Earthskills and Permaculture Immersion Reading List

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Throughout the Earthskills program you’ll be exposed to a broad spectrum of information and skills that support earth-based self sufficiency and a purposeful life. For most of human history, these skills have been taught, practiced, embraced and refined over the course of entire lifetimes, and throughout consecutive generations.

Think of this class as an opportunity to get a feel for many topics and to find your way toward those that most inspire and excite you. You can choose to deepen your learning by following these inspirations in between our class sessions. Practicing what you’ve done in class and exploring more through reading will root the learning, and greatly enhance your experience.

The following is an incomplete list of books that we’ve found helpful in our journeys toward self- sufficiency.

This list is divided into three sections:

  • First, the 4 required books. We’ll be assigning readings from these throughout the year.
  • Second, a list of 11 books that we highly recommend. We’ll be suggesting readings from these throughout the year.
  • Third, a list of books that we encourage you to check out. We aren’t suggesting that you buy all of these, but rather that you check them out, and see if any of them strike your fancy. Some of them, and others not on this list, can be found in the public library. The books that have stars next to them are the ones that we especially like.

Click here for the Earthskills and Permaculture Immersion non-book gear list

If you want to find these books locally, more power to you! If you want to buy them online, we participate in an associate program with, and when you click on the links below, we benefit. The money that we make from this program goes into a fund to help us continue to offer free information to everyone. 

Required Books

Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Eipel

Awesome book that breaks down botany into a graspable science. It will take you more than a day to read.  

The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach by Ben Falk

Currently my favorite permaculture book. Ben is very smart. The content is relatively relevant to the southern Appalachians, even though he lives in Vermont.

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook by Frank Tozer

If you are going to have one gardening book, I recommend this one.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

A book about developing yourself into one who dares greatly.  There are sections on shame, vulnerability, and much more. Changes most peoples’ lives.

Highly Recommended Books

Rodale’s Garden Answers: Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs

Awesome for troubleshooting in the garden.

Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier

Fabulous book with tons of tempting plants. Eric will be going over many of these species during his lecture on the subject, but I highly recommend having the book for reference.

The Carbon Farming Solution by Eric Toensmeier

As Eric says, “A global toolkit of perennial crops and regenerative agriculture practices for climate change mitigation and food security.”  We will have a class on the subject.

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands (volumes 1 and 2 ) by Brad Lancaster

Definitely the best sources I have found for rainwater harvesting (volume 1) and earthscaping for water retention (volume 2).  Amazing. Super thorough. Highly recommended if you ever want to catch water in cisterns or in tanks.

The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips

Phillips details everything you need to know to be successful at growing perennial fruits.  Highly recommended.

Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb

The book to use when identifying flowering plants in the field in this area.

If you purchase this book, read over pages x through xix in the introduction to begin.

The Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon

Really entertaining gardening book that goes deeply into soil science, and especially soil remineralization.  I love it.

Creating a Forest Garden by Martin Crawford

My very favorite applied Permaculture book. I especially recommend the chapter on guilds.

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Communication is a critical part of us being here together as a class and as people on the planet. This is a small, sweet, and intense book that lays out a very effective strategy that we utilize here a lot.

How to Grow Perennial Vegetables by Martin Crawford

An inspiring look into what the title indicates.  Very fun!

Nature and the Human Soul by Bill Plotkin

A guidebook to the stages of being human, and how to work on becoming a more mature one.

The Real Goods Independent Builder by Sam Clark

The book that can help you build a house, or something else. This is not a “natural building” book. Rather, it’s about building with wood and materials that we have access to here. Wood is the most abundant natural building material we have in the southern mountains.

Other Awesome Reads


Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery

Country Women by Jeanne Tetrault and Sherry Thomas

The Foxfire Series


Building Green by Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan

The Barefoot Architect: a handbook for green building by Johan van Lengen

Alternative House Building by Mike McClintock


Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman

Growing More Vegetables Than You Could Ever Imagine in Less Space Than You Thought Possible

by John Jeavons

The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe

Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden by Gilbert Wilson

The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for Home and Market Gardener by Eliot Coleman


The Illustrated Book of Trees by William Carey Grimm

Wildflower and Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachians by Timothy Spira

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants by “Wildman” Steve Brill

Botanica North America by Marjorie Harris

The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer

Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer

Tools and Such

Seasons of America’s Past by Eric Sloane

An Edge in the Kitchen by Chad Ward

The Ax Book: The Lore and Science of the Woodcutter by Dudley Cook

Butchering and Food Preservation

The River Cottage Cookbook by the Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall

Putting Food By by Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg and Beatrice Vaughan

Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

Pickled, Potted and Canned: The Story of Food Preserving by Sue Shephard

The Ethical Meat Handbook by Meredith Leigh

Animal Husbandry

Chicken Tractors by Andy Lee

Goat Husbandry by David Mackenzie

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery

Keeping a Family Cow by Joann S. Grohman

Primitive Skills

Primitive Living, Self Sufficiency, and Survival Skills by Thomas J. Eipel

Wildwood Wisdom by Ellsworth Jaeger

Buckskin: The Ancient Art of Braintanning by Steven Edholm and Tamara Wilder

Survival Skills of Native California by Paul Campbell


Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway

Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture by Sepp Holzer

One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka