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Recent Books 

Turtles of the World: A Guide to Every Family by Jeffrey E. Lovich and Whit Gibbons; Princeton University Press; 2021; hardcover; 243 pp.

Biology and Conservation of North American Tortoises edited by David C. Rostal, Earl D. McCoy, and Henry R. Mushinsky; Johns Hopkins University Press; 2014; hardcover; 190 pp. Order from:

Life in a Shell: a Physiologist's View of a Turtle by Donald C. Jackson; Harvard University Press; 2011; hardcover; 178 pp. Order from:

The Last Tortoise by Craig B. Stanford; Harvard University Press; 2010; hardcover; 210 pp. Order from

Turtles: the Animal Answer Guide by Whit Gibbons, Judy Greene and Cris Hagen; Johns Hopkins University Press; 2009; hardcover or softcover; 184 pp. Order from

Turtles: an Extraordinary Natural History 245 Million Years in the Making by Carl J. Franklin; Voyageur Press; 2007; hardcover or softcover; 160 pp. Order from


Turtles of the United States and Canada by Carl H. Ernst and Jeffrey E. Lovich, 2009; hardcover. Order from: Amazon

Turtles of the World by Carl H. Ernst and Roger W. Barbour; 1997.

Good layout makes it easy to find information on each species and to identify turtles and tortoises. We refer to this book often. (Bob & Judy Thomas)
Covering each turtle and tortoise specifically, this book also contains a picture of most them (although I should warn you that some of the pictures of rare species are of deceased animals). It covers the geographical region each species is found in, their natural habitat type, and their biology as observed by scientists in the wild. A great book for researching the natural requirements of exotic species. (Dianne Huwaldt)
Good reference book for turtle identification and location. Not intended as a day to day husbandry guide. (DEG)
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Handbook of Turtles: The Turtles of the United States, Canada, and Baja California by Archie Fairly Carr; 1995; paperback. This is the most recent reprint of this classic handbook. Order from:

The Turtles of Venezuela by Peter C. H. Pritchard and Pedro Trebbau; 1984; hardcover.
I think that this is not only the best book that Pritchard's ever written, but that it has to be one of the finest turtle books ever produced, and it is certainly a favorite of mine. Tons of real data, information, descriptions, anecdotes, photographs and even paintings. A must have for serious cheloniophiles! (MJC). Special Order from:

Natural History

The Book of Honu: Enjoying and Learning About Hawaii's Sea Turtles (a Latitude 20 Book) by Peter Bennett and Ursula Keuper-Bennett; University of Hawaii Press; 2008; paperback; 152 pp.

I love this beautifully illustrated, well-written book. The authors give a concise summary of every aspect of everyday living for Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles (Honu).  The book covers the Honu’s complete life cycle starting from migration to their mating and nesting beaches in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, to newly hatched turtles through adulthood. It poignantly describes the Honu’s nature, why we are touched by their presence, how to enjoy them from a distance in the “spirit of aloha,” as well as where to spot them in the water or basking on beaches in Hawaii.

Most interesting is the “Lost Years,” which describes the time from when hatchlings venture out to open sea, and the few that survive, miraculously appear years later at their foraging grounds on the main Hawaiian islands. Notwithstanding a plethora of threats, including the fibropapilloma virus, tiger sharks and man, it is encouraging learning that through research, observation and conservation efforts, their numbers are steadily increasing.

Thanks to the Bennetts, I now have a greater understanding of the Honu’s struggle for survival and am left with a sense of hope and happiness. Special thanks to Joanne Pettigrew, Educational Outreach Coordinator for Malama na Honu (Protect the Turtles), for introducing me to this captivating book. If you love turtles, you will love this book. (Anita De Leon). Order from

 Diamonds in the Marsh - A Natural History of the Diamondback Terrapin by Barbara Brennessel; University Press of New England; 2006; paperback, 236 pp. Order from

Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon by Henry Nicholls; 2006; hardcover. Order from:

The Alligator Snapping Turtle: Biology and Conservation by Peter C. H. Pritchard; 2006 reprint of the 1989 Edition; paperback. Order from:

