This book is a perfect example of why I like being in a book club. I would not have picked this book out, myself. However, author Sam Sheridan provides not only an entertaining look the various skills and strains of “preppers,” but also covers the whole thing with an unexpected level of humanity and hope.
The cover and the subtitle, in my opinion, do the book a disservice. Sheridan doesn’t see himself as a lone wolf or an “alpha” or whatever guys who are way too into the Punisher see themselves as, but instead believes that humans are social creatures and that history shows that humans cooperate in survival situations. Further, the catalyst for writing this book was the birth of his son. The entire book is about Sheridan trying to understand what he would need to do to help his wife and child survive. Sheridan’s adventures take him all over North America – from the mountains of Colorado to igloos with the Inuit. He learns to tan hides, fight with knives, steal a car, subsist in the Arizona desert, set bones in the wilderness, and a whole lot more. He is as interested in the experts teaching him the skills as much as the skills, from the laid-back hippies to the ex-cons to the paranoid.
Recently I reviewed A.J. Jacobs’ The Puzzler, which is also about an amateur putting himself in the middle of niche experts in their field. Jacobs and Sheridan are very different kinds of guys in some ways – Jacobs looks like someone who would attend an international puzzle tournament. Sheridan was a merchant marine and an MMA fighter. However, both writers have an insatiable curiosity and a fondness for people a little outside of the average culture. I really like that about them and that’s one of the things that makes their books so fun.
Even if you never crack this book, think about Sheridan’s take on the mix of preparation and hope:
By keeping my preparation mostly in the arena of self-reliance and knowledge (as opposed to the “my fallout shelter has four-and-half-foot –thick walls” arena), I have only made my life better. I’ve enjoyed learned new skills for dealing with new scenarios – and the confidence that comes with it. But preparing for the end of the world is like being a parent – at some point, you have to let go. You can’t control everything, you can’t live in the bunker, you can’t refuse to ever let your daughter go on a date. At some point, when you’ve done your best, you have to get on with your life and trust the universe not %*$( you…With the supreme good luck of being alive comes a duty, a requirement, to understand. You have to be curious. You have to try.