Customer Reviews: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Self-Sufficient Living (Idiot's Guides)
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on May 5, 2010
Actually, I just received this much anticipated book, yesterday. The moment I received it, I began reading it. From the start I was disappointed but I kept reading thinking that at some point I would get into some substance. Well, It hasn't happened yet. Jerome Belanger only tells you why it would be a good idea to become more self sufficient but never really how to do it. So, if your looking for the why then this is the book for you but if your like me and you have already gotten to the why and are ready for the how, keep looking!
In all fairness he does give some ideas on things to implement but not enough in my opinion.
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on April 13, 2010
Mr. Belanger, you're my hero.

I've been a Countryside subscriber for years and just had to get this book. I've read it, my wife is reading it, and throughout the book we realized that we already were 50% of the way to being self-sufficient. This book inspired us to make the final push and move out to our cabin on 20 acres near Prentice, WI (ironically, a stones throw from Countryside's HQ)

Lots of good, practical advice. Mr. Belanger doesn't pretend to take the stance that this book will answer all of your questions or encompass all that there is to know...simply because that is impossible. What he does do is give you all the tools you need and references, links, addresses and ideas to get you going in the direction of your choice. His recommendations on books to read are dead-on. On his recommendation, I picked up "Craft of the Country Cook" by Pat Katz and it is an amazing volume of information and absolutely all that Mr. Belanger says it is, plus more.

Tonight I stuffed sausages, making bratwurst from scratch for the very first time. Yesterday, our bees arrived for our new hives, and we got free grapevine cuttings for various wine varieties from the University of Wisconsin research station at Hancock. Over the weekend we picked up a propane chest freezer (free) and a wringer washer (also free, will convert to gasoline power).

Although I've read Countryside for years, it was this book that gave us the inspiration to make that final push. Thank you, Mr. Belanger.
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on May 18, 2010
I would have to say that this is one of the best books that I've read. It is a great eye-opener about how unsustainable much of our culture is, and I've purchased multiple copies to spread around to friends. The first parts give a great argument for why we should understand more about the not-obvious and thus unpaid cost of the way that many of us live. The second and third halves of the book get into the high points of topics of interest to a modern homesteader (someone who wants to live in a more sustainable way), but since it isn't a multi-volume encyclopedia set 8000 pages long, it doesn't get into the most minute details. For instance, if you have never known anyone with chickens and don't know anything about chickens, this book gives you enough of an overview to decide if you should buy Gail's chicken books (to get the rest of the story), or if chickens just aren't for you. This concept repeats for the rest of the topics. I think of the latter part of this book as a launching pad in that regard- about home cheese making, gardening, livestock, etc (and thus quite useful for the average suburbanite).

I do have two complaints, and one is the title. This issue alone is almost enough to cost a star in my rating. How am I supposed to give someone a copy of this book without implying that he is a complete idiot? Furthermore, perhaps the strongest aspect of this book is that Jerome puts sustainable living in the context of right now. I've read it in the spring of 2010 and it is very truly up to date. Perhaps a more accurate title would be "Sustainable living for the 21st Century," "Things your great-grandparents forgot to tell you," or "the modern homesteader." Perhaps those titles were already taken. He makes such a fantastic argument about why the self-sufficient concept of the 1800s is out of place in our world today, but yet I think that the title carries the baggage of that old-school frontiersman. I would have probably not picked this book up off of the shelf based on the title, and unfortunately that may keep someone else from reading what I would consider to be required reading for all people. My second and much more minor complaint is that the last chapter was pretty cheesy. My advice is to skip that one.
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on January 30, 2013
If this were meant as a series of web articles on how to spend less money and some basics (and I mean VERY basics) of homesteading I wouldn't have an issue here. However, when a book proclaims itself to be a complete guide of anything I expect it to be more comprehensive than a brief overview of a subject and then a suggestion to read another person's book to actually learn about the subject, as was the case with the canning section. A how to book needs to tell you how to do something otherwise what's the point?
I do understand a lack of ability on the writer's part to include everything about everything but fewer subjects with enough focus that they gave information enough to actually instruct you would have been a possibility. Instead we are treated to the writer spending more than half the time either telling you where else to go for the information you really want or waxing philosophical on the subject of "green living". I understand that these are parts of what I get when a writer uses a more personal narrative but I found it to be a distraction, frankly I am tempted to say he used it as filler material so that he could meet minimum page requirements.
If nothing else I have learned somethings from this book: never buy a complete guide to a broad subject they are most likely exaggerating their expertise, never buy a complete idiot's guide book, buy a physical copy so that you can at least have the satisfaction of throwing it away.
On the flip side, if you are interested in such self sufficiency guides I can offer up the Chickens for Dummies book which has excellent and detailed information and many of the books that the author suggests are very good sources of information as well. Just don't pay $13 for a suggested reading list.
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on March 27, 2010
This is a great book for giving ideas to getting started in self-sufficient living, and just some general ideas of how to change your day to day living to help in living a simpler life. My only grip would be some of the commits are a little leftist but I just ignore them. I would recommend this book to anyone.
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on April 7, 2013
Bla bla bla. The "Idiots Guide" books are to help, right. This one was full of the authors old days, which we all have lived in and know. He needs to write a book about his life and not a how to book. We buy the book to try and learn new things. It seemed that this book was for below elementary standards. I didn't gain any new knowledge but to live on 5 acres. Wasted my time reading this book.
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VINE VOICEon January 17, 2014
I have read a million books on this subject but this one was well organized and didn't have unrealistic expectations such as installing your own solar panels. It is a great book for the newcomer and a good review for those of us that have been doing this for decades
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VINE VOICEon July 16, 2015
I found this book extremely useful, and I've been working on self sufficiency for many years now.

I can understand some of the negative reviews - the first part of this book is a manifesto about his personal feelings on why self sufficiency is important, why we can't keep living the way we do, how we are killing the planet, etc. A lot of time is spent in the first section trying to convince people that self sufficiency is important. [I had already purchased the book - obviously I already agree that it is important!] He also has some unusual opinions that are pretty strong.

HOWEVER, if you get past those introductory chapters, this book is FULL of useful information. I was impressed by the range of subjects he managed to cover and also by the depth. I strongly disagree with other reviewers who said this book is too shallow or worthless. I don't think they really read the book. I found it extremely helpful. Does it give you encyclopedic knowledge of every single self sufficiency topic? Of course not - it isn't a 20 volume set! But I found a lot of information in this book that I could use, and I've been doing this for almost 2 decades now. I already had a lot of experience and knew a lot - if I found the book helpful, I think anyone would. And if I had been a relative beginner, this book would have been an absolute gold mine!

This book also helped me rethink my current plans and improve on some of my goals. It helped me sort out why and how I'm doing things, so that I could do some things better.

I also found the book very readable and enjoyable [once I got past the preaching at the very beginning]. The author has a very good writing style and I enjoyed his stories and tales from his past experience.

You won't go wrong with this book - it really is great!
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on April 27, 2013
I had bought this book in the hopes that I would recieve some advice on how to raise chickens, goats , plant a vegetable garden and just get some advice on how to get back to the basics. Instead I feel as though I got a lecture on how I can't ever actually become self-sufficent and that I am essentially an idiot and I need to save the enviornment. The author's tone is very condescending and arrogant and doesn't actually give any guidelines on how to do anything. If you want to be talked down do this is the book for you, if you'd actually like to learn something look elsewere.
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on January 21, 2014
This is touted as 'not your usual self sufficient living book' and boy are they right. This is less than a beginner book. Talks about things like buying food on sale and really just how to cut down on wasted money and resources. I did not learn anything valuable
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