Tales from the Thebaide: Reflections of a Turtleman by Peter C. H. Pritchard; 2007; hardcover.
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Pavilion Key: Isle of Buried Treasure by Greg Lewbart; 2000; hardcover. Order from:

Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins: Survivors in Armor by Ronald Orenstein, George R. Zug, Jeanne A. Mortimer, 2001; hardcover, 304 pp., Publisher: Firefly Books. Order from:

Confessions of a Turtle Wife: A Man, a Woman, and the Turtles That Threaten to Come between Them by Anita Salzberg; 2001; paperback, 213 pp., Publisher: Hats Off Books. Order from:

Fire in the Turtle House: The Green Sea Turtle and the Fate of the Ocean by Osha Gray Davidson, 2001; paperback. Order from:

North American Box Turtles: A Natural History by C. Kenneth Dodd, Jr.; 2001; paperback.
This is the first book length natural history of the twelve species and subspecies of the terrestrial box turtle.  It includes comprehensive information on the species' systematics, evolution, habitat use and activity patterns, behavior, courtship and reproduction, diet, population structure and disease. Each chapter discusses conservation applications as well as the need for long-term data, monitoring and viewing box turtles within a landscape context. Published by the University of Oklahoma Press.
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The Year of the Turtle: A Natural History by David M. Carroll; 1996; paperback.
The secret world of freshwater turtles emerges as artist/naturalist David Carroll presents the fascinating life history of the turtles that inhabit a New England wetland. Journal entries and drawings lead us through the yearly cycle of his observations which include a spotted turtle emerging from hibernation; a painted turtle laying her eggs; a snapping turtle hatchling digging its way out. Full color paintings, black-and-white drawings, and text with a lyrical, poetic quality make this an eminently enjoyable book to read. (DL). Order from:

The Windward Road: Adventures of a Naturalist on Remote Caribbean Shores by Archie Fairly Carr; 1979; paperback. Order from:

The Sea Turtle: So Excellent a Fishe by Archie Carr; 1986; paperback; 2011 reprint. Order from:

Life History and Ecology of the Slider Turtle by J. Whitfield Gibbons; 1993; paperback.
Order from: Available as a free PDF download from Savannah River Ecology Laboratory Herpetology Program

Care and Husbandry

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Turtles and Tortoises by Liz Palika; 1997; paperback.
Focusing on the care of pet turtles and tortoises this book covers out door versus indoor housing, and lighting, temperature, humidity, and food requirements. A great source for care tips. The book also gives a basic description of several species of turtles and tortoises and the specific care needs that each may require when kept as pets. I highly recommend this book to novice turtle owners. (Dianne Huwaldt) Order from:

The Box Turtle Manual by Roger J. Klingenberg; 2004; paperback.
Excellent guide on all aspects of box turtle care. Good pictures in color and black/white. A must for all box turtle owners. (DEG). Order from:

General Care and Maintenance of Popular Tortoises The Herpetocultural Library Series; by Philippe De Vosjoli; 1996; Paperback.
Great handbook on the commonly kept (imported) tortoises. Contains all aspects of husbandry, with a good section on selecting the right tortoise for you. Black and white photos only. (DEG). Order from:

Practical Encyclopedia of Keeping and Breeding Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles by A. C. Highfield; 1996; Paperback.
Very informative and practical guide to keeping tortoises and aquatic turtles. I highly recommend this useful and, in my hands, often utilized book. Good section on parasitic and bacterial diseases. Graphic pictures. (DEG). Order from:

Turtle Novels and Mystery Stories

Tortoise Soup by Jessica Speart; 1998; paperback.
In this mystery novel, U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent Rachel Porter trips over human bodies and strange happenings in her quest to find 350 desert tortoises that disappeared from a Nevada research station. Order from:

