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Book Review: Recipes for Disaster

Recipes for Disaster: an Anarchist's Cookbook, was published a few months ago by the wonderful Crimethinc., which is based at least partially in nearby Olympia (but also in Atlanta and many other places). Here I will discuss my recent impressions of this newest book of theirs and my thoughts about its usefullness.

Recipes for Disaster: an Anarchist's Cookbook, is is the newest book by Crimethinc, a somewhat mysterious collective of activist publishers I've respected greatly ever since I read their "Days of War, Nights of Love" a few years ago - a book which I'm sure would have changed my life irrevocably if I'd been about a decade younger, and as it was still gave me tremendous energy and inspiration (although their "Evasion" books are a little less worthy of praise, but that's another story). Shortly thereafter I began hearing that they were working on this cookbook, and had been looking forward to it with mixed feelings ever since. The reason for my doubts was the title and the association it implied with the original Anarchist's Cookbook, published back in the 70s, which I procured long ago in my youth but had come to believe was actually a CIA cointelpro project, putting out sloppy and intentionally dangerous (to the reader and friends) information about bomb-making, sabotage, and the like. Some say this assertion isn't true, and is itself an attempt to discredit the book so that people won't try to use the information in it. In the end I don't know what to believe, but of course it points to the simple rule that one should never blindly follow any single information source. For example, anyone looking to make a pipebomb should probably double and triple check with multiple books and people until they really know what they're doing. Of course I myself have never had a need to make a pipe bomb, or even spike a tree, though I do have a certain curiosity about these things. (as Crimethinc says in their disclaimer at the beginning of the book... "really, officer!!")

Which brings us to this new anarchist's cookbook. The short review, for anyone who has read Days of War, Nights of Love, is this: Days of War is the theory, while Recipes for Disaster is the practice. As such, the new book is full of inspiring and visionary prose and wonderful graphic design, like in the previous tome, but arranged into more practical step-by-step directions, and interesting accounts of actual applications of the methods described.

I bought the book immediately as soon I saw it - that's how much high regard I hold for Crimethinc. But after I got it home and started really reading it I thought, wait a minute, I don't do black bloc actions, sabotage, or shoplifting. Why did I get this? However, I soon realized that, contrary to the original Anarchist's Cookbook, Recipes for Disaster is about much more than "fucking shit up." There are entries on affinity groups, dealing with the media, security culture, collectives, undermining opression, and all sorts of other very useful activities for any radical activist, things that aren't neccesarily oriented toward explicitly illegal activities.

In fact, even in the chapters like "Surviving a Felony Trial' and 'Sabotage', the authors are surprisingly even-handed and calmly wise. Cautionary words about being absolutely certain you are comfortable with the level of risk and involvement that you're participating in, and advice to fully examine the consequences of what you're planning "if everything went completely wrong," are liberally (oops, no pun intended) spread throughout the book. This book is no irrresponsible manifesto intent on riling up the kids with no regard for their safety. It's an extrememly measured, intelligent take on how to do direct action and other radical activism in smart way that will keep you in the game for the long haul, not burned out, in prison, or dead in a couple years. And advice along those lines is extremely important for the movement right now.

As others have commented on, the book's format (long, skinny, and thick) is awkward, and it's price ($12 or even more in some stores) is possibly prohibitive to many unless they go in on a copy with their collective or something. But the inside of the book is what's important, and I think everyone (whether you explicitly identify as an "anarchist" or not - another reason I still have a problem with the title) who is engaged somehow in the very real battle against opression and global capitalism can get something out of this book, from the nuts and bolts of molotov cocktail design to tips on starting an independent media center.

homepage: homepage: http://steev.hise.org

$12is a good price 12.Mar.2005 14:29


i agree that $12 may seem like a high amount but the book is 624 pages and crimethinc sells it for $12 a piece from their site which is POSTAGE PRICE included! so, thats a book plus roughly $2.24 media mail postage rate so in reality you are paying about 9 and change. keep inmind that the book costs a lot to print and crimethinc is making very little.

Plus u can always steal it.... 13.Mar.2005 07:50


Not that i would recommend that or anything....

