As a family that has abandoned the city and suburbs for the countryside, the very presence of a book like John Seymour's "The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live It" is enough to inspire fits of joy. A perfect companion to works like Hemenway's "Gaia's Garden" and Mollison's "Permaculture: A Designer's Manual," this book is a must for would-be urbanites fleeing the cities. Covering every topic relevant to self-sufficient, sustainable living and farm life, Seymour's classic provides a great way to start a different life. An update from the venerable mid-Seventies edition of the book, this 2002 release is a fine improvement.
The book has quite a bit going for it:
1. Beautifully made, illustrated and laid-out, this book is meant to last and be used readily and often. Typical Dorling Kindersley quality.
2. An eye-friendly typeface and bright, semi-gloss pages make this easy reading.
3. The shear breadth of the information here is outstanding. Packed into 306 letter-sized pages are the following chapters:
*The Meaning of Self-Sufficiency
*Food from the Garden
*Food from Animals
*Food from the Fields
*Food from the Wild
*In the Dairy
*In the Kitchen
*Brewing & Wine-making
*Energy & Waste
*Crafts & Skills
*Things You Need to Know
4. Good specifics on all the categories of info listed above. You should be able to get started on your way to being people of the soil. Need to know how to kill, gut, and prepare your cattle? It's in here. Got a hankering to get off the electrical grid altogether? Helpful windmill buying advice is here. Can't tell rye from barley? You will after reading this book.
5. A helpful list of contacts and companies that can get you started on your dream are included.
But there are issues amid all this helpful advice:
1. The book makes some references to US-specific qualifiers on info, but it is quintessentially British. Some of the very helpful info simply does not apply to American would-be farmers.
2. There's a lot of the "green" credo here. Some of it is a bit condescending to anyone who doesn't share the author's opinions of life outside the farm. How well the reader handles this is up to the reader.
3. While the book is certainly comprehensive, considering how complex a shift from urban to rural living can be, it could have gone even deeper. (I know that I still had questions.) The book probably could have been twice its length and would still be a bargain.
4. Much of the advice here comes from a lone methodology for approaching self-sufficiency. Despite the update, there are some more cutting edge permaculture methods that can be more satisfying than what we find in Seymour's book.
All in all, despite the cons, this is a fine primer on self-sufficiency. Anyone looking to escape the rat race could hardly do better than to pick up a copy of "The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It."