Humor and Children's Books

Thunder on The Desert by Jay B. Winderman; Pill Bug Press; 2005; paperback; 152 pp.Thunder on the Desert concerns a Desert Tortoise named Thunder who is misplaced by progress. The story tells of Thunder's adventures as he overcomes dangerous obstacles to survive. While reading the story you can identify with Thunder, and how it must be for Tortoises in the wild and what they must encounter on a daily basis. This book should be required reading for all school children. It would give them a look at how a Desert Tortoise lives, how he survives and the dangers he is up against. It is a great story for children and adults alike. Book two in the series - Thunder on the Reservation - is already out and I am looking forward to reading it. (Margaret Stewart). Order from: Pill Bug Press

Thunder on The Reservation by Jay B. Winderman, LuAnne E. Becker (Illustrator); Pill Bug Press; 2007; paperback; 147 pp. This story is about seeing the world through the eyes of a tortoise as he goes from adventure to adventure. The story is excellent it keeps you wanting to read on and on or at least it did me. Having been involved with Desert Tortoises myself I find that there is a lot of good information such as how some of the turtles died because of a careless person releasing a sick tortoise back into the desert. This makes the story very interesting even though it is geared towards a younger reader it held my interest from beginning to end. I can hardly wait for the next book to come out... If you happen to be a new turtle parent or are thinking of adopting one I highly recommend this book its easy reading and very enjoyable and it let you see from the turtles point of view how he must feel and it makes you think twice about just taking a turtle from its home or destroying its habitat. (Carmen Borden). Order from: Pill Bug Press

Thunder in The Backyard by Jay B. Winderman, LuAnne E. Becker (Illustrator); Pill Bug Press; 2008; paperback; 150 pp. The third book in the "Thunder" series. Order from: Pill Bug Press

Owen & Mzee: The True Story Of A Remarkable Friendship by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff and Dr. Paula Kahumbu, illustrated by Peter Greste; 2006; hardcover. The unusual friendship between an orphaned hippo (Owen) and a giant tortoise (Mzee) that developed in the wake of the 2004 Tsunami. Order from:

Minn of the Mississippi by Holling C. Holling; 1978; Hardcover / paperback.
Within moments of hatching in the headwaters of the Mississippi River, Minn, a female snapping turtle, loses a rear leg when a boy shoots her. She is rescued by a native American boy, who cares for her until she is well enough to go out on her own. She travels down the length of the river, avoiding turtle hunters, cruising over waterfalls and dams, laying eggs, and taking part in the life cycle of the river. The story follows Minn through her 25 year trip down to the Gulf of Mexico. Notes, pictures and maps in the margins of the text give details of the geography of the Mississippi: its animals, plants, cities, dams, bridges. The story is told from the turtle's point-of-view and there are many charming full page color illustrations. Winner of a 1951 Newbery Book Award for children's literature, it is appropriate for middle school age readers. (DL). Order from:

Old Turtle by Douglas Wood; illustrated by Cheng-Khee Chee; 1991; hardcover.
Douglas Wood's Old Turtle is a fascinating story for children of all ages. I first ran across this book in a small shop in Austin, Texas and knew I had to buy it right away. It is a story of peace for the earth and of hope for the goodness of humankind. I strongly recommend this book to all people, especially turtle lovers. (Grisha Stewart). Order from:

Shelby by Cynthia Cooksey; 1995; paperback.
This 48 page book is a compilation of the popular cartoon series from CTTC's Tortuga Gazette detailing the life of a captive tortoise and its foibles. Although anthropomorphic and not meant as "serious" reading, the work is designed to enhance the general public's understanding of the desert tortoise and is a fun and enjoyable book. (MG). Contact your local CTTC Chapter to purchase.

Turtles by Anita Baskin-Salzberg and Allen Salzberg; 1996.
What usually comes to mind with the term, "a children's book about turtles" is a sentimental work depicting children as rightful guardians of those hypo-allergenic, slow-moving, quiet creatures known as turtles. The exceptions that come to mind are Holling Clancy Holling's 1951 classic, Minn of the Mississippi, the epic tale of the life of a snapping turtle from the time it first emerges from the nest. Both an English and German version of Yakkin the Swamp Turtle by Gundi and Gerald Kuchling (1995 Chelonia Enterprises, Subiaco, West Australia) are available, dealing with the hazardous first year of life for a juvenile western swamp tortoise Pseudemydura umbrina. I know of no English version of the beautifully illustrated Japanese work Ishigame (1977 Fukuinkan-Shoten, Tokyo) by Keiko Kanao. Lavishly adorned with lifelike color drawings, this slender, hardbound book illustrates the life cycle of the Japanese pond turtle Mauremys japonica to the accompaniment of a (presumably simple) text in large-letter Japanese script. The Australian work is heavier on text and boasts vibrant drawings by the senior author. These at times border on the abstract and seem to echo the Aboriginal, two-dimensional style. All three works are excellent for children capable of reading at or above the fifth grade level in their respective language. What they have in common is accurate drawings of the subject animals (somewhat stylized in the Australian work), a straightforward and informative text, and no photos.

