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From the Library

January 28, 2019

People who have spent much time with me in person will attest that I am a devoted devourer of books. I read constantly. Our personal library is in the vicinity of 7500 volumes, and with the exception of probably a dozen of them, that I haven’t gotten to yet, every one of them has been read. Finding me anywhere without a book in hand, is rare. I posted a comment on my personal FB page the other day, in which I quoted from a book I was reading. It evolved into a discussion about the book itself (A Pattern Language, see below).

A friend, who is also a reader here, commented, asking if I would consider occasionally recommending a reading list. My wife happened to see the comment and thought it was a spectacular idea. Being the incredibly intelligent man that I am, I decided I should probably listen to my wife, so I decided that, along with my weekly Monday article posting, I would begin just listing what I had read in the previous week, and offering brief commentary on it.

Some readers may be surprised to discover that there tends to be very little in the way of “Prepper” or “firearms” or “tactical” reading material in these lists, as we go on. There will occasionally be, but not often. While I’ve read most of the “doctrinal” prepper literature, it’s not something I spend a lot of time on. I don’t consider what I do “prepping,” even though I know most do. I just consider it life at the decline of the empire. Most of the information covered in prepper literature can be found in more detail, by more experienced experts, elsewhere. If I’m reading “prepper” literature, it’s because someone asked me to comment on a specific book or article, and I’m trying to either become familiar enough with it to do so, or I’m refreshing my memory of something I’ve already read.

I also don’t really read much in the way of firearms or tactical stuff anymore. If someone I really respect has a new book out, I’ll read it, and glean it for every bit of knowledge I can get. Otherwise, I’m probably looking through something I’ve already read, trying to find a particular nugget, to refresh my memory. Occasionally, you will see Field Manuals or other DoD publications on these lists. That is almost invariably going to be because I am looking for a doctrinal quote for an article, a book project, or a class I am teaching.

With that intro, here’s what I read last week:

A Pattern Language: Towns-Buildings-Construction by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein (I wish I had read this before I built our house. It would have made a significant impact on where I built on our farm, as well as how I designed the house. This is not a read-through book. It’s more like a Choose Your Own Adventure for designing livable spaces. For folks building, or trying to build, communities and/or communal retreats, this is highly recommended. For folks looking to build a family residence, this is highly recommended. For folks stuck living in a crackerbox house in a subdivision, only read this if you want to be driven to kill yourself in despair at how miserable your life is compared to what it could be.)

The Theory and Practice of Historical Martial Arts by Guy Windsor (As a general thing, I think most “experts” on historical martial arts need to get punched in the mouth for real, a few times. There’s too much bullshit being spewed by guys who have zero context for frame of reference. I don’t know Mr. Windsor, but he seems to be slightly less nerdy than most of them. I really like this book, and even got a few ideas for firearms training out of it.) When my wife saw this sitting on the dash of my truck, driving into town, she picked it up, looked at the cover, then looked at me, and drawled, “Neeeerrrrrdddd!” She’s not wrong.

Lights Out by Tedd Koppel (Nothing really new here, for people who are aware of exactly how fucked up our electrical grid infrastructure is, but it’s probably a good loan out book to get people thinking about things. And, it’s written by someone they probably know and are familiar with, so it wont seem so “extremist.”)

Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks, and Techniques by Kaki Hunter

Essential Earthbag Construction by Kelly Hart

Earthbag Achitecture: Building Your Dream with Bags by Kelly Hart

(I started researching earthbag building when I decided I needed to build a root cellar and a storm shelter before spring. I came across a couple articles online about earthbag building, got my curiosity aroused, and started diving deep. I’m definitely digging the potential, and will be building a couple of earthbag structures on our farm this year.)

Woodland Craft by Ben Law

Woodland Workshop: Tools and Devices for Woodland Craft by Ben Law

Roundwood Timberframing by Ben Law

Ben is one of my heroes. Dude makes a living, in the modern world, as a no-shit forester, in England, in the traditional sense of the word. I got some cool ideas for projects out of his books.

DragonLance: The Second Generation by Weis and Hickman (I’m a geek. Occasionally I even let my geek flag fly proud.)

Dies the Fire by SM Stirling (I’ve mentioned this book on the blog before. I discovered it in like 2005 or so. It’s one of my very favorite novels, and I read the entire original trilogy at least once or twice a year. I HIGHLY recommend reading it for a fictional example of the power of community in grid-down scenarios.)

Beyond Brawn by Stu McRoberts (One of the first fitness/weight training books I ever bought, back in my teens, was Brawn. I’ve owned a copy of it and this sequel as long as I can remember. I pulled this out, looking for a specific quote in it, and ended up re-reading the whole book.)

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  1. Simon permalink

    You must spend a fortune on books!

