Reptiles are the unsung heroes of the natural world, in my humble opinion. They’re beautiful creatures that help regulate the world’s ecosystems, and many of them have truly unique superpowers, such as the ability to change colour, shed limbs to escape and regrow them later, and more.
However, when it comes to literature and reading, remarkably few authors, beyond the odd children’s writer, bother with tales about reptiles. When they do, it’s often keeping them as pets and how to care for them.
But there’s much more to reptiles than just the small selection that people commonly keep as pets, and in many cases the truth of their lives in the wild is stranger than any fiction ever will be.
That’s why I’ve put together this list of five awesome non-fiction books about reptiles so you can learn more about their incredible lives.
5. Snakemaster: Wildlife Adventures with the World’s Most Dangerous Reptiles: Austin Stevens is a world-renowned snake enthusiast who is to snakes what Steve Irwin was to crocodiles. He’s become a star thanks to his TV shows, and in his book he shares many exhilarating adventures and thrilling experiences working with dangerous snakes around the world. The book is very self-promotional and discusses the author’s life and work as much as it does the snakes that he works with, but it’s also insightful and many of the anecdotes are intriguing. The writer is clearly a snake expert and enthusiast who wants to share his knowledge on these fascinating creatures, as well as spend as much time as possible studying their behaviour and lives. If you love snakes and like a little thrill in your non-fiction reading, then this book has both. Many of the writer’s tales of working with some of the world’s most deadly snakes are breathtaking and scary in equal measure.
4.You’re Gonna’ Get Bit! Harrowing Tales of Herpetology: An impassioned tale of a love of reptiles, this is an engaging read that will make you want to step outside your comfort zone and start making all sorts of cold blooded friends. Author and reptile specialist Mark Ferdinand talks us through his love of everything from frogs to poisonous snakes and everything in between. His passion and love for nature comes through every page and makes the book a really amazing read. You won’t want to put the book down and will enjoy reading about everything from Ferdinand’s childhood getting his first reptilian pets to his job extracting and handling dangerous snakes. The book is both funny and enjoyable, making for an engaging combination of autobiography and information. You’ll learn, and laugh, a lot if you choose to read this intense book.
3. The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smugglers: I’ve already mentioned this incredible book in my list of non-fiction books about animals to read if you loved Tiger King, but it’s definitely worth adding to this list as well. Writer Bryan Christy investigates the global illegal trade in reptiles, and how this lucrative and deeply dangerous market damages the habitats and lives of a wide range of reptiles. The book showcases the damage that the underground trade in reptiles has, and how it is powered by greed and an insatiable desire for exotic pets by avid collectors. The main focus of the book is one specific reptile dealer, who illegally imported thousands of animals into America from around the world and who the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were trying to snare for many years to come. Christy chronicles the investigation and the impact that illegal reptile smuggling has on the pet industry and the lives of individual animals.
2. Secrets of Snakes: The Science beyond the Myths: One of the many things that makes reptiles so intriguing is that their lives are often so unknown to us. While most mammals have been extensively studied and behave in ways that we can understand, snakes and other reptiles have their own unique ways of being. Most reptiles don’t experience emotions the way that we do, which means that we cannot relate to their behaviour as we do with most domestic and many wild animals. Taking a humorous and relatable approach, biologist David Steen unpacks some of the biggest myths and questions that many people have about snakes and offers ways that we can understand them. This fascinating book is approachable and understandable, making it great for anyone who wants to find out more about snakes but doesn’t want to keep them as a pet. Steen has experience observing snakes in the wild as well as in captivity, so he shows us a peek behind the curtain at these previously unknown creatures. He discusses a variety of different types of snake and breaks down the myths that have often hampered our relationship with these diverse and truly unique creatures.
1. Dreaming in Turtle: A Journey Through the Passion, Profit, and Peril of Our Most Coveted Prehistoric Creatures: If you want to learn more about one of the animals that is most exploited and damaged by humans, then I would heartily recommend this amazing book. It takes the reader on a tour around the world to see how humans are exploiting turtles, which the author compares to canaries in a coal mine, and how this exploitation affects the ocean that turtles call home. Journalist and reptile enthusiast Peter Laufer walks the reader through the enduring popularity and symbolism that turtles embody and how this is completely at odds with the cavalier way that people treat them and make their lives miserable and their homes uninhabitable. This book is gripping and deeply disturbing at the same time, and it’s a unique read for those who want to learn more about our impact on the environment and the lives of the creatures tat live in it with us. Often, for people, it’s hard for people to connect with a cause, even one as important conservation and caring for the environment, without an individual cause or case study. Laufer uses the hardships of the humble turtle to make a bigger point about humanity and our disregard for the flora and fauna that came before us and will probably outlive humans.