Practical Doomsday

Practical Doomsday

A User's Guide to the End of the World
by Michal Zalewski
January 2022, 250 pp.

Look Inside!

Practical Doomsday back coverPractical Doomsday pages 40-41

Download Chapter 4: OH NO, ZOMBIES!

As a leading security engineer, Michal Zalewski has spent his career methodically anticipating and planning for cyberattacks. In Practical Doomsday, Zalewski applies the same thoughtful, rational approach to preparing for disasters of all kinds. By sharing his research, advice, and a healthy dose of common sense, he’ll help you rest easy knowing you have a plan for the worst—even if the worst never comes.

The book outlines a level-headed model for evaluating risks, one that weighs the probability of scenarios against the cost of preparing for them. You’ll learn to apply that model to the whole spectrum of potential crises, from personal hardships like job loss or a kitchen fire, to large-scale natural disasters and industrial accidents, to recurring pop-culture fears like all-out nuclear war. You’ll then explore how basic lifestyle adjustments, such as maintaining a robust rainy-day fund, protecting yourself online, and fostering good relationships with your neighbors, can boost your readiness for a wide range of situations. You’ll also take a no-nonsense look at the supplies and equipment essential to surviving sudden catastrophes, like prolonged power outages or devastating storms, and examine the merits and legal implications of different self-defense strategies.

You’ll learn:

  • How to identify and meaningfully assess risks in your life, then develop strategies for managing them
  • Ways to build up and diversify a robust financial safety net—a key component of nearly all effective preparedness strategies
  • How to adapt your prep plans to a variety of situations, from shelter-in-place scenarios to evacuations by car or on foot
  • Sensible approaches to stockpiling food, water, and other essentials, along with recommendations on what supplies are actually worth having

Disasters happen, but they don’t have to dominate your life. Practical Doomsday will help you plan ahead, so you can stop worrying about what tomorrow may bring and start enjoying your life today.

Author Bio 

Michal Zalewski has been actively involved in disaster preparedness for more than a decade, including the publication of a popular 2015 guide titled Disaster Planning for Regular Folks. By day, he is an accomplished security researcher who has been working in information security since the late 1990s, helping companies map out and manage risk in the digital domain. He is the author of two classic security books, The Tangled Web and Silence on the Wire (both No Starch Press). He spent 11 years at Google building its product security program before joining Snap Inc as a VP of security & privacy engineering. Zalewski grew up in Poland under communist rule, lived through the fall of the Soviet Union, and moved to the US in 2001.

Table of contents 

Part I: Thinking About Risk
Chapter 1: A Method to the Madness
Chapter 2: The Specter of Humdrum Calamities
Chapter 3: Exploring Large-Scale Risks
Chapter 4: Oh No, Zombies!
Part II: The Prepared Lifestyle
Chapter 5: Mind Over Matter
Chapter 6: Building a Rainy-Day Fund
Chapter 7: Safeguarding Your Savings
Chapter 8: Engineering a Doomsday-Proof Career
Chapter 9: Avoiding Common Injuries
Chapter 10: Protecting Oneself in the Digital and Physical Realm
Chapter 11: Getting in Shape
Chapter 12: Building a Community
Chapter 13: Hatching a Plan
Part III: The Essentials
Chapter 14: The Discreet Charm of the Bulletproof Vest
Chapter 15: Water
Chapter 16: Nourishment
Chapter 17: Sanitation, Hygiene, and Health
Chapter 18: Fuel and Electricity
Chapter 19: Household and Vehicle Tools
Chapter 20: Evacuation Gear
Chapter 21: Protection Against Pollutants and Disease
Chapter 22: Emergency Communications
Chapter 23: Entertainment and More
Part IV: Active Self-Defense
Chapter 24: The Politics of Putting Up a Fight
Chapter 25: Standing Up for Your Belongings
Chapter 26: Fighting for your Life
Chapter 27: Understanding Firearms


"For years, Michal has been thinking about mitigation of catastrophe. You should put his pragmatic book on your shopping list as a guide to exploring for yourself. Be Prepared."
—Eric Grosse, former VP of Security & Privacy at Google

"Zalewski's book begins by examining risks in a very sane, voice-of-reason, manner. The end-of-the-world scenarios get downplayed immediately in favor of the actual things that kill or injure most people in first world countries--things like ladders and backyard swimming pools. He does consider larger scale risks but always in a thoughtful manner . . . I plan on keeping this book around as a reference, all-be-it an unusual one."
—Rik Farrow, USENIX

"In my own work, I define a state of security as the absence of unmitigable surprise, not no surprise but the absence of unmitigable surprise. If that makes you say, 'How exactly does that help?' then Michal's book is your answer."
—Dan Geer, Computer Security Analyst and Risk Management Specialist

"As an experienced emergency responder, I found the book filled with practical advice that had me nodding my head in enthusiastic agreement throughout . . . I’ve definitely adjusted my own preparations after reading it and highly recommend it to anyone - both those who consider themselves already prepared, and especially those who would like to be prepared without committing their life to an expensive hobby."
—Matt Linton, @0xMatt

"Practical Doomsday is very thoroughly researched. Mr. Zalewski does an excellent job of providing simple, practical advice to prepare for life's more common disruptions, such as job losses and day-long power outages. The best part? His advice, when applied toward more humdrum but fairly likely events, will also help readers prepare for less common, more catastrophic events."
—The Organic Prepper

"[Practical Doomsday] provided a way to focus a sense of helplessness into some immediate actions I can take to be more prepared for emergencies, without feeling unhinged."

"Definitely the best no-nonsense guide to adult life out there."
—Martín Obiols, @olemoudi

"A great book. Everyone should buy it."
—Dave Aitel, @daveaitel

"If you are looking for something different, try this."
—Haitham Alani, @Mroverflow

"[Practical Doomsday] helps readers plan ahead, so they can stop worrying about what tomorrow may bring and start enjoying life today. By sharing his research, advice, and a healthy dose of common sense, Zalewski helps readers rest easy knowing they have a plan for the worst – even if the worst never comes."

"By far the most entertaining and interesting book I've read about risk management, finance and disasters in general. I initially expected it to be practical ways of dealing with humorously crazy scenarios, but instead found realistic, actionable advice on practical doomsdays—small-scale and personal-level disasters which are actually far more likely to happen."
—Jamie, Advanced Reviewer

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