Back to Basics: How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills (Second Edition)
See larger image
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Tell the Publisher!
I'd like to read this book on Kindle

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

Back to Basics: How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills (Second Edition) [Hardcover]

Reader's Digest
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)

Available from these sellers.

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Book Description

March 17, 1997
This how-to, user-friendly guide teaches self-sufficiency-covering all of life's essentials: shelter; alternative energy sources; growing and preserving food; home crafts; directions for making herbal remedies; and even home-grown entertainment.

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought

Page of Start over
This shopping feature will continue to load items. In order to navigate out of this carousel please use your heading shortcut key to navigate to the next or previous heading.

Editorial Reviews Review

"Voluntary simplicity" has become a catch phrase for what seems to be a yearning for a simpler, more self-sufficient and economical way of living in the late 20th century. This book, first published in 1981 and recently updated, was probably many folks' first in-depth exposure to the idea of a simpler life, making things by hand, and enjoying a stronger sense of control over personal budgets, home projects, and lifestyles. Hundreds of projects are listed, illustrated in step-by-step diagrams and instructions: growing and preserving your own food, converting trees to lumber and building a home from it, traditional crafts and homesteading skills, and having fun with recreational activities like camping, fishing, and folk dancing without spending a lot of money. This book will have you dreaming and planning from the first page! -- Mark A. Hetts

From the Back Cover

"Open the book at any page and there's something of interest." -Chicago Sun-Times

" would be an asset to anyone's personal library at home. We recommend it highly." -Kansas City Times

"It is a superb reference book, better than any number of those that pretend to teach you survival skills by concentrating on just a few crafts." -Survival Tomorrow

"This is really an encyclopedia and, like a good encyclopedia, the narrative is clear and complete, the illustrations are plentiful and the whole thing is thoroughly indexed. You can spend a fortune on a library of neo-pioneer books or you can buy BACK TO BASICS." -Times & World News, Roanoke, VA

"If you're going to go back to the good old days you'll need something the good old days didn't instruction manual." -Cincinnati Enquirer

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Reader's Digest Association; 2nd edition (March 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0895779390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0895779397
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 1.1 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
312 of 319 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A traditional skills primer. October 31, 1999
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A primer on self-reliance and rural skills, this is a large-format book of 456 pages lavishly illustrated with photographs and drawings, about half in full color. Here are 57 subjects, many with subsets, as in gardening, which includes information on soil, cultivation methods, making and using a greenhouse, and specific information on many veggies, herbs, fruits. Some presentations are simplistic, like telling you how to find and evaluate a farm or can produce in only four pages. Building and using a smokehouse gets one page. Using dairy products butters ten pages. Woodworking and furniture making nail down thirty pages. Build and decorate a house and the chairs, tables, beds to furnish it. Build a springhouse, a dam, a well, a water system. Grow vegetables, fruits, grains. Raise bees, fish, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, hogs, sheep, goats, cows, horses. Make cheese, maple syrup, beer, wine, bread, soap, candles, baskets. Cook with wood. Spin yarn, use natural dyes, make cloth, quilts, rugs, hammocks. Learn tanning and leather work, tinsmithing, blacksmithing, toolmaking. Celebrate harvest and holidays with traditional decorations, recipes, toys, games, dances. Learn camping, hiking, fishing, canoeing, snowshoeing, skiing. Whew! This book will keep you happily occupied for several decades.
Was this review helpful to you?
70 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars back to basics February 15, 2000
By A Customer
i was given this book over 15 years ago. it has become my "bible" for basic skills. we refer to this book at least once a week for advice and instruction - and always manage to find what we're looking for! it does more than touch on subjects! you get in-depth instructions with pictures to guide you through such things as building a foundation and canning your own garden goods. my copy is well-worn from much use! i treasure this book and all the things i've learned from it. for those out there who wish to live more self-sufficiently, you must have this book.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
This book touches on so many practical skills, it's terrific! You'll learn everything from soap making to building your own rough-hewn cabin by hand -- and what to look for when picking the best site for your homestead. There's something for everyone.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wealth of Practical Information August 29, 2005
My grandparents owned the first edition of this book years ago and I read it almost every time I was over at their house. When I saw it was updated, I bought my own copy. This is a how-to tome par excellence! In these pages you can learn to go far toward practical self sufficiency. Just about anything and everything you could ever seek to know regarding hands-on survival skills is explained inside this book. It's useful information for everyday life and a potential lifesaver in times of crisis. In here you can learn how to start fires under any weather conditions, make your own shoes from scratch, build furniture, houses, boats, find out how to raise animals, grow gardens and survive diasters. I feel more confident in my ability to get by in almost any situation than I did before I re-discovered this pragmatic classic. Knowledge, as they say, is power.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neat Book August 11, 2005
By Hoke
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This was a really interesting book and I got a whole more than I expected. This book covers all kinds of traditional skills from chopping wood, building houses, plowing fields, food preparation, and so on. Just about anything you can imagine on everyday life skills from days long gone.