  2. Michael Wagner permalink

    As an architect, ‘A Pattern Language’ is a phenomenal book. It should be required reading for any student of design, or anyone building their own home.

  3. Denove permalink

    I’ve actually been interested in learning about infrastructure design (read, electrical grid and sewage systems) since watching 3 Days of the Condor. Short of a DIY civil engineering bachelor’s with a minor in urban design and a metric fuck-ton of urban exploration, any good leads on getting into learning about that sort of stuff?

    • Justice Kelly permalink

      I am in the field full time, and there is no one source. Lots of overviews, but nothing hard. Joel Skousen has a few books for the fringe, and there are constant updates on solar, lowvolt and other power systems, along with the basics on sewage and waste systems.
      Some resources to consider
      Journal of Light Construction. Detail heavy.
      The Secure Home by Skousen.
      The Permaculture City by Hemenway

      Some of our clients process their waste stream into soil… clean and quiet. But it is a change of lifestyle.

      My goodreads list (covers scanned so far), can be linked via my name Justice Kelly. Or email me first/firstlast com. I’ve found Mosby to have a good tribal family following…

    • KJE permalink

      Look towards the syllabus for courses in urban planning (or higher level electrical engineering and mechanical engineering courses).

      That should be enough to start you towards a reading list.

  4. kay_de_leon permalink

    Good stuff!

    If all goes according to plan, will be starting my first building in the springtime of this year. Workshop first, who-knows-what next. Will surely be checking out A Pattern Language ASAP. I’ve done a bit of new construction and plenty of remodels for other people, finally doing something for myself now. It’s really exciting and a bit scary, both. Your posts are always good inspiration. Thanks, again!

    Looking forward to mountain living in a big, big way.

  5. Nemo permalink

    Any thoughts on creating a list of the titles that you mention in your upcoming weekly posts, like a “library” link in the sidebar?

  6. OODA permalink

    A Pattern Language? Excellent choice.

    Good man to help rebuild with 🙂

  7. Justice Kelly permalink

    I love the book list. Working on mine continually. Have you considered organizing or making it shareable via an app like goodreads?

    Topic I’m really starting to see us being led to more and more- the building of alternative political systems. DC is so far removed from the regular guy that we dont even track it anymore. And every day more folks seem to say the same thing, and take steps to distance themselves from the nightmare. Even some of our local and state reps are wanting an alternative. I’d love to hear your opinion, resources and absolutely more reading on it. It feels like we are snowballing down that path, and we had better have some folks out there with positive alternatives, or we will be stuck with heavy handed regimes.

  8. On your recommendation, I just went to Amazon and bought the 1st three books of the Dies the Fire series. You called it a trilogy. Were you aware that there’s actually eleven books in the series? Great. Just what I need….another addiction.

    • SteveRN permalink

      I was going to say, it has gone far beyond a trilogy at this point, we are now 3 generations into the story after the Change in “Dies The Fire” I actually like the latter books better, his writing style got more polished, I think. He does a pretty good job of building worlds and societies, seeing how traditions are built, etc. I think if you like the first 3, you will love the rest. It does start to get a little magical/mystical, but not bad, and it’s not the main focus of most of the story.

      • Yeah, I’ve read the entire series. He almost lost me with the second three, but then he got interesting again, with the third generation.

        I specifically mentioned the original trilogy because it is relevant, and that is all I read annually. The rest I may read again, but…

    • Yep. I just mentioned the original trilogy because it is the only part I read annually.

  9. I forgot to add…. if you haven’t read it yet, I’m currently reading “Jack Hinson’s One-Man War” by Tom C. McKenney. The description says:

    “Jack Hinson never planned to become a deadly sniper. A prosperous and influential plantation owner in the 1850s, Hinson was devoted to raising his growing family and working his land. Yet by 1865, Hinson had likely killed more than one hundred men and had single-handedly taken down an armed Union transport in his one-man war against Grant’s army and navy. By the end of the Civil War, the Union had committed infantry and cavalry from nine regiments and a specially equipped amphibious task force of marines to capture Hinson, who was by that time nearly sixty years old. They never caught him. Since then, the story of Jack Hinson has evaded astute historians, and until now, he has remained invisible in the history of sniper warfare”

    It’s a pretty good read. The story takes place in a part of the country I knew nothing about, and it’s just fascinating – both as a historical text, and as a description of a way of living industriously and self-sufficiently. Plus, Hinson was just plain bad-ass.

  10. LargeMarge permalink

    I work as a Perfessional Edtior (you that read right), so I read at least one book a day. Soft copies are deleted, hard copies are destroyed or donated depending on requirements established by author or publisher.


    Every page required me to walk away until I could quit laughing. I’m grinning as I write this. A keeper!

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