Nothing is quite as important in a crisis as good information. Books are not a substitute for experience, I would not want to butcher my first chicken with nothing but a book for guidance, but a good library is invaluable for every prepared home.
You should set up a home library in as organized a fashion as possible. You need dedicated space and an easy system so you can lay your hands on what you need without hesitation. Most homes have space for a 4 shelf bookcase which should be plenty for preparedness resources. I keep my books organized by topic.
1. You need at least one good general preparedness book. Naturally, I want you to buy mine but I have to admit that there are other good ones out there with different focuses from short term preparedness as in a weather emergency to books to prepare you for TEOTWAWKI. When I got interested in preparedness, I bought every book I could find on the subject. In retrospect, I should have borrowed them from my library and not mad a purchase until I better knew my needs.
2. You need gardening books that are appropriate for your situation. There is no point in buying books to guide you through greenhouse gardening when you don’t have a greenhouse or one that assumes you have three acres of land in Tennessee when you actually live in a NYC apartment. I would suggest you borrow books like these for inspiration. Maybe you will decide to give up the NYC apartment and head for a smallholding in the country but until then, if your resources are limited, put them into tangibles that work for you. Having said that, I spend money on books all the time.
3. You need a book or two on wild edibles. Again, a book is no substitute for a good mentor who knows foraging but you will want to own these.
4. Food preservation books are really important. At the very least, you want The Ball Blue Book but I would also suggest a book on dehydrating and one on fermentation.
6. General self-sufficient living books are a must-have. I love John Seymour’s books. They are so beautiful and give a lot of information on most subjects. My first book on self-sufficiency was Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living. My ratty copy is held together with duct tape. When I read that she had died, I wept. In my mind she was still a young mother with a pile of kids, selling books at county fairs. I could not believe she was in her seventies.
7. Storey’s Country Bulletins are dandy little 36 page booklets dedicated to one subject like growing raspberries or home-made cold remedies. They are inexpensive and perfect for beginners. There are so many to chose from. I have dozens and use them all the time.
8. I have lots of cookbooks. Make sure you have some that guide you through cooking with stored food and cooking from scratch. Cookin’ With Home Storage by Peggy Layton is a good book for this.
9. Everybody needs a couple of good references for first aid. Where There Is No Doctor and Where There Is No Dentist are inexpensive and could save your life.
I would also suggest some books that will work as teaching tools if your kids are out of school for a while.
I have a lot of books. I forage wild mushrooms so I have several good guides. I also save seeds and have books on that. I have dozens of gardening books and books dedicated to subjects like beekeeping and raising poultry. I do buy new books but I get a lot a library and church sales. Tag sales are terrific places to find books. If you tell your librarian what you are interested in, he or she will get them through interlibrary loan. I am part of a sustainability group and we started a lending library that allows us to trade and share books.