar, wind or water powered homestead to live off grid then this is the book for you.


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