Reptile Book Reviews

The captivating Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis)
The captivating Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis)

Reptile and amphibian books - Introduction

Reptile and amphibian books vary greatly in quality, with most being subpar. Many are written by well-meaning reptile hobbyists or academics (or even large corporations), but in the end, lead you down the wrong path. This page of reptile and amphibian book reviews will peel back the marketing and provide an honest look at which of these reptile books are worth purchasing, and which should be left on the proverbial shelf.

I have read each of the below reptile books cover to cover, and in this way can give a fair review. As far as qualifications, I have been keeping and breeding reptiles and amphibians since I was in third grade, so it's fairly simple for me to spot reptile books that just don't "get it."

The reptile books I review can be split into two primary groups: captive husbandry and entertainment. The captive husbandry books are focused on how to successfully raise and maintain reptiles and amphibians in captivity. The entertainment books are primarily about herping and other such adventures that involve reptiles and amphibians in the wild.

The notoriously irritable Tokay Gecko (Gecko gecko)
The notoriously irritable Tokay Gecko (Gecko gecko)

Reviews of Entertaining Reptile Books

The below reptile and amphibian book reviews are comprised of entertaining herping adventures and discussions of reptiles in the wild.

The Lizard King Book Review

This reptile book is without question the single most entertaining I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Not only is the subject matter absolutely riveting, but the writing style is really easy to digest.

The true story chronicles a father and son's (the Van Nostrands) reptile import and export company in Florida as they grow to become the single biggest business of their kind in the world. With millions upon millions in revenue each year, it still wasn't enough. What ensues is the wild adventures of a market that few even know exists: rare reptile and amphibian smuggling. Eventually, Anson Wong, the world's foremost illegal reptile smuggler is brought into the fray. I don't want to give away anything, so I'm not going to get into details, but suffice it to say you will find this book to be extremely entertaining if you're into reptiles and amphibians. It was undeniably eye-opening.

Deception, government stings, criminal activity, international bribing, rare reptiles and amphibians...this book has it all! It truly is one of those books that you hope never ends. At just a few dollars, I highly recommend purchasing a copy of The Lizard King (purchase link above).

Stalking the Plumed Serpent and Other Adventures in Herpetology
Stalking the Plumed Serpent and Other Adventures in Herpetology

Stalking the Plumed Serpent book review, Author: Bruce Means, Pages: 238

 

Stalking the Plumed Serpent Book Review

Stalking the Plumed Serpent is, quite simply, a book that colorfully describes the author's herping adventures around the world. Locales such as Tanzania, Australia, Madagascar, and the U.S. are stages for some reptile and amphibian encounters that will leave you green with envy.

Some of my favorites include when he gets bit by a gigantic Alligator snapping turtle (frankly, he asked for it), watching snakes and large treefrogs catch bats in mid-air at the base of a cave in Australia, as well as a strange-looking gecko he finds in Madagascar that can shed it's fish-like scales when caught.

The author's absolute passion for reptiles (especially snakes) and amphibians leaps off the pages in lucid detail. To give you an idea of how crazy this guy is for reptiles, he actually admits that he likes the smell of rattlesnake musk. Yes, you read that correctly. In all, anyone who enjoys keeping or observing reptiles and amphibians will enjoy Stalking the Plumed Serpent (purchase link above).

Some of my captive-bred Alpine newts (Ichthyosaura alpestris)
Some of my captive-bred Alpine newts (Ichthyosaura alpestris)

Reviews of Informative Reptile Books

The below reptile and amphibian book reviews are comprised of informative publications including captive husbandry, species descriptions and identification, as well as general understanding.

The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians Book Review

Yes, it has a long title, but this is the pinnacle of reptile and amphibian field guides. Period. Just think how smart you'll sound saying your favorite book is The National Audubon Society Field to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Sweet!

Over the course of my life (and several editions) I've spent hours upon hours perusing the 700+ pages of this pantheon of herptile information, learning where to find certain reptiles and amphibians, when they breed, habits, and a ton more.

Here's how it works: you find the lizard, snake, turtle, frog, toad, salamander, or newt within the first half of the book, which is comprised of beautiful, crisp close-up color photos. Then, once identified, you use the code below the picture to go to the back half of the book, which contains information on size, description, range, foods, habitats, and general species notes. It's fantastic.

If you ever go herping, would like to know what reptiles or amphibians live near you, or where to find certain species, your depriving yourself of a gold mine if you don't have this book. Its quality and scope are both simply unparalleled. You owe it to yourself to buy the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians (purchase link above). It's the gold standard.

