I enjoyed Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide by Jim Cobb WAY too much. Part of me was curious when I put this on the year’s reading list, and part of me was being funny. Guess there really is a latent Prepper inside of me, or maybe just a Boy Scout. I love being prepared! Or maybe it’s just shopping and hoarding that I love. Or all three.
So, really, I read this book because I started a Pandemic book club. There are two lists running simultaneously for this club. One of them is geared toward mental and emotional health and the other is toward practical and physical survival. We began with a spiritual/Christian book about finding peace anywhere at any time, which I’ll get to reviewing in a sec. As for the other list, I kinda laughed as I announced Prepper’s. And kinda didn’t laugh, because we have been in a pandemic for ten months at this point, it seems to only get worse and worse, and have also been through periods of quarantine, panic, and resource deprivation. Thankfully, the lack of resources hasn’t gone much beyond masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant, and for awhile there, toilet paper and chicken (although, with hurricanes and winter storms here, I have also been through gas shortages, flooding, and many bread and milk famines). At this point, though, it’s not hard for me to imagine what a different event could have done to my supply chain and for how long. What if I had no access to water? Or enough food? Or electricity? Or transportation? Or internet? Or the government? Or emergency services? Or medicine? Whatever. My point is that if I lost access to even one of those things for a prolonged period—a situation I can now imagine pretty easily—I would be in some trouble. So I thought we could start our “other” pandemic reading list with something very basic: a post-apocalyptic guide which might have come in handy last year.
Let me say some good things about this book, as someone who has not read any other books in the field. (Though I did choose this one because it came highly recommended.) Broken down by sections that covered each of your basic post-apocalyptic needs (water, food, medicine, hygiene, shelter, security, tools, currency, community, and even some entertainment), it contained lots of easy and really low-cost or even no-cost ideas. This is a practical book. It doesn’t go deep enough to be your only book on the subject, if it interests (or concerns) you, but Cobb constantly points you in the direction of other resources: websites, books, classes, training, etc. It would take someone a long time to build up their essential supplies, because it would take some cash and even more time. (If you took it to the extreme, it would require some real life adjustments, too.) The point of this book is to give others access to the knowledge of the Preppers, without making you start from square one. I found Cobb’s writing to be engaging, especially for something so chock-full of the nitty gritty and information. I thought he was funny and even light-hearted, considering his topic. He felt warm and inviting, while also gently telling me that I would for sure need guns to keep me from being killed, raped, etc.
Yes, this side of the book (weapons, security), and of Prepping, is what I suppose freaks a lot of people out. The truth is, you don’t have to think there is going to complete fall-out to go ahead and stock up on the necessities in case of a situational catastrophe (like a major earthquake or terrorist attack or something very feasible), but Preppers follows that line of thinking all the way to the very worst-case scenario. In that scenario—let’s face it—you would need to protect yourself and your family. Let’s just hope it never gets to that. If you’re a pacifist, fine, but you would have to figure out how to police the people around you without incarceration, law enforcement, a justice system, etc. In the worst case scenario. Cobb also warns that some people can go too far with their prepping, at least in an emotional sense, and l found his advice to be level-headed, calm, and to give options while expressing the cold, hard reality of a possible future. Honestly, my studies of history let me know all the time what a privileged and cushy time we live in now. Most the people of history did not have options when it came to empowering themselves or being taken advantage of. I’m rooting for democracy. Speaking of which,
the other day, I saw a friend on social media refer to far-right Republicans as “Preppers.” Prepping may be from political motivation, but the hobby—or even way of life—is not political in nature. It should run the scope of the political spectrum, though perhaps there are parts of the spectrum—the far fringes, mostly—that would more readily embrace this practice, would all but require it, considering their doomsday prophecies brought on by conspiracy theories, etc. This does not mean that other people can’t guess that eventually the poo is going to hit the fan in one way or another and determine that they want to be a little or a lot prepared—thus “Prepper”—when whatever that is happens. I mean, it kinda starts with an emergency kit in the car, a day bag for hiking, and a Bug Out Bag for Hurricane season. (I also thought it was interesting that this same friend is a natural Prepper: very independent, constantly learning and diversifying herself, strong, and does things all the time like bake bread and raise goats.) Like I mentioned, I think that this year has driven home the idea that unexpected, unpredicted things will come. I have always kept a weary eye out, just as that student of history, since all empires collapse without fail. But when and how that will happen; well, it’s felt closer, lately, realizing that politics, disease, and/or an environmental crises or event could really mess with my way of life. The result may not be as bat-poop crazy as our post-apocalyptic canon portrays it, but if my family is without even one sector of what we need, I don’t think having a plan B in place would be a terrible hobby. It doesn’t have to mean you’re stocking up on firearms. But a rain barrel and a garden count as forethinking while helping you ease off the environment-destructive grid and giving you some peace of mind. How very independent and modern of you.
Cobb says that this book is not really for beginners, but I didn’t have any trouble understanding what he was saying or keeping up. If you are considering doing some prepping of your own, this seems like a resource you would want to have on hand and even work through. There are checklists in the back as well as lists of sources, so I honestly think it’s a great place to start. Each chapter begins with a fictional, ongoing account of a family surviving after an EMP strike that takes out all the electricity. These sections are mildly interesting and written just fine, though it was the specific thoughts and advice that kept me riveted. Yes, this could scare you and make you feel resentful, like he’s making a big stink over nothing. On the other hand, Cobb thinks that this is the time to do some things, some of them from items you already have around your house, to be proactive instead of reactive. Yes, the book is sometimes stone cold in its estimation of things (though I’ll point out there is a whole chapter about establishing a representational and protective community with the neighbors you haven’t yet shot and also the hopeful conclusion that he believes in the resilience of humanity), but it’s also realistic (considering this is only a possible future) and chock full of factoids, exposing a way of life that I was interested in observing and thinking about in relation to my own life.
A COUPLE QUOTES:
“Yes, there exists the distinct possibility that during your lifetime something may happen to turn the world, or at least your world, on its ear …. Right now, at least, you have the luxury of being able to take steps, to make plans, so you’ll be in a better position” (p20).
“The fewer the people who know anything about your preps, the fewer the number of people who may show up with their hands out later” (p96).