In this economy, many people are learning to be more self-reliant, to make do or do it themselves. That goal is helped immeasurable by a really good reference book.
"Black & Decker Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair: With 350 Projects and 2000 Photos," by the editors of Creative Publishing, is THE reference for those who want to learn to either do their own repairs or to know enough about the problem to talk intelligently with repair people.
This is a large-format, quality-bound hardback of more than 500 pages, with detailed step-by-step color photos of all the projects. Anything that might go wrong in your home is explained with solutions fully illustrated, from electricity and plumbing to fireplaces and water heaters. You can't beat photos for keeping things clear.
Also included are lists of the tools and materials needed for each job, so you can avoid those multiple trips to the hardware store. Everything is explained for the newbie in clear terms. If you own a home, this book will save you money.
If your goal is total self-sufficiency, perhaps on rural land, you can't beat an old classic. If you stumble on "Old Fashioned Recipe Book: An Encyclopedia of Country Living" by Carla Emery in a used book store, you have your hands on a collector's item.
But if you can't find it, don't worry, because the 10th version of this book originally published in 1974 has a new name and is available as "The Encyclopedia of Country Living." Emery was one of the 1960s back-to-the-landers. She put the book together to help others not lucky enough to grow up with country skills, and the first copies were mimeographed (for those who don't remember, that was a primitive way of making copies by hand) and sold through classified ads. It was so popular that Bantam bought it and published it, and Emery kept updating it until her death in 2005.
Written in a folksy style, this book focuses on how to survive in the country, with an emphasis on growing, storing and preparing food, but also including everything from dowsing for water to animal care to how to deliver your own baby, if necessary. At more than 900 pages, it is full of country lore and tips. The recipes alone are worth the price of the book.
Want to join the green revolution and looking for guidance? Pick up a copy of "This Green House: Home Improvements for the Eco-Smart, the Thrifty and the Do-It-Yourselfer" by Joshua Piven and Sherwood Owen. This is your guide for everything from curing meat and using gray water to growing trout in your swimming pool and making your electric toothbrush more efficient — all told in an amusing style.
On the other hand, if you are worried about pandemics, fires, ice storms, natural disasters or terrorist attacks, you want Kathy Harrison's "Just in Case: How to Be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens." This books teaches how to prepare your family to survive disasters, from fixing survival fare to keeping the children and pets calm.
In a world increasingly reliant on technology, can you feed your family if the power is down for days? Harrison explains what you need and why. She shows how to put together the survival kits you need, how to store them and how to use them. The book is detailed far beyond the annual news articles reminding us we should all be thinking about this.
These books are not only helpful, they also are good reads on a stormy winter day. So grab a warm drink and pull up a book.