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Back to Basics

4.36 of 5 stars 4.36  ·  rating details  ·  513 ratings  ·  54 reviews
This how-to, user-friendly guide teaches self-sufficiency -- covering all of life's essentials: shelter; alternative energy sources; growing and preserving food; home crafts; directions for making herbal remedies; and even home-grown entertainment.
Hardcover, 456 pages
Published March 17th 1997 by Readers Digest (first published January 1st 1981)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,153)
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Sylvester
I must have read through this book several times as a kid/teen - my Dad's book, of course, just his kind of thing. And pretty much his life - our life. No electricity, living off the land to a great degree... Good memories. I'd love to leaf through it again!

This book has it all - how to do everything from scratch. Build a home, raise livestock, plant a garden, amongst other things.
Deodand
Every time I see this book at my parent's house, I pick it up. There's something about the depth of the material here, the insane level of illustration, that draws me to this book. My father has kept this book to hand for decades. He is the only person I know who's had the opportunity to apply a fraction of the knowledge contained in this tome.

This book explains how to do everything the old-fashioned way - and I do mean everything. You have to have held this book in your hands to get it. If a nu
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Laura
May 15, 2008 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: survivalists
Recommended to Laura by: Matthew Petty
If a bear mauls you, don't wash the wound out with peroxide. You may end up having something unneccessarily amputated. (For some reason that is the piece of advice that stuck with me from this book.) This book tells you how to build your log cabin from scratch, how to find water in the desert, and loads of other useful things. Thank you, Matthew Petty.
Kristin
I LOVE this book! 1981 had it going on with this one! It's full of interesting and helpful information. My favorite sections were... Well just about all of them! Seriously, if you want a super cool outdoors how-to book then you should pick this up!
Andrea
I want to work on gradually becoming more self sufficient. This book has massive amounts of information. It talks about planning your house so that it is more efficient, getting water, providing heat, creating energy, growing a garden, raising animals, preserving produce, recipes, making syrup, dying fabric, spinning, weaving, making rugs, making brooms, metalwork, woodwork, soapmaking, basketry and lots more.

I'm sure there are other topic specific books that will provide more information, but
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Stephanie A.
I've been reading this since I was a kid. It started just because I liked looking at all the animal pictures (though I could never stomach the idea of killing/eating them), and gradually branched out into every chapter. I will probably never apply any of this information in a practical way, but it has provided countless hours of daydreaming and creatively writing about what I could do with the right equipment and level of determination. What I really love is how vast and varied the information i ...more
Kim
From farming to heating and cooling, from flower pressing to hiking, this book has brief instruction on a number of pre-industrial skills. It is basic and introductory in its instruction. For example, this is not the book to start with if you want to learn finish carpentry, but it does have some basic wood-working instruction. It is a handy general reference in a quaint, romanticizing the pioneer days - in vogue since the 70s apparently, really raging now - kind of way. And while a number of the ...more
Vonda
This is not the first time I have checked this book of my library. This time I am viewing it with fresh eyes. I no longer am interested in this topic, I now have a need to absorb this topic.. good examples and pictures make this book very user friendly for those of us who wish or need to return to a simpler way of living a sustainable lifestyle. Topics covered are once again very timely. Canning, live stock, rural farming, husbandry, and even a gallery of fish. I definitely believe this is a boo ...more
Cayenne
Flipped through, more like, but fascinating book full of all kinds of wonderful self-reliance information.
Julie Thompson
Very good references to go back to, time and time again.
Reba
Really neat. It had some information in there that I could really use. Awesome book!
Melissa
Good book...by reading it you will learn how to do a little of everything that matters! :) I recommend it.
Gayle
This is such a nice book to look at and dream of living in the wilds of Tasmania with chickens and alpacas and living off your garden. Not likely to ever happen, but good daydream. My dad gave me this for Xmas about 15 years ago. It tells you in brief how to do just about everything crafty and self sufficient. I want to keep bees, make cheese and build a refectory table in my daydream too! Oh, and get a goat and weave it a coat of course.
Sarah
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Vanessa
I loved this book because of the sheer amount of stuff in here! It's incredibly fun to just take an afternoon pouring over one chapter. And the sheep-keeping pages? I promise that someday, I'm going to keep sheep just like that, and shear them myself, too! I loved the rawhide pages especially, but everything in this book is incredibly in-depth and comprehensive! Gardening pages were beautiful.
Bridget Chapman
My mom got this book from the Reader's Digest Book Club when I was about seven, and I have been poring over it ever since. Marty & I call it "The Book". It's a great guide from everything to building your own house, to raising chickens & goats, to tinsmithing, to a recipe for an authentic New England clambake. How-to guide for would-be pioneer folks. Love it!!!
Jess Trebanna
I spent so many hours as a little kid poring over the pages of this book. I always spent the most time on the cabin-building pages, promising myself I'd learn and use the techniques mentioned in the book to build my own cabin someday. Key word, someday! lol! You never know, I might get there yet. And if I do, it will be partly thanks to Back to Basics.
Wayne
A bit of quick, light reading for the experienced homesteader, or a veritable handbook for the beginner. This book was my bible for years. I built my oldest child's cradle from a plan in this book. It gives you (sparse, over-simplified) instructions on selecting land, building on it, growing food, cooking it, and entertaining yourself the old fashioned way.
Margaret
I love this book. It was given as a gift by a Manhattanite friend when we moved "up country"

