Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
Do you want to inspire your kids to be free and self-sufficient? There’s nothing better than a good book to point them in the right direction.
My kids are total bookworms, so I enlisted their help to compile this list of favorites. Some folks may pooh-pooh the idea of fiction as a teaching tool, but reading about a character who is smart, adaptable, self-reliant, and skilled can influence the way your child or teenager thinks. These books are not all specific to kids in prepper families – many of them are just tales of kids who are put into situations in which they must rely on their wits and courage to survive, while others outline the dangers of too much government.
In no particular order, (and just in time for Christmas) here is a list of favorites from the Luther Family Library of Awesome and Influential Books. I’ve included a little synopsis from Amazon with each book.
For Younger Kids
The Little House series
This 9 book set follows the adventures of Laura Ingalls and her family from their little homestead in the middle of the frigid Northern forest of her younger years through the journey west on a wagon train, farming, education in a one-room schoolhouse, up until Laura becomes an adult and gets married. Order it here.
The Boxcar Children series
There’s something about orphans struggling to get by that inspires great works of fiction, and this vintage series is no exception. The Alden children begin their adventure by making a home in a boxcar. Their goal is to stay together, and in the process they find a grandfather they never knew they had. Order it here.
Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure: A Prepper’s Book for Kids
The world can be a scary place! There are snowstorms and mean snakes, hot jungles and wild rivers. But intrepid adventurer Jake and his dog Miller aren’t scared —they’re prepared! In Jake & Miller’s Big Adventure, young readers discover it’s never too early to start prepping. Learning how to use life-saving survival equipment like canned goods, water filters, first aid kits, Mylar blankets and emergency radios can keep you safe, healthy and happy even in the scariest of adventures—whether you’re deep in the jungle or hunkering down at home. Order it here.
An Island Called Liberty
“This book is a cross between Dr. Seuss and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged,” writes the publisher. Younger children will enjoy the rhyming verse and beautiful, full-color illustrations on every page, while older children and adults will enjoy the strong message that speaks in favor of free markets and against excessive government regulation, bureaucracy, and taxation. Order it here.
Prepper Pete Prepares: An Introduction to Prepping for Kids (Prepper Pete and Friends)
Prepper Pete works very hard to keep his family safe by preparing for events that may happen in the future… things such as power outages, bad storms, illness, and other disasters. Join our hero as he explores the many reasons to “be prepared” and fun things your family can do, too! Order it here.
Prepper Pete’s Gun of a Son: A Gun Safety Book for Kids
Prepper Pete works very hard to keep his family safe. When his son Charlie becomes old enough, they enroll in a gun safety class together. Join our hero, his son, and their friends in this fabulously illustrated book as they explore many of the important aspects of gun safety ***** A Note For grownups If knowledge is power, then in the case of firearms, “knowledge is safety.” Familiarity with guns for kids often helps avoid the “forbidden fruit” syndrome, which can create a safer environment. When they are an appropriate age, work with your kids to familiarize them with firearms, and always stress the importance of gun safety! Order it here.
A unique and colorful conservative children’s book, “Founders’ Fables” helps families explain America’s most treasured values through the use of ten simple fables. These stories address the principles of the Founding Fathers and the concept of limited government through the use of funny and memorable characters. Each story, written in rhyme, begins with a quote from one of our founders and is followed by age-appropriate discussion questions and a short art activity to inspire the child to an even deeper understanding. Topics addressed within the stories include self-reliance, national debt, pork barrel spending, socialism, eminent domain, free speech and government intervention in business and private lives. This book can be understood and enjoyed by children ages 5 to 85! Order it here.
For Young Adults
Island of the Blue Dolphins
The Newberry Medal-winning story of a 12-year old girl who lives alone on a Pacific island after she leaps from a rescue ship. Isolated on the island for eighteen years, Karana forages for food, builds weapons to fight predators, clothes herself in a cormorant feathered skirt, and finds strength and peace in her seclusion. A classic tale of discovery and solitude. Order it here.
The Hunger Games Trilogy
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. The series follows Katniss and her allies as they fight for their freedom from the tyrannical Capitol. Order it here.
