31 August 2011

Book Review: "How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It" by James Wesley, Rawles

Quick review


Summary: Rarely have I found a book that says so much about a topic, and yet at the same time, not enough. While there's a lot of good self-reliance, preparedness, and survival information in Rawles' book, it left me desperately wanting more. Nevertheless, this book is an excellent foundation for your preparedness library and related planning.

Full review

How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It is one of the few books that I knew about before it was published and actually preordered from Amazon.com. I'd been searching for preparedness and survival books and materials for months, and was familiar with Rawles from his extensive website, survivalblog.com.

The book claimed to be "the definitive guide on how to prepare for any crisis—from global financial collapse to a pandemic." The Amazon page for How to Survive TEOTWAWKI (I'm abbreviating from now on, because that is one cumbersome title) told of all the topics to be covered, and I thought it was going to be all the information I'd need to figure out how to get prepared and survive whatever disasters came my way.

After such a build-up in my mind, I knew it would be difficult for the book to live up to my expectations. Admirably, it came pretty close.

Like many emergency preparedness and survivalism authors, Rawles begins with a wake-up call to his readers by describing how the world-as-we-know-it might "end." He actually does this twice, first in the Introduction, then again in Chapter 1. It's not really repetitive, since the Introduction discusses TEOTWAWKI in more abstract terms, whereas the start of Chapter 1 imagines a more personalized "bad day" for the reader.

In many ways, Chapter 1 is the most important part of the book. After getting the reader's attention as described above, Rawles spends a few pages on an overview of how interconnected modern society is, and how quickly things can begin falling apart.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the chapter is the section entitled Just How Rawlesian Are You? This is eight pages of Rawles' maxims, which guide and inform the rest of How to Survive TEOTWAWKI. Each of the points is given a paragraph of explanation, which helps the reader understand where Rawles is coming from with some of his later advice. (You can get a feel for these philosophical points by reading The Precepts of Rawlesian Survivalist Philosophy on his blog.)

Next up is a chapter on priorities, where the author discusses making a "list of lists" for your preparations. This involves developing a list of preparedness topics, and then creating a list of things to do and prepare for each of those topics. Rawles helpfully provides sample starter lists, along with brief explanation on anything that's not fairly obvious.

After figuring out a (long) to-do list, the reader moves on to a discussion of a variety of survival retreat options, along with considerations on figuring out what kind of retreat you'll plan on. The chapter concludes with a few pages on preparing a Get Out Of Dodge (GOOD) kit to use if/when you decide to vamoose to a remote retreat.

With the retreat planning covered, Rawles then uses the next eight chapters addressing specific areas of preparedness. These chapters cover a wide variety of options and considerations for each of their respective topics:

  • Water
  • Food Storage
  • Fuel and Home Power
  • Gardens and Livestock
  • Medical Supplies and Training
  • Communications
  • Home Security and Self-Defense
  • Firearms

Next, the book offers a chapter on getting out of Dodge in an emergency (i.e., getting to a pre-stocked retreat, if applicable) and another on investing, barter, and self-employment. The final chapter, It Comes Down To You, is a few pages intended to motivate readers and get you to begin your preparations now.

How to Survive TEOTWAWKI finishes up with some appendices and a decent index. The appendices include a glossary, information on where to find Rawles' online list of books and resources, and some material on protecting your family from an influenza pandemic.

Rawles has a serious tone throughout the book, but doesn't use a lot of scare tactics; he instead presents the material in a very matter-of-fact way. Nonetheless, the topics are often unpleasant (though necessary), which I expect will be off-putting to some readers (e.g., dealing with dead bodies in a TEOTWAWKI environment). Of course, those who are serious about being really prepared will at least consider such things and have some insight into dealing with them.

The chapters are broken up into subsections, making it easy to skim and find information you're looking for; that's useful when referring back in the future. Useful lists and tables are presented in appropriate places, and helpful sidebars are also occasionally included. One area of weakness is in the book's illustrations—there are none.

At over 300 pages of mid-sized text, there is a lot of information here. That's good, but Rawles has covered so much ground that he can't really be "thorough" on very much, or give a lot of detailed "how-to" instructions. To be fair, he does point you in the right direction, and often lists resources for you to learn more. Still, this high-level approach and a lack of illustrations is what kept me from rating this 5 stars.

Despite that shortcoming, I still very much recommend How to Survive TEOTWAWKI. It's packed with a lot of good information to get you going. Following the books advice will get you a long ways down the road to preparedness and self-reliance. Sure, you will find places where you'll need other books and resources. But, by that point, that's a good problem to have, since you should have a lot already done.

For what it's worth, the book is also available as an unabridged audiobook. This may be helpful in allowing some people to get through the book. Nevertheless, I found that I wanted to stop and look up something online, or to mull over a particular point after reading it. Both of those can be more difficult when listening to the audio version, depending on where you are.

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