Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Books and Your Survival Stash

One of my favorite television shows has to be “The Twilight Zone.” I’m talking about the old, black-and-white version, with Rod Serling’s pithy commentary and the actors’ horrible dialogue. (I mean, really. Could they be any more obvious about having the characters discuss information that they should already know, simply for the sake of bringing us into the story? I think not.)

That was a fantastic TV show despite my criticism. My favorite episode: “Time Enough at Last,” from the first season. (By the way: You can watch the episode online here. If you’d like to see the show for yourself, go ahead and go now, because I’m about to spoil a 40-year-old TV program.)

In case you aren’t a “Twilight Zone” fan, here’s the basic gist of that episode: a lonely, bookworm type of guy works at a bank. His psycho hose beast of a wife disapproves of his reading, even going so far as to destroy his books (what an oxygen thief). Because the bookworm dude can’t chill out and read at home, he sneaks in as much as he can at work.

While he’s in the vault, reading during his lunch break, nuclear Armageddon destroys, well, pretty much everything. He pops up, sees the devastation, and considers offing himself – but then, hope appears in the form of a library. FINALLY, he’ll have enough time to read, which is the only thing that he really cares about doing. The poor guy’s spent his whole married life being nagged and ridiculed about having his nose between some pages, but now the world’s literature is all his! Yes!

Oh, stop asking questions about nuclear fallout, hot zones, radiation poisoning, and all that other sensible stuff. The man’s going to get to READ! That’s all that matters! Suspend your disbelief and rejoice in the fact that this character can now enjoy the finest literature ever printed and bound.

Oh. Wait. Things can’t be that easy. Because this is “The Twilight Zone,” not “You Get What You Want in This Crazy, Fantasy Land,” Mr. Bookworm’s mind-bogglingly-thick glasses slide off of his face and break – just when he’s ready to settle in and get down to the business of enjoying his books for the rest of his life, naturally. Yeah, that’s the ultimate, “NOOOO!” moment as far as I’m concerned. I happen to wear glasses, and I happen to prefer reading over interacting with most people, so I definitely sympathize with the dude.

Even though I try not to let television teach me anything – honestly, I can come up with far better sources of info than the boob tube – the story makes a few excellent points despite my nagging thought that the dude won’t have to worry about his broken glasses after the radiation gets to him.

The obvious lesson here, of course, is that backup eyewear is fairly important. Right now, I have only one pair of glasses – that, however, is changing later this month, when I go to the optometrist for the first visit in two years. You would think that I would have acquired two pairs of glasses the last time I was there, but I was paying 100 percent out of pocket (no insurance at the time), and we don’t have one of those “Buy one, get one free” lens centers in our area. I just couldn’t afford a backup pair, as much as I wanted to be prepared. Now, though, I’m looking into contacts, because glasses just suck. (I’ll still have a pair for backup, though.)

However, all the glasses and contact lenses on this planet don’t help me if I don’t have anything to read. There are buttloads of books here at The Homestead. We have all sorts of paperbacks and hardbacks around here because Mom and I love the written word so much. Even Dad, who would rather chop off his big toes than read, has a small collection on his shelf. We have how-to books about gardening; some dusty romance novels that nobody actually likes, but came in bulk-buy deals from library sales and other sources; creative nonfiction (because that’s what I most enjoy writing); quite a few genre novels; some awesome short-story anthologies; books about baseball; books about poker…the list goes on and on.

We also have a fairly-large collection of Bible-study-related books: commentaries, study guides, sermon notes, that sort of thing. These are the most-important books to most of us, and have their own bookcase in the living room.

Books help pass the time. They teach or remind you how to do all sorts of things, including survival-related skills. You can escape the cruddy situation that the world is currently in, if only for a few hours, or make new friends when you meet fascinating, though fictional, characters. If you love books, and if you love reading, then you know what I mean.

If you’re a reader, then you probably have a decent-sized library. I’d definitely continue adding to the shelves, because reading is an easy, leisurely pursuit. Even if you’re sitting in your house, without power, waiting for the swine flu (or some other huge problem) to pass, you can still read. You can read to your family, which is a fine way to spend quality time together. You can lie in bed and read during a rainstorm. You can get into your hammock, under the trees, and read when there’s no air conditioning and it’s 100 degrees in your house.

But if you aren’t big on reading, you can still gain something from books. I don’t know if they’ll make good barter items, but I wouldn’t be surprised if folks like me will trade with you for some cheap paperbacks – even novels that don’t offer so much as one small piece of information related to surviving a world-gone-crazy type of scenario.

I’m also thinking about survival. The Internet, computer, or power can go out at any time without much (if any) warning. If you have hard copies of vital information, whether they’re printed versions of Web sites or “proper” books, you don’t have to worry about remembering everything that you’ve read about this sort of thing. You have the leisure of going back and looking up information about repairing your car, or distilling water, or whatever it is that you need to know.

Speaking of survival literature and printouts: a lot of owner’s manuals are now in CD-ROM format. That does me no good if my computer isn’t working for whatever reason. Check all of the gear that you’re going to need for survival: if the owner’s manual isn’t a hard copy, make it happen. You’re going to want easy access to that information if something goes wrong, after all.

You might, in fact, become a bit of a reader if you’re stuck at home, waiting for the all clear so that you can try to get back to your normal life. When you don’t have the usual activities to pass the time, you might find that a good book is all the companion that you need during the tough times.


  1. Enjoyed your post. Have you read Jim Rawles "Patriots"? It's a classic prep book.

    Check out my blog if you have a minute.

  2. I haven't gotten around to Rawles' book yet, no. It's on the to-read list, though, as is pretty much every other survival-related book out there. :)

  3. I would feel the same as the Twilight Zone character. I have collected over 3000 books but have only read about 500 of them. I just need society to collapse so I can quit the "rat-race" and indulge myself full time! Maybe I should have laser refraction eye surgery done as insurance against bustin' my glasses:>).
    A nice little blog you have here.

    Mark in Minnesota

  4. Mark, I don't know if we have 3,000 books around here, but I'm sure that we'll get there soon enough if we haven't already.

    I would get some sort of eye surgery to repair my cruddy vision, but I'm not entirely confident in any of the procedures that I've researched. Maybe I'm just too cautious, but we're talking about my sight here, which is really important to me as a reader, writer, computer nerd, etc. :)


“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
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