We’ve picked out the best homesteading books to get you started on your homesteading journey. Our top three all have enough detail to take you from start to finish on many homestead projects, but deliver it in different styles.
Our Top Picks for Best Homesteading Books
Modern homesteaders range from those creating your off grid homestead to apartment dwellers looking to be more self reliant. These books provide practical advice to get you started.
The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery
The Encyclopedia of Country Living is the best overall homesteading book, with over 800,000 copies sold. It is 922 pages of reference information with a good index.
If you only purchased ONE book, this is the one we recommend. It’s strong on gardening, food preservation, and ideas to save money.
There’s poultry and livestock information to take you from start to finish, and basic seed saving tips.
Carla wrote and updated the book over many years, and reading it is like visiting with her on the homestead.
Cons: It is text heavy and the text is smaller. It does not cover a lot of details on growing trees, brambles, fruit trees etc. There are very few illustrations and the level of step by step detail varies by subject.
Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills
Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills is a good construction and crafting guide. It has color photos and color illustrations.
Part one on two focus on building, home power production and heating. The third and fourth sections cover home food production and preparation.
Part five is about skills and crafts, and part six is recreation. For the hobbyist, you’d be hard pressed to run out of projects to try.
This book is more impersonal and reads like a reference book, but a good one. Each section ends with suggestions for additional reading.
Cons: It doesn’t cover as much about specific vegetables, orchards, and animal husbandry. There is still more than enough information for the average backyard homestead.
The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour
The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It is 408 pages with color and black and white illustrations (no photos).
There is a very good beginners guide for laying out a 1 acre or 5 acre homestead What it covers, it covers well and has good color images. The step by step guides are detailed and easy to follow.
It’s a good gardening reference, and easier to read than Encyclopedia of Country Living. The author, being born in 1914, includes some interesting “off grid” options like north facing storerooms.
John is a little more formal in his writing. Each chapter opens with a quote from his earlier work, “The Fat of the Land”. There’s a strong thread of the “back to the land” movement throughout the book.
Cons: The canning and preserving section of the book is much thinner than the other two guides.
More Homesteading Books
These homesteading books address different parts of self-sufficient living, but aren’t as complete as our top three.
The Foxfire Book Series
The Foxfire Book series is a homesteading classic. Based on Foxfire magazine, they shares stories and lore from Appalachia.
Reading these books is like stepping back in time, but they often lack the details needed by beginners.
The Independent Farmstead
The Independent Farmstead focuses on raising animals on a homestead with little or no outside inputs. They share the latest techniques in pasture management for many forms of livestock.
The Woodland Homestead
The Woodland Homestead – How to make your land more productive and live more self sufficiently in the woods. Excellent information about forestry, coppicing, tree-lot, forest use and management.
Cons: Focused on middle to northern climates, and the book covers only tree/forest related subjects.
Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less)
Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) is a good beginners reference guide. It covers the tips and tricks for setting up a homestead/farmstead, and includes almost all the basics.
Cons: It’s text heavy, and might not be enough detail on “how to” do some aspects of homesteading.
The Weekend Homesteader
The Weekend Homesteader – A Twelve-Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency breaks down homesteading activities into seasonal tasks.
This one is likely a best fit for those trying to squeeze homesteading into a few hours a week, working on small scale homestead.
40 Projects for Building Your Backyard Homestead
This one is for all the crafty people who want to turn their backyards into productive spaces. It’s filled with full color, step by step photos for every project.
In addition to outdoor projects, like garden structures, there’s also a section on basic plumbing and wiring.
Other Books for your Homestead Library
We have dozens of book reviews on the site, all sorted by category on the Homestead Library page.
The Small-Scale Poultry Flock – Raising Chickens and Other Backyard Poultry
For those who can’t wait for their homesteading books to arrive, you can start with articles on the site, such as:
How to Start a Garden – Raise Your Own Fruits and Vegetables
How to Homestead – (Not Quite) Like Grandma Used To