The Divergent Series
One choice can transform you. This series tells a gripping dystopian tale of electrifying choices, powerful consequences, unexpected romance, and a deeply flawed “perfect society.” Order it here.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
On a six-mile hike on the Maine-New Hampshire branch of the Appalachian Trail, nine-year-old Trisha McFarland quickly tires of the constant bickering between her older brother, Pete, and her recently divorced mother. But when she wanders off by herself, and then tries to catch up by attempting a shortcut, she becomes lost in a wilderness maze full of peril and terror. As night falls, Trisha has only her ingenuity as a defense against the elements, and only her courage and faith to withstand her mounting fears. For solace she tunes her Walkman to broadcasts of Boston Red Sox baseball games and follows the gritty performances of her hero, relief pitcher Tom Gordon. And when her radio’s reception begins to fade, Trisha imagines that Tom Gordon is with her—protecting her from an all-too-real enemy who has left a trail of slaughtered animals and mangled trees in the dense, dark woods…Order it here.
Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems. But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days. When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself. Order it here.
Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time. Order it here.
As ferociously fresh as it was more than a half century ago, this remarkable allegory of a downtrodden society of overworked, mistreated animals and their quest to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality is one of the most scathing satires ever published. As readers witness the rise and bloody fall of the revolutionary animals, they begin to recognize the seeds of totalitarianism in the most idealistic organization—and in the most charismatic leaders, the souls of the cruelest oppressors. Order it here.
Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered Windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present—and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parent’s divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self pity, or despair—it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive. Order it here.
Brave New World
Aldous Huxley is rightly considered a prophetic genius and one of the most important literary and philosophical voices of the 20th Century, and Brave New World is his masterpiece. From the author ofThe Doors of Perception, Island, and countless other works of fiction, non-fiction, philosophy, and poetry, comes this powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations. Brave New World remains absolutely relevant to this day as both a cautionary dystopian tale in the vein of the George Orwell classic 1984, and as thought-provoking, thoroughly satisfying entertainment. Order it here.
If We Survive
High schooler Will Peterson and three friends journeyed to Central America to help rebuild a school. In a poor, secluded mountain village, they won the hearts of the local people with their energy and kindness. But in one sudden moment, everything went horribly wrong. A revolution swept the country. Now, guns and terror are everywhere—and Americans are being targeted as the first to die. Will and his friends have got to get out fast. But streets full of killers . . .hills patrolled by armies . . . and a jungle rife with danger stand between them and the border. Their one hope of escape lies with a veteran warrior who has lost his faith and may betray them at any moment. Their one dream is to reach freedom and safety and home. If they can just survive. Order it here.
Cabin on Trouble Creek
After clearing enough forest to build a log cabin for their new home, Pa returns east to fetch the rest of the family, while young brothers Daniel and Will stay behind to watch the land. Pa had planned to return within six weeks . . . but something must have gone wrong. Now the boys must survive the winter with only a few supplies and their ability to invent and improvise. But are they alone in the woods? Jean Van Leeuwen;s engrossing novel of pioneer survival is based on a true incident. Order it here.
My Side of the Mountain
Every kid thinks about running away at one point or another; few get farther than the end of the block. Young Sam Gribley gets to the end of the block and keeps going–all the way to the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. There he sets up house in a huge hollowed-out tree, with a falcon and a weasel for companions and his wits as his tool for survival. In a spellbinding, touching, funny account, Sam learns to live off the land, and grows up a little in the process. Blizzards, hunters, loneliness, and fear all battle to drive Sam back to city life. But his desire for freedom, independence, and adventure is stronger. No reader will be immune to the compulsion to go right out and start whittling fishhooks and befriending raccoons. Order it here.
The year is 1868, and fourteen-year-old Alika and his younger brother, Sulu, are hunting for seals on an ice floe attached to their island in the Arctic. Suddenly the ice starts to shake, and they hear a loud crack–the terrible sound of the floe breaking free from land. The boys watch with horror as the dark expanse of water between the ice and the shore rapidly widens, and they start drifting south–away from their home, their family, and everything they’ve ever known. Throughout their six-month-long journey down the Greenland Strait, the brothers face bitter cold, starvation, and most frightening of all, vicious polar bears. But they still remain hopeful that one day they’ll be rescued. Order it here.
What’s in your library?
Obviously, this list is far from comprehensive – it is a compilation of our own family favorites. Are there some books that you or your children found particularly engaging or influential? If you were recommending books to young people, what are your favorites in the survival and liberty genres?
So glad to see The Island of the Blue Dolphins on this list. I remember reading it when I was about 10 or 12. I read all day long because it was such a good story.
I would also recommend Alas, Babylon. I read this when I was in high school and I would say that it had a great influence on my “prepper” personality. I’ve probably bought this book 3 or 4 times in my lifetime because for some reason my copy gets away from me. This copy isn’t going anywhere!