Turtles is a timely makeover of the "turtles-are-for-kids" genre of American books, and is in the best tradition of the three works mentioned above. It is meant as a generalized presentation of the diversity of turtles inhabiting the globe as its rightful denizens. The targeted readership appears to be older children, from about sixth-grade reading proficiency and up. But no open-minded adult would dismiss the book as boring or childish. This is a no-nonsense book full of accurate information, in which possibly unfamiliar words such as ectotherm are first presented in italics. This presentation facilitates reference to the glossary on pp. 56-57. Metric equivalents are provided parenthetically throughout, in thoughtful testimony to the stubbornness of the United States not to relinquish its adherence to antiquated standards of measure. The anatomy, physiology, and some specific adaptations of chelonians are introduced succinctly, as well as a clarification of the semantic confusion over the terms turtle, tortoise, terrapin in a table on p.19. Also presented in tabular format are common North American freshwater species, an overview of seven tortoise species and of all seven marine turtles, and thumbnail sketches of five particularly endangered turtle species. The book is divided into five short chapters, the last an eloquent plea for conservation. The final pages of the book consist f a glossary, names and addresses of turtle conservation organizations, a short list of references including two "advanced" works, and an index. The distinguishing, eye-catching feature of this book is its stunning, large color photographs, one on every other page except at chapter endings. These were all carefully selected to highlight one or more features of the animal(s) shown, and all were taken in natural or natural-appearing settings. There is not one photograph of a red-eared slider! Purists might object to two photos of overturned turtles, one to highlight the bridge, the other to illustrate a box turtle's hinge, but let's face it, the underside of a turtle often bears very distinctive characteristics, and children are likely to want to examine this portion of a turtle's anatomy. The title page, table of contents, and each chapter heading bear the reproduction of a nineteenth century lithograph of a recognizable turtle species. The turtle on Chapter One (p. 7) is a bit tricky to identify for all you experts out there.

About the only faults, two, which I can find with this wonderful book include the use of the term "eastern bog turtle," with which I am unfamiliar. I am aware that some researchers have made a point that southern populations of the bog turtle ought to be treated as a distinct species in hopes of garnering more effective protection for them, but otherwise the justification of "eastern" is lost on me. Under the heading "Unusual Facts" in the tortoise table on p.39, the authors state that Hermann's tortoise "Usually forages for food late at night." This is news to me, having spent considerable daylight hours in the Balkan Peninsula observing these tortoises foraging mostly under sunny skies, and likely to be inactive well before overnight low ambient temperatures are reached. Nonetheless, these are very minor points which in no way detract from the appeal of this informative, attractive, and deceptively simple-appearing book. It deserves a place among the books you would want your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews to browse. And you would probably want a copy for yourself, if only for the magnificent photos of some seldom-seen species. (James R. Buskirk)

Cool book about real turtles. Specially written for children. (MJC). Order from:

Field Guides

The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles & Amphibians by John L. Behler, F. Wayne King; 1979; softcover. Very handy, pocket-size field guide with a plasticized cover that's just the ticket when you're trudging through swamps. It includes comparison photographs of all the commonly encountered U.S. reptiles and amphibians making it ideal for use on out of state trips by folks who aren't too hot at identifying specific turtles but would like to learn. (MJC). Order from:

