He has a massive following, yet still is aware of and communicates with other survivalists at the grass roots level, including people you have probably read yourself such as The Other Ryan and Commander Zero.
Rawles is acutely aware of operational security, as he needs to be. As he himself has indicated, were he to publish his location he would have a carnival outside his gates in short order. Consequently he uses a number of practical measures to preserve his privacy. He seems to be a private person and somewhat reclusive.
Rawles is a frequent guest on television and radio, as well as podcasts. I am not aware of any appearances at big survival seminars or expos, though I could have missed it if he attended one. I think it would be somewhat out of character in his case.
Rawles writes both fiction and non fiction concerning the self sufficient lifestyle. Two books that have been very big success stories are How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, and Rawles on Retreats and Relocation.
Rawles on Retreats and Relocation is one of his earliest works. It's a practical guide for people who live in locations which they know puts them at dire risk in the event of a collapse. It's a how to manual for getting out.
The book addresses the concerns you have to take into consideration if you are moving out of Dodge before the big show. There's a lot more to relocating than just looking for a nice piece of land in a rural town, and this publication will take you through the process and help you insure you don't miss anything. Once you buy, it's too late to say " that's not going to work." I know from my own experience that you can get bitten many years down the road by the unexpected, but there's no reason to shoot yourself in the foot right off the bat. This book will help you avoid initial mistakes in relocating.
I don't have any statistics to prove it, but I would be willing to wager How to Survive The End of The World as We Know It is the most commonly purchased of J.W. Rawles' books. I bought a copy for every member of my extended family, including nephews and nieces. I also sent copies to old Marine Corps buddies, and I offered a copy to the local library but of course they turned their noses up at it. I am not well loved there because I have tried to tell them they need more practical books like this and fewer bodice rippers and yellow press penny dreadfuls. At least no one would go through this book and edit out all the curse words, because there aren't any.
That's because Rawles is a strong Christian. I don't want to say "fundamentalist" because that has come to mean something like the Taliban, but I have said, only half in jest, that he's close to being the American Taliban. Since I'm not religious, that's just something I accept as his right. If I find that mindset features prominently in his fiction works, I try to suppress any irritation it might cause me and get the benefit of his books. I'm not going to cut off my nose to spite my face.
Rawles does write fiction, and his books are wildly popular. When I read the first one, I was very impressed with how much actionable information was in it. His characters make plans, use equipment and supplies, and all of it is described in exact detail. If, for instance, you need a specific kind of equipment, Rawles will tell you the brand name, model and exact specifications of that type of equipment while describing it as part of the novel. The books are priceless resources for that feature alone.
One aspect of his books that I find fascinating is his habit of making the books take place in the same time frame, and frequently overlap. Instead of a chronologically ordered sequence following the same characters, he has different characters, all interrelated, who have distinct stories to tell. These stories eventually intertwine and you get a mosaic of the collapse all over, not just in one location. It takes a little getting used to that scheme but I have enjoyed it and I think it adds to the depth of the individual books.
Patriots is the first book in the series, published in 2009. The original novel has been updated and revised, so if you order it used be sure you get the latest edition.
Survivors was published in 2011.
Founders was published in 2012.
Expatriates just came out recently and is the fourth book in the series.
I'm reading Expatriates now and so far, I've liked it. There's no question that Rawles' is producing a smoother, more flowing story line than was to be found in his first book . It's a little difficult at first to keep up with the different characters but as you read on it becomes less of an issue. If you are not a religious person, then I'll give you the same advice I give myself. Remember, a lot of people in the Self Sufficiency Movement are deeply religious. These stories are told from that point of view. The people in the book might not act like you would, or think like you would, but they have plenty of real life counterparts who would. Don't let the religious aspects of the books be such a distraction that they cause you to miss out on the enjoyment and opportunity to learn that this series offers.
For anyone interested in a more detailed account of the author, I've put the link to the wiki entry. It seems to be fairly accurate and unbiased.