Librarian’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Ladies & gentlemen, I grew up in a family that lived and breathed the Mormon edict to “be prepared!”  My three brothers are Eagle Scouts.  We had a shelter custom-built in our basement to store a year’s worth of food for seven.

Survival Kit Supplies

Yet it wasn’t until I went to grad school that one of my favorite professors finally put the fear of god in me.  “What are you all planning to eat during the next natural disaster?” she demanded to know as we covered the emergency preparedness segment of her Organizational Management syllabus.  “You sure can’t wait until after the disaster happens to get prepared.”  Then she told us to all get guns.

Literally since that day, my husband and I have been on our path to emergency preparedness.  If you’re interested in making your own kit, your friendly internet librarian in a bananasuit suggests checking out the Center for Disease Control (CDC), FEMA, and the Mormons, all who have great emergency preparedness resources.  There’s even an excellent US Army Survival Manual that’s been floating around on Reddit.  And my husband’s and my own personalized list is available here.  Any way you slice it, your survival kit should cover these seven essential categories:


3 day minimum supply of 1 purified gallon per day per person


3 day minimum supply of non-perishable high-energy food.  Longer term stores of rice, beans, freeze-dried fruits and veggies, seeds

first aid

bandages, antiseptic, antibiotics, ibuprofen, etc.


hand-crank radio / flashlight, camp-stove, matches, multi-tool, hatchet, utility knife, compass, whistle, generator, duct tape, etc. And sure, even a gun.

clothing / bedding / sanitation

sleeping bags, space blankets, toiletries, one change of clothes per person

important family documents

wills, deeds, insurance policies, birth / marriage / death certificates, photo identification, bank account numbers

special items

travel games, book of poems, very long novels (one per person)

Sawyer reading in LostBecause I’m a librarian, I have to give the generically named “Special Items” category a little extra love.  During the zombie apocalypse (or any survival scenario), you need to take care of your brain.  Remember Sawyer in Lost? It’s important to your mental and physical health to be able to bide your time by reading, playing, and socializing —  hence the novels, games and poems.  Even the US Army Survival Manual takes pains to point this out.  Because our kit is designed to be light and portable, we didn’t pack an entire library, but there a few key books that made the final cut:

AMA Handbook of First Aid American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid

We thought about adding the Physician’s Desk Reference, but on further reflection: waaay too long.  This handbook from the American Medical Association is also authoritative, but much more compact.  Perfect!

Tao Te Ching Tao Te Ching

We both really like this book, and it’s very slim and lightweight, so it seemed like a perfect choice to add to our kit.  For those times we want to read something a little more contemplative & centering.

Neuromancer Neuromancer

My husband’s all-time favorite book.

Brothers Karamazov

To hit you with two Lost references in one post — I feel like Brother’s Karamazov will be my Our Mutual Friend.  Remember?  The one Dickens book Desmond is saving to be the last thing he ever reads.  I still haven’t read Brothers K, and I’m not waiting for any particular reason — but now that it’s my pick for the apocalypse kit… who knows!  We just might be asking for a disaster.

So, what are you planning to read during the zombie apocalypse?  As my grad school professor would agree, you might not want to wait till the zombies come knocking to figure it out.


5 thoughts on “Librarian’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

  1. I have been trying to finish East of Eden for several months. I also have a few classics on my Kindle. Battery life with no wifi is 30 days so I should be able to finish a few. But I have small children requiring entertainment so I doubt I have much more time to read during the zombie apocalypse.

    Will there be power?

      • I can’t lie, I had to see if that hand-crank was a real thing because it had never crossed my mind that something like that would exist. It does and I think it’s a crazy good idea.

        I think Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier might have to go into my survival kit. I’ve always wanted to read it but never have. I’d regret getting eaten by zombies with it still on my to-read list. Also, I’m a(n almost) shameless Stephen King fan so my favorite of his, IT, would have to be included.

  2. Since moving to Utah, I’ve become kind of obsessed with this kind of thing, in part because of the local culture, and the fact that as soon as I moved in, Emergency Preparedness catalogs appeared in my mailbox, and there’s a Costco nearby.

  3. Every time I prepare for catastrophe, I feel silly. Plus I don’t really have room for that sort of thing, with two adults living in a small London flat. That said, I do have several different currencies, spare bits of gold, and a Swiss army knife handy, just in case…

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