On Wednesday night, the book-club got together and discussed the first book of this session, “Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life” by Neil Strauss.
The basic premise is this. Neil Strauss was a music writer for the New York Times. Around the time everyone was freaking out with all that Y2K business, Neil started wondering what would happen if everything really did shut down. What would happen to him if civilization crashed? He realized early on that if anything bad happened in America, he would be stuck here with no exit strategy and no real life skills. He had grown up in an apartment in the city and didn’t know how to provide for himself in any way.
This book documents his really interesting journey to become self reliant. What starts as a venture to get a duel citizenship, so that he can leave the country “when shit hits the fan”, turns into a more fully realized plan involving learning how to track, kill, prepare, and eat animals, make his own weapons, learn how to shoot a gun, advanced first aid training, and lots of other skills. He meets many interesting and bizarre people along the way.
Strauss’s voice in the writing is great. The descriptions of his adventures are easy and fun to read and the information is useful.
This made for a great discussion in book club. I think it helped everyone realize how much we depend on the system. We take for granted our running water, electricity, plastic wrapped pieces of meat that we pick up in the grocery store, and all the other conveniences that come along with being part of a civilization. It also inspired us to start developing our own skills and back up plans.
I was personally less inspired by his efforts to get a dual citizenship and buy a home outside of the US. I figure, if the shit hits the fan, I live pretty close to Canada and really, the US is really big. There’s bound to be somewhere to hide. However, I am pretty interested in developing some of my outdoor and survival skills.
Starting to go on edible plant nature walks in my area with a guide to learn what wild plants to eat in the Pacific NW.
Learn how to start a fire without matches or a lighter.
Learn how to build an efficient water filter system on my own.
Perhaps raise my own goats or chickens. The benefits would be having fresh milk and cheese, learning how to breed animals, and learning how to slaughter and prepare animals.
Along with the milk thing, it would be cool to learn how to make cheese.
A better understanding of using, cleaning, and owning guns. (crazy, I know.)
Oh! And I want to start buying survival, plant identification, and other useful books. Because if things go wonky and the Internet goes down, having real books on useful information would be invaluable.
Generally speaking, I think that I’d be a really good survivalist. I’m determined, inventive, and I’ve got a wide variety of skills. I can cook, sew, grow food, shoot a rifle, and I’m pretty sure that I could manage to clean and butcher animals if the need arose. I’m also pretty sure that my book club would make an excellent survivalist team. (which is a pretty funny statement really.) Between all of us, I think we’d have the skills necessary to survive. I think we should just all move to a big cabin in the woods somewhere and get started.
Maybe all this sounds paranoid. Strauss asked himself many times over the course of the book if he was going too far and if he was just being overly paranoid, but he came to the conclusion that even if nothing ever went wrong, gaining all this extra knowledge gave him a sense of personal strength and confidence that can only come from knowing that you can take care of yourself, which I think is pretty darn cool.
I’d highly recommend this book. It was a fun read and it will really make you think. It offers itself to great discussion, is full of useful facts, and is just a great story.
Go for it. This book could save your life.