The other day I saw a car, the owner of which obviously loved stickers for the car was plastered with them. Along with loving stickers, they apparently loved a host of weak minded socialist ideals and wanted you, the driver behind them, to love them too. Disgusted by this silliness I almost overlooked the one and only truth in all their stickers: A simple black label with white letters which read “Read A Fucking Book”.
There is more to being a capable human than possessing some tools, or even some skills, and a fancy bag to put them all in, or cool shoes to wear while using them. One must be able to think, robustly, analytically and adaptively. Books provide knowledge, and encourage thinking.

(Much credit is owed to the Total Protection Interactive community for causing awareness of many of these titles. That community is a phenomenal gathering of intellects, unburdened by ego, and the various community generated booklists are the least of it.)

This is a fluid and growing list. Check it from time to time, as new things will be added.

The Dark Side of Man by Michael P. Ghiglieri: The author of this little mentioned book, an anthopologist and experienced canyon guide, began the project of researching this book as an anti-gun, anti-violence, subscriber. He finished the process a believer in personal defense and firearms. Dark Side examines the underpinning of violence, comes to the conclusion that it is endemic in our species and that the counter to violence is a societal shift in how we deal with it, encompassing improved education and a societal and individual readiness to met out lex talionis violence (violent response to violent intent or acts, to serve ultimately as a deterrent). This book makes short work of the flawed idea that there is a human aversion to violence or killing, and an incredibly strong argument for individual skill-at-violence.

Principles of Personal Defense by Col. Jeff Cooper: No matter your opinion on Cooper, or his teachings, this book should be considered a fundamental work that stands alone. Many of the foundational thoughts on personal defense are condensed here-in, in a concise and readable format. More of a long pamphlet, this work is quite easy to digest and is a regular hand-out to students and friends new to personal defense.

Surgical Speed Shooting by Andy Stanford: One of the best primers on contemporary defensive pistol craft.

Put ‘Em Down, Take ‘Em Out by Don Pentecost: Unfortunately this little volume appears to be out of print currently. It is not the end-all, be-all, of combative knife use and has some distinct weak-points. However, of topical books, it is a superior volume. The focus on violence and initiative combined with simple technique is far closer to the truth of edged weapons assaults and acts of self preservation than many other, lengthier, books. Study of this book, and dedicated training of its approach, would make for a dangerous hand with a knife.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy: Mindset. Mindset. Mindset. Everything else is 5%. Gear, skill, and opportunity mean nothing if you do not hold in your heart the love, hate, and will necessary to do the things that must be done, to carry the fire and never, ever, stop.

Armor by John Steakley: Mindset. Mindset. Mindset. To survive, you must never stop. This is one of the greatest books on never ever quitting, of any genre.

Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Fast, Light, and High by Mark Twight: Whether or not you climb, there are extremely valuable things in Twight’s writing. Extreme Alpinism is a more complete expression of Twight’s climbing philosophy and practices taken from experience. In Alpinism Twight shares some beneficial wisdom about doing extremely hard things, in harsh environments, and performance under great risk. Some of his comments on learning and experience are quite valuable as well. Even if you don’t climb, the book is filled with gems.

The SAS Survival Guide by John “Lofty” Wiseman: Not the only, and maybe not the best, of the survival books out there, but a starting point. Many folks have begun with this book, and many continue to return to it. Various editions exist, including a Harper Essentials edition paperback that shows up at Wal-Mart and similar places for under $10

On Rope: North American Vertical Rope Techniques by Bruce Smith and Allen Padget: Published by the National Speleological Society, On Rope is the fundamental guide to single rope techniques (SRT) for multiple disciplines. Described as being for “Caving, Search and Rescue, Firefighters, River Rescue, Aerial Tram, Rock Climbing, Mountaineering, Rope Courses, Industrial Users: Arborists, Window Cleaners, Circus Riggers, Theater, Hollywood, Steeplejacks, Military Applications”, On Rope provides perhaps the best coverage of single rope techniques, across the board, of any single volume. Beginning with Rope, the chapters continue with Ties, Rigging, Rappelling, Ascending, Long Drops and Deep Expeditions, Domes and Walls, Belaying, Vertical Potpourri, Other Rope Users and Vertical Skills and Rescue Training. No single book will ever provide the full extent of knowledge you need to safely work on rope, however inside that constraint, in our experience no other single book is as valuable as On Rope.

The Foxfire Series by the students and faculty of Rabun County HighSchool: An ongoing anthology of material from the Foxfire program and magazine, detailing craft traditions of rural Appalachia. These books contain a world-class, and fundamental, education on the practices of rural, off-the-grid, and austere living. From blacksmithing and bear skinning, to windmills and zymurgy, this series has a little bit for everyone. Take any of the old-time remedies with a grain of salt, but the craft tutorials are valid and valuable in any era. Fundamental books for a library of human capability.

The $50 Knife Shop by Wayne Goddard: An excellent primer on the craft of knifemaking, the tools and materials involved, and solutions for obtaining, building and hacking those necessaries from common sources. If you can build a knife, you can build many, if not all, of the basic hand-tools necessary for human survival. If you can build the tools and shop fittings as detailed in this text, you can build many other things, as well as use the tools Goddard details to build and maintain far more than just knives.

