Obscure Book and Movie Rec­om­men­da­tions, as pro­vid­ed to me by an anony­mous read­er and con­trib­u­tor

Sur­vival blogs and web­sites are full of reviews about this or that book for prepa­ra­tion and/or out­door sur­vival skills. Or how a pop­u­lar movie or TV show exem­pli­fies this or that aspect of prepa­ra­tion and sur­vival. That is not the pur­pose of this arti­cle. I do not want to add yet one more review of a well known book, movie or TV show to the infi­nite col­lec­tion.

Rather, there are sev­er­al less­er known or not wide­ly received books and movies that I believe are good sources of infor­ma­tion and exam­ples for prep­pers. While no fic­tion book or movie can ever say for sure how things will be in an SHTF event, they do allow us to safe­ly explore many pos­si­bil­i­ties as well as bring to light issues that are bet­ter to deal with or at least dis­cuss now before an SHTF event. Some­times there are no answers but just being aware of the ques­tions helps us pre­pare.

The fol­low­ing is a list of some of these books and movies that I have read and seen over the years which didn’t seem to get a lot of pub­lic­i­ty or pos­i­tive review yet hold many pearls for prep­pers.

(WARNING! Some of the descrip­tion of these books and movies may be spoil­ers.)


“Juras­sic Park” by Michael Crich­ton – Though the sto­ry and author are by no means obscure, the book seems to have got­ten lost in all the visu­al mag­nif­i­cence of the movie (it was the first to use CGI for large ani­mal affects instead of stop-motion fig­ures).  In my opin­ion the book is infi­nite­ly bet­ter than the movie! You will be amazed how much of the book did not make it into the movie. And they changed many of the char­ac­ters too (ex: In the movie the lit­tle boy was some­what imma­ture and the girl was lev­el head­ed, but in the book it was the oth­er way around!). In terms of sur­vival the main take away from this book is: Pre­sume noth­ing! Right from the start it is clear the Park as a busi­ness and tourist ven­ture is doomed because of the assump­tions the builders made, both the struc­ture of the park and the cloned dinosaurs. Because of these assump­tions they failed to put in rather basic con­trols and con­tin­gen­cies on the belief that “it will nev­er hap­pen”. I grant that even in real life time, resources, and mon­ey are not infi­nite so you can’t account for all pos­si­ble con­tin­gen­cies. But this book out­lines how pre­sum­ing best-case rather than worse-case can be a dis­as­ter wait­ing to hap­pen. Through­out the book the con­cept of “Chaos The­o­ry” is high­light­ed and is an impor­tant take away point. The idea that small, often un-noticed/un­de­tectable flaws at the start of a process will quick­ly grow and mag­ni­fy such that by the time you real­ize there is a seri­ous prob­lem recov­ery may be too late. Also, that even at the same start­ing points, no two events ever result in the same con­clu­sion because of these small flaws in the process. For prep­pers I take this to mean to make easy assump­tions, pre­sume the worst; And, just because some­thing has hap­pened (or not hap­pened) before doesn’t mean it will be the same this time (or if last time it resolved itself doesn’t mean it will be eas­i­ly resolved this time).

“My Side Of The Moun­tain” by Jean Craig­head George – This is a mod­ern clas­sic sto­ry of a young teenag­er named Sam who leaves his home in New York City to live off the land in the Catskill Moun­tains of upstate New York. He has to deal with find­ing food and water, shel­ter, mak­ing fire, sur­viv­ing the win­ter alone, etc. Along the way be befriends an occa­sion­al hik­er, an old­er man, who comes to vis­it now and then and brings him a few sup­plies. He even cap­tures a Pere­grine Fal­con and trains it to hunt for him (fal­con­ry).  The book clear­ly describes his approach to iden­ti­fy­ing foods, make tools and liv­ing imple­ments, etc. Although def­i­nite­ly not a how-to book it does a good job of describ­ing his actions and I can find no tech­ni­cal fault with what it describes. Well worth read, it is also very child-friend­ly and a good way to teach young chil­dren about the out­doors as well as intro­duce them to some con­cepts of sur­vival. There is a movie ver­sion but not near­ly as good as the book and doesn’t go any­where near as sur­vival detailed. (Foot­note: I’ve been told the recent book sequels are ter­ri­ble but that’s usu­al­ly the case with sequels.)