The bonus part to this was that it included a lot of modern day adaptations and applications for these skills. It could be a useful how-to manual for those that want to live a more simple life. It also includes a description of alternate eco-friendly fuel sources
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book January 6, 2006
Not a step-by step guide, but usually has enough info on a particular subject to get you started. Some topic are covered in detail, like making braided rugs, while others understandably are only given a cursory review, such as building construction.

Tons of topics, with enough info to get you headed in the right direction for most, but you'll obviously want to get more detailed info on any of the more complex tasks they descibe.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm old fashioned and love this book! June 24, 1999
By A Customer
I borrowed this book from a friend and became so attached I had to buy a copy for myself. If my home burns down tonight this would be one of the first books I would replace, the first being my Bible. I have put this book to use many times and plan to build a slipform stone house.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book on country living! August 13, 2002
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I purchased several books on country living, this one is the best of the lot. I wanted a good reference book for a story I am writing. This book covers everything I was interested in, and more, providing me with a wealth of information and ideas. Along with being well written, the book is also filled with detailed illustrations and photos.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible for Self-Sufficiency
Great book. Very helpful.
Published 23 days ago by Claudia B
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book so much
I absolutely love this book. It is a dreamers perfect book.
Published 6 months ago by John
5.0 out of 5 stars Great quality. Thank you
Shipped quickly. Great quality. Thank you.
Published 6 months ago by Linda Kershaw
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books!
I received my first copy of this book some 30 years ago and was immediately entranced. The information in the book is timeless and accurate. Read more
Published 17 months ago by V. I. Miller
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of useful info...
A lot of our traditional skills have been forgotten. This book will truly bring you back to the basics. A great addition to anyone's library.
Published 22 months ago by Matthew B.
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite as Pioneer Skills Related as I Had Hoped
This is a very good book but I was a bit disappointed in how many areas of the book related more to modern living than classic pioneer life. Read more
Published on March 16, 2013 by Kevin R Counts
5.0 out of 5 stars This book has everything
I live on a small farm and thought this book might give me some good ideas. Did it ever. Every page has something different on it.
Published on December 25, 2012 by Ronnie musick
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent basic skills!
I've had this book for several years and it's amazing! If this world ever goes crazy, this is one I'm grabbing on the way out the door. Read more
Published on April 10, 2011 by LavenderLady75
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing amount of good usable information
This book is awesome!! There is so much information available in this book: everything from making soap to making baskets, gardening, building your own home, it is simply amazing. Read more
Published on May 29, 2010 by Glenn
5.0 out of 5 stars The most USEFUL book I've ever owned
I bought my copy when this was a "new book" offered by Reeder's Digest book club. That was almost thirty years ago and I still pull it out for reference on a regular basis. Read more
Published on April 6, 2009 by T. Ellis
Search Customer Reviews

Sell a Digital Version of This Book in the Kindle Store

If you are a publisher or author and hold the digital rights to a book, you can sell a digital version of it in our Kindle Store. Learn more


Search Customer Discussions
Search all Amazon discussions

Topic From this Discussion
Third Edition
Same book just more added or reprinted.
Jul 7, 2012 by James |  See all 2 posts
What is the main difference between second and third edition? Be the first to reply
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Look for Similar Items by Category