A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America; Third Edition Expanded by Roger Conant and Joseph T. Collins; 1998; paperback. Buyers of this popular field guide should be aware that this is an EXPANDED version of the third edition rather than a new edition. The authors have made no additions to the turtle section and have omitted the newly described Escambia map turtle, Graptemys ernsti Lovich and McCoy 1992, and Pascagoula map turtle, G. gibbonsi Lovich and McCoy 1992, without comment. The extirpation of Kinosternon s. subrubrum from northern Indiana and G. caglei from the San Antonio River, and the range expansion of Trachemys scripta elegans in southern Michigan are ignored. No mention is made of the serious plight of Macroclemys temminckii, now hovering near extinction in Louisiana. Discrepancies in the distribution of Terrapene carolina persist from earlier editions. Published records for coastal Maine and New Hampshire are ignored; the range map correctly shows the Florida box turtle, T. c. bauri, extending into the extreme southeastern corner of Georgia yet the text gives the range as "Fla. peninsula and some of the Keys."

On the plus side, the format has been improved. Page numbers are easier to read. Color range maps, unfortunately rather small, are now conveniently placed by the corresponding species accounts. Stunning photographs augment the familiar illustrations and color plates. It is regrettable that the authors chose not to revise the turtle section in this latest version. (James R. Buskirk). Order from:

A Field Guide to Western Reptiles & Amphibians by Robert C. Stebbins; 2003; paperback. Order from:

Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region by James H. Harding; 1997; paperback. In association with J. Alan Holman, Jim Harding produced Michigan Turtles and Lizards: A Field Guide and Pocket Reference in 1990 followed two years later by a similar paperback volume on the amphibians of Michigan. The most recent work encompassing the herpetofauna of the entire Great Lakes region is a noteworthy solo achievement. This focus permits a better grasp of the relatively recent colonization by reptiles and amphibians of a vast area which lay under a thick mantle of ice until only ten to fifteen millennia ago.

Harding's preface describes the geological history of his selected region which embraces all but a smidgeon of the state of Michigan as well as portions of seven other Great Lakes states and much of southern Ontario, Canada. The preface also includes an introduction to the study of herpetology, the Linnean system of binomial nomenclature, a description and map of the natural plant communities of the Great Lakes basin, the role of herps in these ecosystems, and relations with man. Of particular importance within the latter topic are pleas for conservation by advocating observation rather than collection, and reassurance regarding the remote chance of snakebite by either species of the region's venomous snakes. On p. 6 there is a brief discussion of ongoing controversies in the definition of a species. At the end of the book, national and regional herpetological societies are listed along with state and provincial agencies responsible for the protection of species within their jurisdictions. Other useful information in the back of the book includes a glossary, an extensive bibliography, and an index.

Harding lists 32 amphibian and 40 reptilian species from the Great Lakes region, the latter including 12 kinds of turtles. Of these, two subspecies of the painted turtle, the Midland and Western, are listed separately on the Checklist (p. 11) but discussed as a single species in the text (pp. 210-215), as intergradation occurs over a broad area. The account of each species is accompanied by a shaded range map showing the Great Lakes basin highlighted against current political boundaries as well as the outlines of the Great Lakes. An excellent color photo is also included (in the accounts of the common snapping turtle, eastern box turtle, and wood turtle, there are two photos). None of these photos appeared in the more extensively illustrated 1990 work. Only one turtle species indigenous to the region, the bog turtle, is not native to Michigan and thus is new to readers familiar with the 1990 Harding and Holman field guide. Ironically, the bog turtle is perilously close to extinction in the westernmost portions of its range as the author emphasizes in his account (pp.190-194).

