John Seymours Books on Self-Sufficiency

Stefan Imhoff

My earliest memories of books are that I lie on my parents’ soft carpet on my stomach in the living room and read in the Atlas of World History or in the books of John Seymour. Who was John Seymour and why did his books remain so in my memory?

John Seymour

Geboren 1914 in England, kam er dann in der Schweiz auf ein Internat und begann später Agrarwissenschaften zu studieren. Er ging mit 20 Jahren nach Afrika, um dort als Farmer zu arbeiten. Nach seinem Dienst im Zweiten Weltkrieg in Nordafrika und Asien kehrte er nach England zurück und zog 1957 mit seiner Familie in eine alte abgelegene Farm und begann ausschließlich von selbstangebauten Erzeugnissen zu leben. Nach einem Umzug auf eine Farm in Wales schrieb er in den 70er Jahren seine weltbekannten Bücher Das große Buch vom Leben auf dem Lande und Selbstversorgung aus dem Garten.

Illustration of cereals
Illustration of cereals from one of John Seymour’s books

The Books

In his books, he writes comprehensible for laymen, enriched by beautiful, very detailed drawings and illustrations. Whether you only run a small garden or a large farm, his books describe very well what needs to be done to create a closed and healthy cycle.

In The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency he explains the food chain, soil types, the seasons, various types of gardens, addresses all kinds of fruits and vegetables, describes the keeping of animals, the cultivation and utilization of land, long-lastingness of food and a huge number of things. His second book The New Self-Sufficient Gardener goes into more detail and detailing the work with a garden.

Part of my Survival Kit

I sometimes joke that if the zombie apocalypse arrives or civilization collapsed for other reasons, I first get my Kukri, my bow with arrows and the books of John Seymour. Because all the knowledge that we use every day, be it programming, design, management, spreadsheets or any other activity of the modern age is then worth nothing. However, the knowledge in his books is almost timeless and will be up to date even in the distant future.

John Seymour wrote many more books during his life, such as for example, the highly commendable book The National Trust Book of Forgotten Household Crafts, which displays various arts well illustrated, such as woodcrafts, construction, workshop or chores, the tools used and the products they create.


Even if you live in the city at the moment or do not have a garden or a plot of land, it is always a pleasure to page through the books. Therefore, the books should not be missing in any good library.

John Seymour would have turned 100 last month. His books contain valuable knowledge about self-sufficiency and have been expanded over the years. So the current version of his bestseller The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency also information on wind energy and solar energy. And of course you also learn how beer is brewed or wine is pressed.