Here's an actual example of a snake I identified by using the above Reptile and Amphibian Field Guide. It's a red-bellied snake I caught as a child in Minnesota in the late 1980's.
Here's an actual example of a snake I identified by using the above Reptile and Amphibian Field Guide. It's a red-bellied snake I caught as a child in Minnesota in the late 1980's.

Nile Monitors Book Review

Most of the published monitor lizard books are essentially garbage. Harsh words, perhaps, but nonetheless true. Rob Faust's book Nile Monitors is a much needed breath of fresh air. Not simply based on prior literature or academic studies, this book has real world value based on the authors extensive experiences. After all, results are what matters--not theories.

This gem of a book details, in plain english, what the author has learned over the decades keeping his favorite monitor of all, the infamous Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus). I say "infamous" because of their notoriously short fuses, and extremely large sizes. He goes over each aspect of husbandry, including feeding, cages, hygiene, taming, mistakes he's made, and a tremendous amount more. The beauty of this book is, it is essentially applicable to all other species of monitor, not just Niles.

It is often said that experience is the best teacher, but that she's also the most expensive. Well, save yourself some time and money by learning from the author's experiences raising and maintaining monitor lizards. If you are planning on buying a monitor, or have one and are looking to expand your knowledge of these amazing lizards, Nile Monitors (purchase link above) should be required reading. At just 96 pages with plenty of beautiful pictures, it's a quick read.

Freckled Monitor (Varanus tristis orientalis)
Freckled Monitor (Varanus tristis orientalis)

Understanding Reptile Parasites Book Review

While certainly not a pleasant subject, reptile and amphibian parasites do exist, and they're actually fairly common. In fact, most wild reptiles and amphibians are replete with parasites. This may seem like a counterintuitive concept, but they do usually live in harmony (a symbiotic relationship).

Sure there are severely debilitating types of parasites, but generally speaking, it is only when a reptile or amphibian is in otherwise poor health (ie. stressed, wild caught) that common parasites take over. Healthy reptiles can often support a large number of parasites, both internal and external, while still enjoying a long lifespan.

It's important, as a reptile or amphibian hobbyist, to understand the different types of parasites and the corresponding treatment options (if absolutely necessary). This book includes detailed information and pictures on common, as well as rare, types of parasites. Equipped with this book, you will not only be able to identify certain symptoms in your reptiles and amphibians, but also prevention. It's certainly worth the investment to purchase Understanding Reptile Parasites (purchase link above). They say prevention is worth a pound of cure--this 200-page book contains information on both.

My Leach's anole from Antigua (Anolis leachii) giving the camera a look.
My Leach's anole from Antigua (Anolis leachii) giving the camera a look.

The Herpetoculture of Leopard Geckos Book Review

Leopard geckos are not only excellent captive reptiles, but also fairly easy to breed. This makes them a very attractive species to reptile hobbyists around the world. While they aren't overly demanding as far as captive conditions are concerned, it is important if you want to maximize your success with them.

This book is written, in part, by Philippe de Vosjoli, one of the leading reptile experts in America. The important thing to remember is, he has had tremendous success breeding Leopard geckos--this is the type of person you want to learn from. Cage requirements, the best foods, breeding strategies, supplementation, and a considerable amount more are all contained within its 260 pages.

If you have a Leopard gecko or are considering trying your hand at breeding them, the few dollars it costs to purchase The Herpetoculture of Leopard Geckos (purchase link above) will pay for itself many times over with rich, proven content.

Ball Python forming a "ball," after its namesake.
Ball Python forming a "ball," after its namesake.

The Complete Ball Python Book Review

Ball pythons have become extraordinarily popular snakes amongst reptile hobbyists over the past several years, and justifiably so. Their generally gentle demeanors coupled with hardiness, a manageable size, and a willingness to breed have helped thrust ball pythons to the forefront of the modern day reptile hobby.

The Complete Ball Python literally covers every aspect of ball python husbandry and breeding...and then some. Written by someone who has had much success keeping and breeding these snakes, you can learn a tremendous amount from his experience. Sure, you may be able to give a ball python survivable conditions, but why not apply proven knowledge and maximize the success you both have?

It can be tricky to get ball pythons eating after they hatch, but this book gives you the solution. This is just one example of the type of helpful and applicable information found within this book. Feeding, caging, humidity, heat, interaction, helpful pictures, breeding...it's all here.