All accounts are readable and informative, and the expanded geographical focus enables the naturalist to better understand the unseen forces of prehistory, further gladdening the heart of any of us who happens to observe a turtle, of however common a species, in its natural environment. Many purchasers of this book who might otherwise have little interest in turtles, for example, might broaden their horizons as they search stream margins for frogs or snakes. Conversely, residents of or visitors to the Great Lakes states primarily interested in seeing turtles would have a convenient reference to facilitate the identification of others herps also seen or likely to be observed in the field. Harding's book is a job well done and represents an effort which others would do well to emulate. (James R. Buskirk). Order from:

Medical and Veterinary Texts

Reptile Medicine & Surgery by Douglas R. Mader, Geoff Stein (Illustrator); 2005; hardcover; 1264 pp. Order from:

Understanding Reptile Parasites by Roger Klingenberg; 2007; paperback. A very useful introductory guide to the parasites that can infect turtles and other reptiles, from the Herpetocultural Library. Order from:

Academic / Specialist

The Reproductive Biology of the Chelonia by Gerald Kuchling; 1999; hardback. This is the best book on any aspect of chelonian natural history I've ever read, with huge practical implications for conservation and husbandry. It is very dense yet readable, a rare thing in such an esoteric field. (William Espenshade III). Order from:

Proceedings: Conservation, Restoration, and Management of Tortoises and Turtles: An International Conference: 11-16 July 1993 by Jim Van Abbema (Editor), New York Turtle and Tortoise Society; 1998; paperback. A remarkable group of ecologists, conservationists, land managers, governmental officials, and policy makers representing 25 nations gathered in July 1993 at Purchase, New York to attend a conference devoted to the conservation, restoration, and management of tortoises and turtles.  This long awaited Symposium Proceedings includes 80 papers and summary reports (as well as abstracts of presented posters) representing the combined efforts of more than 130 authors and 35 reviewers. Peter C. H. Pritchard, author of the Encyclopedia of Turtles, says: "Together, the papers in this volume lay the groundwork for what one might call a theoretical basis for the science of chelonian conservation, an exercise that has never been attempted before." This is simply a must have book for any one seriously interested in turtles. Order from: | IF UNAVAILABLE TRY NYTTS 

Revised Checklist with Distribution Maps of the Turtles of the World by John B. Iverson; 1992; paperback. An important and essential work. (MJC). Order from:

Turtles: Perspectives and Research by Marion Harless and Henry Morlock, Eds.; 1989; hardback.
This is the 1989 reprint of the classic 1979 work that brought together contributions by researchers from areas as diverse as sensory perception in turtles to population dynamics. While it requires a grounding in basic science on the part of the reader to make the most of it, this valuable and unique reference book deserves a place on any cheloniophile's bookshelf. (MJC). Order from:

Galapagos Tortoises: Nomenclatural & Survival Status by Peter Charles Howard Pritchard, Anders G. Rhodin (Editor); 1996; hardcover / paperback. Order from:

Laboratory Anatomy of the Turtle by Laurence M. Ashley; 1962; paperback. If you've ever wanted to know what turtles look like on the inside but don't like looking at all those ghastly photographs you tend to find in veterinary text books then this book is for you. Illustrated throughout with finely executed line drawings, not a single drop of blood sullies the text. Although it has been out of print for years, it may be available on special order. (MJC). Order from:

Out of Print / Classics

Note: You may be able to order second-hand copies, but it may take some time.

Encyclopedia of Turtles by Peter C. H. Pritchard; 1980; hardcover.
The classic turtle book. Pritchard presents basic facts on the biology and natural history of the world's chelonians in a flowing, eminently readable style. This work was years ahead of its time when it was first published and has stayed up there with the best of them. I don't know any turtle person who doesn't own a copy! (MJC)

Very well written and easy to read. Lots of good information and pictures of turtles and tortoises. A great reference book. (Bob & Judy Thomas)

Comprehensive book on turtles geared to all levels from the hobbyist to the professional. Interesting pictures. Definitely the "bible" for turtle keepers. (DEG). Order from:

Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Turtles & Tortoises: Conservation & Captive Husbandry by Editors: K. R. Beaman, F. Caporaso, S. Mckeown, M. D. Graff, California Turtle and Tortoise Club; 1991; paperback.

In August 1990, California Turtle and Tortoise Club co-sponsored the First International Symposium on Turtles & Tortoises: Conservation and Captive Husbandry, which took place at Chapman University in Orange County, California. The four day conference, conceived and organized by CTTC members, was attended by over 300 turtle experts and hobbyists. This 171-page book includes a species index and features papers by some of the foremost experts in the field. (MJC) [Currently out of print.]

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