“War­day” by White­ley Strieber and James Kunet­ka – This fic­tion­al sto­ry that takes place in the mid-80’s with two jour­nal­ists that trav­el the coun­try 5 years after a “lim­it­ed” nuclear war between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to doc­u­ment how the nation has changed. If you put aside some clas­sic cold war hyper­bole and anti-Rea­gan pol­i­tics it’s a pret­ty good the­sis on what the coun­try might look like after just a small nuclear attack. But the radi­a­tion and EMP aspects are cov­ered well. It’s inter­est­ing to explore what oth­er coun­tries in the world might come to our help post-attack. And a reminder that not every­one who comes to help is your friend. It also very much high­lights how local and region­al self inter­ests take prece­dence over nation­al inter­ests. In a broad­er sense, in a SHTF event, it can be extrap­o­lat­ed that peo­ple will turn inward and be less will­ing to help oth­ers (more a “every man for him­self” approach). Many peo­ple have com­ment­ed we may be there already in Amer­i­ca today even with­out a dis­as­ter or emer­gency.

“World War Z” by Max Brooks – No sur­vival book review list would be com­plete with­out at least one zom­bie book. And since this one is soon to be a movie (I hope it is good!) it’s worth men­tion­ing. This book is writ­ten in inter­view for­mat, tak­ing place sev­er­al years after the great world war against the zom­bies. In terms of sur­vival there are sev­er­al themes it strong­ly relates. Peo­ple as indi­vid­u­als have to rec­og­nize there is a grow­ing prob­lem and can’t count on offi­cial direc­tion or gov­ern­ment help  to get them through. In the book near­ly all the worlds’ gov­ern­ments are very slow to acknowl­edge the zom­bies, choos­ing to ignore reports even from their own top secret intel­li­gence ser­vices. And even when they do final accept the zom­bie pres­ence most see it as a mere local police issue, not a nation­al or inter­na­tion­al threat. Although it does describe some peo­ple final­ly tak­ing mat­ters into their own hands and orga­niz­ing or try­ing to evac­u­ate they have lit­tle idea where to go or what to bring with them (no warm clos­es for freez­ing con­di­tions for exam­ple). The book warns of false quick and easy solu­tions.  In a re-occur­ring sub-plot line a prof­i­teer gets a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny to make a vac­cine they claim pre­vents the zom­bie infec­tion. They engi­neer the gov­ern­ment to fast-track it’s approval, back doc­tors liable for its admin­is­tra­tion, and yet know it is total­ly inef­fec­tive. There are sev­er­al trou­bling accounts of police and even mil­i­tary aban­don­ing their posts for their own sur­vival. And one very dra­mat­ic sub-plot a group of extreme­ly wealthy Hol­ly­wood types, busi­ness peo­ple, and politi­cians build a fortress-like house in the Hamp­tons of Long Island to ride out the zom­bie inva­sion. But they pur­pose­ly make the house a “Big Broth­er” style facil­i­ty with TV and web cams every­where to show off their abode. It may be zom­bie impreg­nable but they nev­er real­ize that peo­ple scared for their own lives will try to get in! The les­son here: Loose lips sink ships! (Keep your sup­plies and retreat a close­ly guard­ed secret.) On the pos­i­tive side, it does make men­tion a lot of how hands-on skills become more valu­able than white-col­lar skills (ex: lawyers become chim­ney sweeps). It gives good exam­ples of the need for com­mu­ni­ties to come togeth­er for mutu­al ben­e­fits and pro­tec­tion. And it again shows the val­ue of trade/barter. One sub-plot is of a Chi­nese nuclear sub that has gone rouge and ends up part of a marine com­mu­ni­ty in the South Pacif­ic. They trade the elec­tric pow­er from their nuclear reac­tor for sup­plies. Over­all, while read­ing this book I had a very eerie sense that if you replaced “zom­bie” with “eco­nom­ic cri­sis” the rest would pret­ty much fall into place as well.


