5 Best Books About Reptiles & Amphibians for Beginners & Experts Alike

Reptiles and amphibians are distant relatives with some similarities. And in zoology, the study of these two vertebrate classes is called herpetology.

Amphibians include frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians, whereas reptiles include turtles, tortoises, crocodilians, tuataras, snakes, and lizards.

Literature on these creatures can vary from complex, in-depth scientific tomes that share specialized research on one function of a specific reptile’s anatomy, to simplified field guides that help people learn where to find them in the wild.

Many books are for those that are interested in both reptiles and amphibians and this list is the best of them!

Below you will find some of the most well-received books on these animals.

Buyer’s Tip: These specific reptile & amphibian books are MOST popular with our readers. 

Book Recommendation #1: Herpetology: An Introductory Biology on Amphibians and Reptiles

This reference book is for budding science nerds or people who are studying a related field. It’s introductory and accessible to people who enjoy reading detailed information that ranges from evolution to behavioral ecology.

And as to why this book should be considered amongst the best reptile books? Well, it’s just as likely to be found in a veterinary school library as on the shelf of an experienced reptile enthusiast!

You see, the authors, Laurie J. Vitt, and Janalee P. Caldwell both have PhDs in herpetology and are professors in their fields. The most current edition of this book is the fourth edition. 

Only invest in Herpetology if you are capable of learning through detailed writing as this book is full of small print, charts and graphs, and statistical information.

However, the book is well laid out and easy to navigate so you can sift through and find exactly what you are looking for when you need it.

Buyer’s Tip: While the book is considered college level, reviewers say that it is also a great gift for youth who want to consume as much information about herpetology as possible. 

Book Recommendation #2: Hands-On Herpetology: Exploring Ecology and Conservation

Hands-On Herpetology: Exploring Ecology and Conservation - PB163X

The next recommendation on the best reptile books list is another science-based book on herpetology. However, unlike the book above, it’s geared toward youth and is used in schools, science centers, and with educational youth groups like 4H.

It still has a scientific approach with a focus on biology and conservation, but it also covers subjects like handling reptiles and amphibians and gives activities for readers to do.

The book has three authors who have backgrounds in ecology and sustainability so expect much of the subject matter to include how to protect and conserve amphibious and reptilian habitat.

Reviewers of the book comment on how detailed the book is and on the high quality of the photographs. However, some reviewers found the handling and care information too basic for experienced reptile and amphibian owners.

Nonetheless, this book is great to add into your collection if you’re relatively new to reptiles or herpetology!

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Book Recommendation #3: National Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: North America

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: North America (National Audubon Society Field Guides)

This book is a classic. The first thing you should know about it is that it isn’t perfect it’s more of a collector item. The original print was 1979 and one of the authors is since deceased. Some of the names and facts in the guide are outdated even in the newer editions.

Newer editions were not updated significantly, but the book still makes it onto this list because SO many readers have held onto it and treasured it for years. This guide is durable, vinyl coated, and meant to be used outdoors while exploring.

The National Audubon Society writes many field guides on all aspects of exploring nature including this one.

It is so beloved because it simplifies identifying reptiles and amphibians when out exploring. It has almost 700 photographs, which are organized so they can be found by the unidentified creatures shape, color, or markings.

Once identified, the reader will find a full description of the reptile or amphibian including where they are found in North America and a range map.

The most recent edition of this book is from 2000, but one of the best things about it is that it can be purchased for under $20 new and for a fraction of that used.

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Book Recommendation #4: Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America

Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Fourth Edition (Peterson Field Guides)

This field guide is newer than the previous one, with the most recent edition released in 2016. It has just over 100 photographs and 322 color distribution maps, but only covers Eastern and Central North America.

While not as all-encompassing as the National Audubon Society’s guide, this one is the current bestseller for field guides and is well-reviewed.

Buyer’s Tip: Need a guide to reptiles and amphibians in the West? Check out Peterson’s additional field guide for the Western portion. This guide has the addition of 122 newly established or identified species, which REALLY makes it stand out for people that don’t want to miss out on identifying or searching for a species in their travels!

However, critics of the newest edition say that some old, but still relevant, information was cut in order to save space in the book additionally some of the illustrations were reduced in size.

With that knowledge, it might be useful to compare the 3rd edition to this newer one before purchasing…

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Book Recommendation #5: Firefly Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians

Firefly Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians

The last book in our list is the most beautiful (fairest?) of them all. This book is an A to B encyclopedia with over 10,000 reptile species and over 7,000 amphibian species list.

It has 320 full-color illustrations and photographs, which lean toward the artistic side. The information in the listings includes population, maps, conservation, and environmental concerns.

This book pairs well with a compact field guide if you want to look up a species when you are in the field and then go back to your hotel for more in-depth information.

Although, it’s not a massive tome and could be packed in a backpack if you don’t mind the additional bulk!

The most current edition of this book is the third edition, which was published in 2015 and included an increase in both reptile and amphibious species.

Firefly Encyclopedia is loved largely for its visuals, but also for the fun facts tucked into the book, like why reptiles and amphibians are lumped together into the study of herpetology and where that word comes from (spoiler alert: it’s a Greek word that means “to creep”).

It’s comprehensive and hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t find it useful and engaging whether they are a specialist or novice in the world of creatures who creep.

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