Dr. Seuss did a version of “Atlas Shrugged” several years BEFORE Rand. It’s called “Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose” and is getting VERY hard to find as it is NOT AT ALL as P.C. as preschool teachers would like!
A great book, which seems to get universally overlooked, is This Perfect Day by Ira Levin – It’s in the genre of 1984- only, IMHO, much better than 1984. One of my favorite boo0ks of all time.
If you like books like 1984; Brave New Woprld; Atlas Shrugged; etc. Check out This Perfect Day!
Also, while many are familiar with Ayn Rand’s more popular books, We The Living seems to often get overlooked- and it is another good one.
That one’s my favorite, too. Although I also enjoyed Withur We, by Bruce Alexander, twice.
We the Living, on the other hand…well, it was great in a way. But I don’t know if I could endure it again. Great but dark.
I also loved Lucifer’s Hammer. There is one chapter in it that seems to be the entire plot of the movie The Postman. The Postman is also a book.
Lucifer’s Hammer would probably not be suitable for young adults. I would only recommend it to adults, but I like it. Has a lot to say.
I read Lucifer’s Hammer while in high school. Was one of my dad’s favs, and is now one of mine. I have it in my library and re-read it every few years.
The one scene stood out to me was when the young boy was whinning he wanted to watch tv. His father told him it was not possible, tv was gone. The kid then demanded to watch tv. The father calmly turned and slapped the kid. He makes mention of this is the new reality and then turned back to the table and continued his conversation with the Senator.
My all time favorite is _Little House in the Big Woods_. This historical fiction had a big impact on my life. Laura did not remember some of those years, and asked a relative if they would write about life in Wisconsin in detail. It matters not to me. At least in part or in bits and pieces, the events in that book were true to the lifestyle and time period. It is still my favorite. Second to this book would be _The Long Winter_. It is definitely a lesson to take heed to. Most of the information in that book is true, but Laura eliminated the couple who lived with them during that winter with thee wife gave birth.
As an adult I read _My Side of the Mountain_. It is a good book. I did learn a thing or two in self sufficiency, but always thought it was a bit unrealistic.
I our home, we have a room dedicated as a library. When my now adult children were growing up, the library was used more heavily than it does today, but I continue to collect books.
These days I purchase self sufficiency books, many of them older/vintage in all aspects of homesteading.
I also purchase many children’s picture books under the excuse of buying them for my grand children’s use. My favorites are historical fiction.
_Brave New World_and _On Top of the World_ were required reading for me in undergrad school. I was not enamored with them, and did not feel that they contributed significantly to my life. I thought On Top of the World had more to offer, but I did not keep the books.
Years ago I read a considerable amount of WW2 survival stories from many different aspects concerning many different people. I learned about a lifestyles that no longer exist and some information that I would not have learned anywhere else.(you can freshen and clean a carpet by spreading (drained) sauerkraut on the carpet, swish it around with a broom until the kraut picks up all the dirt, then dispose of the kraut.) I also learned some survival skills from the main characters of the books. It was usually out of necessity for them, but it was a new skill set to me. I am surprised how many I think about over the years. Mostly I learned about resilience and determination in the face of extreme circumstances. Eventually, I had to stop reading them.
Great Subject. Apple and Google have claimed that by 2016 all public schools will be free of books! Get ’em while you can.
My nine year old loves the series on Mythology by Charles Novacs that is used in many Waldorf Schools. They are well written and 8-10 minutes long. Great learning.
I wouldn’t force my worst enemy to read Atlas Shrugged. It’s too long, criminally boring and written by a psychopath.
My favorite series, along with the Little House books, is Ralph Moody’s books: Little Britches, Man of the Family, The Home Ranch, Mary Emma and Company, Fields of Home, Shaking the Nickle Bush, The Dry Divide, and A Horse of A Difference Color. All wonderful stories of self-reliance, hard work and virtue. Ralph Moody is a great writer and if you have boys these are perfect.
For young kids there is a series of books by Callista Gingrich starring Ellis the Elephant as she travels through parts of US History. It’s a great series for younger kids.
What about the oldest one of all _ The Swiss Family
Robinson! Situation analysis, supplies inventory, moral family life, skills development, physical fitness, and kids and adults love the story anyway!
My kids (and me too) really love the Little House books and they really get kids thinking about that lifestyle in contrast w their own
When my daughter was about 11 or 12, she read Anthem by Ayn Rand which unlike her other works is a smooth, easy read in maybe 100 pgs. It’s a more adult novel than The Giver, but along a similar strain.