“Car­ri­ers” (2009) – This movie received  very lit­tle atten­tion. It didn’t play long in the­aters before going to DVD. Star­ring Chris Pine (the new Capt. Kirk) it’s about two broth­ers and their girl­friends dur­ing a dead­ly and high­ly con­ta­gious viral out­break that appar­ent­ly is wip­ing out the whole coun­try, if not the world. The group is trav­el­ing across the coun­try to a place on the Cal­i­for­nia coast they vis­it­ed as chil­dren and think they can find refuge at now (or at least enjoy their final days). They start out with a very strict set of “rules” for sur­viv­ing (such as “Avoid con­tact with the infect­ed at all costs!”) and a code of con­duct for the sit­u­a­tion. But as the movie pro­gress­es they have to deal with very hard issues that chal­lenge their views of moral­i­ty and ethics like try­ing to obtain more fuel, help­ing a father and infect­ed daugh­ter they meet, aban­don­ing their own infect­ed par­ents, etc. A good thinker, this movie forces you to con­tem­plate how you would respond to such an event. Plagues are not at all uncom­mon in human his­to­ry even with­out includ­ing a bio attack.

“The Hap­pen­ing” (2008) – While not an obscure movie (most of M. Night’s movies have been very good) but not all that well received by crit­ics (I liked it) this movie can be seen as an anal­o­gy for a WMD attack on urban cen­ters. Whether M. Night had that in mind or not I don’t know. It deals a lot with the issue of try­ing to get away from the affect­ed area. I list this movie for two rea­sons. First, there are sev­er­al points in the movie where I think the main char­ac­ters could have “dug in” and wait­ed out the event instead of still run­ning. For exam­ple, at one point they are in a small greasy-spoon din­er. They have food, water, pow­er, gas, fuel, san­i­ta­tion and shel­ter. Seems like a pret­ty good place to hun­ker down. But the argu­ment can also be made for keep­ing on the move and get­ting fur­ther away from the city (in this case Philadel­phia). It’s a dilem­ma we may all have to face: Get as far away as pos­si­ble, or, find a good loca­tion and try to ride it out. The sec­ond rea­son, it shows an exam­ple, albeit extreme and some­what irra­tional, of what might hap­pen if dur­ing an SHTF event peo­ple try to force their way into a home. I won’t say any more on that. It’s a scene in the movie that got a lot of crit­i­cism. If you like Shya­malan movies this is worth see­ing.

“The Day Of The Trif­fids” (1981) – Not to be con­fused with the 1963 movie (a cult clas­sic) this is actu­al­ly a BBC mini-series. The trif­fid mon­sters are a good anal­o­gy for a bio­log­i­cal or oth­er WMD attack. And the mass blind­ness the mete­or show­er cre­ates (though it is lat­er the­o­rized it wasn’t a mete­or but some­thing more sin­is­ter) is a good anal­o­gy for an SHTF event that leaves huge num­bers of the pop­u­la­tion unable to pro­vide even basics for them­selves. In this ver­sion of the sto­ry the mon­sters them­selves actu­al­ly play a rel­a­tive­ly minor part. Most of it deals with the peo­ple, both unaf­fect­ed sur­vivors and affect­ed, and how they come to grips with the real­i­ties of the new world. A large part of the sto­ry is about the some­times vio­lent strug­gle between those who believe the unaf­fect­ed sur­vivors have an duty and oblig­a­tion to care for and sup­port the affect­ed sur­vivors, and those who take the harsh but nec­es­sary point of view there are just too many affect­ed peo­ple and too few unaf­fect­ed peo­ple and resources to be of any long term good; Those who sur­vive unaf­fect­ed must make the hard deci­sion to aban­don the rest for their own sur­vival. Mixed in are encoun­ters with street gangs and rouge mil­i­tary. But it is this con­flict between those who are capa­ble of tak­ing care of them­selves and those who can­not con­tribute at all that makes this movie worth see­ing. Even with­out a dis­as­ter, as a social com­men­tary we are see­ing more and more of this (those who have are being told it’s their job to care for and pro­vide for those who don’t). At one point a group of ‘advo­cates’ for the affect­ed kid­naps a group of unaf­fect­ed sur­vivors and lit­er­al­ly chains them to groups of the affect­ed to force them to take care of them. It also deals with the harsh real­i­ty that peo­ple with knowl­edge, skills, and/or sup­plies will be more valu­able than those who have nei­ther. Teach­ing peo­ple skills is men­tioned sev­er­al times as an impor­tant func­tion, not only for their own sur­vival but to pass on knowl­edge that will oth­er­wise be lost over time but is vital to learn if a soci­ety is going to sur­vive as any­thing like being mod­ern. If you can get past some of the heavy British accents (hard for the Amer­i­can ear to under­stand at times) this movie is a good think­ing saga.