There is so much diversity within ball pythons, wouldn't you like to know more about how to produce amazing morphs with striking colors and patterns? How to maximize healthy egg clutches? This book is worth its weight in gold.

If you're thinking about getting into the ball python craze, or possibly breeding them for profit, The Complete ball Python (purchase link above) is a must have. Even if you're just curious about ball pythons and would like to learn more about them, this is an excellent book.

Ball Pythons in Captivity Book Review

This is a consolidated version of The Complete Ball Python (above). If you'd like to get a taste for ball pythons, or just see what they're all about, this is a great starting point. It still has all the valuable husbandry information, as well as valuable breeding tips. After all, it's still over 100 pages in length.

You'll notice fewer pictures and less morph-specific guidance when compared to The Complete Ball Python, but the core information is still fully intact. Even if you're not going to enter the ball python fray, Ball Pythons in Captivity (purchase link above) has snake information that is applicable to many different species and is highly recommended for all snake hobbyists who would like to deepen their knowledge base.

The Complete Boa Constrictor Book Review

Written by someone who has repeatedly bred boa constrictors (this is a really important factor), The Complete Boa Constrictor is the creme de la creme of constrictor husbandry books. Period.

Its 280 pages provide expansive husbandry information on food items, caging requirements, native ranges, over 400 beautifully crisp photos, species notes, and everything in between. In addition, it provides proven breeding strategies in amazing detail, including an extensive explanation of morphs and the genetics involved in breeding for patterns and colors. This is fantastic because it explains what morphs come from what species, so you have a breeding road map of sorts. Lastly, you will be able to read about the different species and their respective requirements.

If you're a boa constrictor keeper, are curious about the species, or are considering breeding these amazing reptiles, you simply must own The Complete Boa Constrictor (purchase link above). It's worth every penny.

Here I am with some turtles for sale at a market in Beijing. I think they were baby sliders.
Here I am with some turtles for sale at a market in Beijing. I think they were baby sliders.

Boas in Captivity Book Review

This is an abridged version of the above "Bible" of boa constrictor husbandry and breeding, written by the same author. It still contains the caging, food, breeding, and species notes, but fewer pictures and less morph detail.

If you're unwilling or unable to spend the money to purchase The Complete Boa Constrictor, this is the book you need. At such a low price, anyone who owns or plans to own a boa constrictor should be required to read this book.

Keeping and Breeding Australian Pythons Book Review

Australian snakes are some of the most varied and fascinating in the world. For instance, did you know that Children's pythons are known to congregate near cave entrances, hang from ledges, and catch small bats in mid-air? Amazing, and something I'd like to see in person someday.

Keeping and Breeding Australian Pythons is considered the must have book in Australia, and it's now being made available to U.S. reptile hobbyists as well. This book is literally written by the most well known and accomplished Australian snake breeders, so the results are evident.

Included are detailed descriptions of caging requirements, breeding notes and instructions, snake habits and natural habitats and ranges, sexing, rearing young snakes, and even egg incubation. If you're interested in breeding, you'll find a gold mine of information including morphs, mutations, colors, and patterns--even a breeding calendar. Children's, Spotted, Green Tree, Black-headed, Carpet, and Woma pythons..they're all here.

Why not learn from the best? This isn't the cheapest book available, but then again, nothing good ever is. Buy a copy of Keeping and Breeding Australian Pythons (purchase link above) if you'd like to learn how to keep and breed these amazing reptiles.

Reptiles Magazine

While not a book per se, Reptiles magazine is the best of its kind--it's also pretty much the only one of its kind. The Vivarium (the first herpetoculturist magazine) ceased production long ago, and Reptiles magazine picked-up where they left off.

Stunning photographs, fantastic cover articles by experts in the reptile and amphibian field, Q&As, an excellent classified section...it's all here. My personal favorites are the articles.

If you're a reptile or amphibian hobbyist, at such a low price (approximately $1.25 per month), you really can't justify not having a subscription to Reptiles magazine (purchase link above).

Here's a quick quiz to determine which of the above reptile books you'll likely enjoy most:

Reptile and Amphibian Book Review Poll

What is your favorite type of reptile or amphibian book?

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Comments 3 comments

Gerrymander 5 years ago

Nice summary, thanks! Have you read The Last Tortoise?


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ReptileRevolution 5 years ago from California Author

I have, and I'll add a review of it soon!


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Shaddie 4 years ago from Washington state

What a great hub! I have read half of these books and they are ggrrrrreat.

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