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Reader's Digest Back to Basics: How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills
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Reader's Digest Back to Basics: How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  974 ratings  ·  64 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. ...more
Hardcover, 456 pages
Published July 1st 1981 by Readers Digest (first published January 1st 1981)
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Average rating 4.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  974 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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Apr 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Carolyn Page
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Everything from crafts to gardening to recipes. In this push for multi-culturalism, it's kind of heart-warming and grounding to look back at the skills that have always been considered "American"--that are in themselves a blend of foreign cultures. ...more
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.
May 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Stephanie A.
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Craig Knock
Aug 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.

Nov 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crafts
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. ...more
David Handley
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book, have owned it since the 1980s, and have lent it to daughters more than once; currently cannot find it so may have to buy another copy.
Audrey Friday G.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very influential book when I was young, it gives you surprisingly detailed instructions for making it on your own. Our family utilized nearly every part of this book, and we have all built upon its instructions. If you like country living, this is a must-have manual when you are starting out. Learn everything from shearing sheep and putting up fences to building a house or barn, planting garden beds, or household repair.
Sarah Ehinger
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This really has stood up well over time for backyard homestead type make-it-yourself content. From how to cut and store lumber, to canning and preserving food, this has a ton of cool content for the hobbiest or the folks wanting to be a little more self-reliant.
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great how-to book on just about everything. Detailed info, along with pix, make it easy to follow. This one is a keeper to refer back to time and time again.
Celeste Rule
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Grew up with this book in our house and I finally ordered it for myself. Very informative if you're into this sort of thing. ...more
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing pictures and diagrams. Who knew you could get totally absorbed in a nonfic on permaculture
J Crossley
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is full of skills and ways to use those skills. It is a rather large book. There are plenty of illustrations.
Ebony NightWing
Nov 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book
Dec 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Jul 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Bridget Chapman
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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!!! ...more
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jess Trebanna
Sep 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Mar 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Feb 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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. :) ...more
Tara Lynn
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 I?"

Oct 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-south
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 :) ...more
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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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