“The Zom­bie Diaries” (2006) – Yes, zom­bies once again play the role of proxy for ter­ror­ist attack/WMD attack/economic melt­down etc. The British movie is filmed in the first-per­son “Blair Witch” style which can make it dif­fi­cult to watch at times. But unlike the usu­al slash&eat zom­bie movies this is bet­ter, from the prep­per point of view. This move is filmed in the UK. As such it shows reac­tions to a WROL envi­ron­ment dif­fer­ent from how we cur­rent­ly in the U.S. would view it. For exam­ple, Eng­land has very strict gun con­trol laws. Rifles and shot guns are heav­i­ly con­trolled, so is the sale of ammu­ni­tion, and hand­guns for pri­vate cit­i­zens are non-exis­tent. While U.S. isn’t there (yet) it seems we are head­ing that way a lot faster late­ly (as of writ­ing this the state of Con­necti­cut is propos­ing leg­is­la­tion that all state res­i­dents must reg­is­ter their rifle and shot­guns with the CT Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safe­ty, and renew the reg­is­tra­tion every 5 years; This would apply to both new sales and cur­rent own­ers). In that light, the movie high­lights the prob­lems of self defense in a coun­try where legal firearms and ammu­ni­tion are sim­ply not there. What lit­tle the sur­vivors can find is low pow­er and slow shoot­ing (a lot of bolt action instead of semi-auto). There is the usu­al mass con­fu­sion, fail­ure or lack of will­ing­ness to grasp what is real­ly hap­pen­ing, and lack of sup­port or use­ful infor­ma­tion from offi­cial sources. But most impor­tant­ly this movie high­lights a threat all prep­pers should be aware of: Unchecked crim­i­nal activ­i­ty. I won’t go much into detail (not too much spoil­er) but I will say that two of the char­ac­ters are not who they appear to be (you can spot that eas­i­ly if you have a keen eye) and end up being just as much threat as the zom­bies. In a SHTF event lead­ing to WROL there will be many vio­lent crim­i­nals roam­ing around look­ing for hap­less vic­tims, know­ing there is no law enforce­ment com­ing to help. These crim­i­nals may pre­tend to be oth­er need­ed peo­ple to gain your trust until it’s too late. Be care­ful! (If you do watch the movie on DVD be sure to watch the bonus clips. There’s a seg­ment that adds to this as well.)  This movie is not for kids, both because of the zom­bies and the vio­lent crim­i­nal ele­ment theme.

“Diary Of The Dead” (2007) – Anoth­er George A. Romero zom­bie movie but infi­nite­ly bet­ter than his pri­or movie “Land of the Dead”. I’m not sure if this movie was inspired by the UK movie dis­cussed above or visa-ver­sa, or sim­ply two ideas at the same time. But either way it is a good movie. Also done in the first-per­son “Blair Witch” style the movie is about a group of col­lege film stu­dents shoot­ing a film for their term project when the zom­bies come. It doesn’t waste a lot of time in denial about the zom­bies. Soci­ety breaks down quick­ly and they do a pret­ty good job com­ing to grips with what is hap­pen­ing and adapt­ing to the needs of sur­vival (find­ing food, fuel, weapons, shel­ter, etc). Along the way they have to deal with a gang that is gath­er­ing up all sup­plies for their own pur­pos­es (I think the encounter would have been far more vio­lent in real­i­ty but it does give hope that some peo­ple would be help­ful, even if it’s more in their own self inter­ests). It also deals with the prob­lem of law enforce­ment act­ing on its own. In one scene the stu­dents are stopped at a Nation­al Guard road block. They think they have final­ly found help. Instead, the Guards­man loot their camper for food and water. But it does promi­nent­ly make note the Guards­men aren’t thugs as they specif­i­cal­ly didn’t take the guns which would have left them defense­less against the zom­bies. The movie also shows sev­er­al attempts by the gov­ern­ment to explain away ear­ly video of zom­bies as mere­ly peo­ple on drugs. Even as groups of zom­bies stager through the streets of major cities the “offi­cial” sto­ry is it’s just peo­ple on drugs. The movie cov­ers the sub­ject of a house with a “safe room”, a top­ic that has been dis­cussed at times by prep­pers (an under­ground bunker is sim­i­lar). While secure, it’s easy to get trapped inside. Fur­ther, the movie does pret­ty well show­ing how com­mu­ni­ca­tions, espe­cial­ly the inter­net, can play an impor­tant role dur­ing a dis­as­ter (if the gov­ern­ment doesn’t turn it off as recent events in Egypt have shown).



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