The Tactical Folding Knife by Bob Terzoula: A very detailed work on building modern folding knives, in particular liner and frame lock knives as built by the author. Terzoula is one of the fathers of the modern tactical folding knife, and has forgotten more than many makers will ever know. A text aimed at professionals, with well appointed shops, this book is also of value to end users. Much bullshit and ignorance is afloat among end users and many manufacturers of this most common of “tactical” knives, nearly all of which could be put to bed by a reading of this book.

Ditch Medicine by Hugh Coffee: An excellent text on off-the-grid medicine, from an experienced austere provider. Ditch Medicine is one of the classic books in this arena, and remains one of the best.
Where There is No Doctor by David Werner: Reportedly the most widely used text on community health in tropical and sub-tropical developing countries, this text is targeted at the lay-provider. Delivering a strong emphasis on hygiene, prevention and basic treatments, No Doctor provides a basic, but solid, overview of maintaining human health away from first-world resources.
Where There is No Dentist by Murray Dickson: A dental specific companion to the above work, No Dentist provides a layperson accessible primer on dental care and procedures in austere environments.
Survival and Austere Medicine: An Introduction by The Remote, Austere, Wilderness and Third World Medicine Discussion Board Moderators: As the title suggests, this work provides a primer on medicine for the survival or austere environment. A collaborative effort between multiple individuals with subject matter expertise, this book has been revised once (in 2005) and has a third revision/expansion expected in the future. An excellent book, made freely available as a .PDF as well as for sale in print, it is a great resource for both laypersons and professionals.
US Army Special Forces Medical Handbook: Perhaps one of the gold standard austere medicine texts. A professional text, not as easily accessible to the layperson, but peerless in value all the same. The latest edition is an essential for the austere medicine library, which is incomplete without it.
(It is our opinion that the above five texts, Ditch Medicine, No Doctor, No Dentist, Survival and Austere Medicine and the Special Forces Medical handbook, go very well together. That being said, some caveats: None of them, alone or together, will replace professional, accredited, medical education, clinical and field experience, and ongoing accredited continuing education. All of them will only benefit from such education, at any level (EMT-B to Medical Doctor), and be of benefit to those with such education. All of them are subject to the predations of time, and improving science, and should be checked against their most contemporary editions, and the most contemporary information and training available for any given subject.)

Desert Survival: Tips, Tricks & Skills by Tony Nestor: A small, but excellent, primer on survival in the desert. A valuable stand-alone book, made truly excellent when added to a broader survival text or collection. Nestor is the “Survival Guru” for Outside magazine, and a long-time desert dweller, living and teaching in Arizona. This book is one of our favorites as desert residents ourselves.

Digital Resources
Our definition of book is changing, as the very technology of books changes from “analog” to digital platforms, paper to iPad’s. Although there remains distinct pleasure, and many would argue, great value in physical books, they are no longer the only, or even the best, source for knowledge. Additionally, digital sources allow the full integration and use of other media, such as video, to better access the learning styles of wider audiences. There are several different initiatives online that aim to bring serious education to whomever so chooses to partake of it. We believe that a strong intellectual foundation is a necessity for survival. If you want to understand your world, and be able to act upon it, you need to know a thing or two about it. Today that is easier, and cheaper, than at any time in human history. Sit back, take off your shoes (hell, take off your pants if you like), crack a beer, and get smarter. You have no reason not to. “committed to making the best education in the world freely available to any person who seeks it.” Coursera allows users to take full, non-credit, college courses online from participating institutions, including Stanford, University of Michigan, and UC Berkely. Courses include Game Theory, Cryptography, Model Thinking, Computer Science, Information Theory and Anatomy.

Stanford Engineering Everywhere: Offering Stanford engineering courses, non-credit, to online students around the world for free.

MIT Open CourseWare: Offering courses, course materials, lectures, slide shows and notes from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for free without registration requirements. With offerings from 2000 courses, in multiple fields including the sciences, engineering, liberal arts and management.

OpenCulture: A portal to free cultural and education media online, including over 400 free college courses in a variety of fields.

Khan Academy: The totally free virtual school, with over 3000 video lessons on nearly every subject, from Algebra and Art History to Chemistry, History, Statistic and Venture Capital.

TED: Home of the famous TED Talks, free video lectures from industry leaders, subject matter experts and academics on a wide range of subjects.

The Five Foot Shelf: Also known as the Harvard Classics, this collection was conceived in 1909 by Harvard University president Charles W. Eliot. The idea being that a classic Liberal Education could be attained from 15 minutes daily reading of the collection of a single five-foot bookshelf. Though the collections contents, as well as the collection itself, all remain in print, Project Gutenberg has collected the Harvard Classics for easy online access.

“The nod toward a bookshelf filled with classics of western literature is something you should heed. The integration [of warrior values] requires a bedrock of principles, which is something that philosophers have been chewing over for a bajillion years. Questions like “What is the proper way to live?” and “What is the right thing to do?” have been in circulation for quite some time. Addressing the rules that govern your decisions permit you to own the choices you make, instead of falling back on conformity or, god forbid, blind obedience to authority. Milgram’s infamous study on such things showed that precious few people refer to their own moral code. The decision to set your will against another should be for reasons you can articulate and believe in firmly enough to risk everything.”  Total Protection Interactive member Slackbladder

More to come…