We Don't Need No Stinkin Corporate Democracy 13.Mar.2005 12:22


We don't need no stinking bombs (or guns, for that matter). Human beings have no business making any bombs or guns, for any reason, what-so-ever. For self-defense, learn martial arts and the use of cutting weapons - this has always been considered the higher, more enlightened path. (Any damn fool can pull a trigger.) For hunting, a stainless steel, precision crossbow is the preferred instrument. Better yet, don't hunt, or kill animals at all. Rather work on soil restoration and conservation projects. Become a vegan - eat algae. Be truly radical!

thanks for the review, steev 13.Mar.2005 13:02


it is good to see a literary review, if that's what you want to call it, on the pdx imc site. and yours was very well written. i don't generally enjoy reading book reviews, but i enjoyed yours. we need more of this kind of content on pdx imc. thanks for taking the time to post it.

ENJOY 14.Mar.2005 12:19

s e

this is the MOST enjoyable , purpose oriented book i have read to date.
i also bought it on first sight.....at Laughing Horse of course.

im sold 15.Mar.2005 01:24


well, at least im sold on buying a copy and checking it out. thanks for bringing up the old "A.C.", a device that has caused ALOT of disrepute, distraction, and overall neutralization of anarchism as an informing voice to the movement. Indeed, its most devestating effect is making the word anarchist into a dirty word and associating it with bombs, when deep down, anarchism is most peoples' deepest desires.

Just like Tim Leary's famous line was meant to neutralize through distraction, with both chemicals and "paper dragons," attempts to define resistence are almost always directed at avoiding radical social change. Every image you have ever seen about what revolutionaries do or look like is a lie. The revolution will not be televised or written in your textbook because that would be giving people ideas. Whats new and revolutionary about bombs and guns? Try eating without depending on the existence of industrial agriculture. all the junk were making for our descendants, try thinking of ways to use it sustainably that are worthy of the damage done to create it. Waste not want not.

Oh yeah, im sure ol CrimethInc mentions this but: youre not supposed to get caught! getting caught (FOR ANYTHING! including MiPs) is neutralization. This includes getting caught for stupid rediculous shit the state tells you is illegal so that you want to do it, being well aware of the rediculousness of the prohibition and the absolute idiocy of the state. But then they catch you, eventually, because its a set up and you get stuck doing it over and over cause THE STATE HAS CONVINCED YOU THAT IS WHAT RESISTANCE AND REVOLUTION IS. So dont do stuff youre gonna get caught doing (I mean arrested and habituated). This is not to say one should never break laws or make habits. . .

Im being a windbag in an attempt to prepare (my) ourselves for the mechanics of good publications gone bad. Towards something fun (or real if you insist)

Aww... 15.Mar.2005 08:44


I thought there were gonna be actual recipes in there. Boohoo.


cookbook 17.Mar.2005 07:03

karl roenfanz ( rosey ) k_rosey48@hotmail.com

the people need to know methods and recipes. if you've studied the constitution and kept up on the present laws, you would see that the federal gov, state gov, city gov, do not allow the citizens to have the basic human rights. the schools teach that we follow the magna carta, declaration of independence, constitution, but don't teach what they mean or what is in them. geneva convention? its handy if our troops are abused but we don't have to follow it with other people.

good book 18.Mar.2005 16:28


I bought the book when it came out. It's very useful and enjoyable, I especially recommend it to young activists like myself who lack a lot of experience. Covers tons of stuff, including things you might not expect, like sex and mental health.

enjoy being stalked by the government 11.Jun.2005 10:13


you people are pretty stupid to buy this book. the government probably who buys this kind of stuff. in fact, i shouldn't even be contributing to this thread... just a friendly reminder that big brother is watching. not that i blame them, there are some pretty stupid and violent anarchists. (I personally think the whole idea is crock- people need government to avoid turning into totally psychopaths, but that's not the point. SOCIALISM ROCKS!) if you don't believe me about the people not being able to manage themselves thing, just observe the level of anger that can be stirred up over something as stupid as a childrens sports game. people are too dumb to know what's good for them.

My book review! 22.Jun.2005 01:56

Tony Blair anthonycharleslyndonblair@hotmail

I can't read!!!

10 Downing street

r6tu6uyr5iyjt 22.Jun.2005 02:08