More of a project or reference book, it covers everything from woodwork to soap making to animal husbandry.

I might never want to do all the things in the book but at least if I ever have to, I'll know how
Samantha
This book is great. It was published in 1981, so there are current publications that have current issues. But I like this one because it has wonderful how-to's if I decided to move to the mountains of New Mexico with my husband and play hermit. It's a survival guide for the city runaway.
Amanda Lynn
I have used this book more than any other in my home besides the phone book. Great info and pictures. Lots of fun for wintertime to come up with projects to do on cold days like making root beer or wine, A great section on canning ( Tomato marmalade is the best damn thing) and soap making.
Craig Knock
The greatest book ever written by mankind. Convert your poop to household energy. Build a hydro-electric generator in your back yard. Employ passive solar heating to maximum effect in your household. Turn your above ground pool into an aquarium that feeds the family.


Greatness.
Zola
My parents passed this book down to me, and though I've not read it cover-to-cover I've been very pleased with the information I've found in it thus far! It has a particularly good article on how to make your own moccasins. A good resource to have around to keep the old ways alive :)
David Handley
My dad purchased this book for me when I was just a kid and through the years I have read, re-read and then referenced it again many times! It is full of illustrations and step by step instructions for the many skills it describes for the home gardner, hobby farmer, and nature lover.
Nick
Mar 30, 2007 Nick rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys giving the finger to The Man.
I am not a seperatist but this book makes me want to be. Thanks to this book, I know that when the shit hits the fan, I'll be able to milk my own goat, can my own fruit and make doll heads out of dried apples. BOOYAH!
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define...
PJ
My parents had a copy of this when I was growing up and I appreciate it in a new light now as an adult. TONS of great information packed into one book, highly-recommended. I don't give it 5 stars because of the animal-agriculture aspects of some chapters. :)
Jeanne
Although published in the 1980s, this book seems outdated. Funny, because when I think of "Back to Basics", I think of skills that are timeless. However, even in the "Back to Basics" movement, there have been many advances.
Tara Lynn
I adore this book, a hand-me-down from my mother who also has a green thumb.

A quote from Brad that may help explain things: "I'm not hearing you tell me that you spent your Friday night churning butter...am I?"

Travis
Jun 17, 2008 Travis rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: DIYers and crazy back-to-the-landers
This book is the how to version of Farmer Boy, for the 70's. Its awesome, how to build a log cabin, how to build a solar hot water heater, how to build a methane digester! Could use an updated for the 00's.
Stacy Kidd
The Reader's Digest bit aside, where else can you learn scrimshaw, maple sugaring, barn raising & "crafting a mountain dulcimer" in 10 or less easy steps? Well, maybe not 10 or less...
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The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. is a global media and direct marketing company based in Chappaqua, New York, best known for its flagship publication founded in 1922, Reader's Digest. The company's headquarters are in New York City, where it moved from Pleasantville, New York.

The company was founded by DeWitt and Lila Wallace in 1922 with the first publication of Reader's Digest magazine, but
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