Another good pick for teens as well as adults is the Clan of the Cavebear trilogy by Jean M Aule. It was what sparked my desire to learn a whole list of skills that serve me very well to this day.
Some of my favorite children’s books are The Swiss Family Robinson and the Little House series.
Don’t forget “The Other Side of the Mountain”. This features his younger sister, who comes to the mountain the next year.
Not a Drop to drink . Is a new book out. Definitely for older highschool or adults. Water is scarcer than Gold and the pond has to be defended. Not a happier book but good to read. Would not recommend for under 16.
Yes T.C., I remember reading Island of the Blue Dolphin and LOVING it as a kid too! In fact, I think about it often, and had wanted to suggest it to my daughter, but couldn’t remember the name. Thanks Daisy!
Yes T.C., I remember reading Island of the Blue Dolphin and LOVING it as a kid too! In fact, I think about it often, and had wanted to suggest it to my daughter, but couldn’t remember the name. Thanks Daisy!
I read all the older classics mentioned in the article and in the comments when I was in high school, many many years ago. Although not for children, On the Beach by Nevil Shute, from that era, is a good read, rather dark though.
The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald.
The original 1719 novel that started this genre was Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” — inspired probably by the real life survival stories of several people, as discussed here:
The big four, by Ayn Rand, are of course “Anthem,” “We the Living,” “Fountainhead,” and “Atlas Shrugged.” One of the major themes running through them is survival in the face of ever metasticizing government bureaucracies. Her escape from Bolshevik Russia and its confiscation of her parents’ business were motivations for much of her writing career. Those, of course, who dearly love centrally planned and controlled dictatorship rule despise her. That makes them easy to spot.
My mother used to read “Thidwick” stories to me when I was very little. It’s still readily available in several ways: 1) interlibrary loans, 2) Amazon.com 3) global book search of sellers on gettextbooks.com — for deals that Amazon will never tell you about.
I would add Robert Heinlein’s 1966 classic, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”.
It’s a bit dated from a technology perspective (the computer reading books by turning the pages with some sort of suction cups at lightning speed), but it is a great story of people taking control away from central authority.
Heinlein was a great writer that could always turn a phrase. I found this one and keep it in my quotes file,
”…I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do…” Professor Bernardo de la Paz, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress — Robert A. Heinlein
What happened to the Hardy boys, Tom swift, Nancy Drew. No sex, drugs, little violence and a moral/lesson to be learned.
For middle school students, The Rule of Three by Eric Walters. The plot line ia about a group of teens learning to cope after an EMP in their area. Interwoven into the plot are real life prepping tips for teens, such as help stockpile food with your family.
I learned a fair amount about surviving in a northern wilderness by reading Farley Mowat’s ‘Lost in the Barrens’. And laughed enough to keep me healthy for decades reading ‘The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be’ by the same author.
The Fr. Francis Finn, S.J., series is also great: Tom Playfair, Harry Dee, Claude Lightfoot, Ethelred Preston, and several others.
I found them here: https://www.tanbooks.com/5-dollar-books/ethelred-preston-or-the-adventures-of-a-newcomer.html#product_tabs_authorbio
Island of the Blue Dolphins is at the top of my favorites’ list. I was just a young teen when I read it. I’m 69 now & still buy it as a gift for youngsters! I’d read that the young native woman was 17 or 18 though, not 12 when her people were taken from the island. Her brother was still on the island so she jumped off the ship. According to nps.gov her birth was estimated as 1800 & she died in 1853, only 7 weeks after arriving in Santa Barbara. That would have made her 35 when she was left behind. It is such a sad irony that after 18 yrs of surviving she died so soon after being rescued. I always thought that it was probably from the sudden changes in her diet. The experts now believe she had dysentery.
The Cay by Theodore Taylor was another favorite that I read to my last daughter in the early 2000’s. I just read about some controversy regarding the book though, which surprised me. We loved it & don’t agree with the criticism.
One other incredible survival story, though maybe not for young children, is based on the autobiography of Olive A. Frederickson written when she was 80. I saw the movie, “Silence of the North.” It really is remarkable!
There are some wonderful suggestions here. In addition to Ralph Moody’s autobiographical Little Britches series, anything written by Jim Kjelgaard. Most of his books are life and survival stories about young men and exceptional dogs. I read Stormy and Big Red to my 4 and 6 year old, then binged the rest by myself and am holding them out as incentive for them to read independently.
A brilliant and moving collection of comments here, heartfelt, informative and giving. I found the humanity deeply moving of people sharing and offering with each other. We cannot let them take that away from us, this taproot of life. Thank you all.