Recommended Books

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the following books are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Turtle Conservancy or Behler Chelonian Center.

Turtles of the World

Franck Bonin, Bernard Devaux, and Alain Dupré

Translated by Peter C. H. Pritchard

From the familiar painted turtle basking on a log to the majestic long-lived giant tortoises, turtles are among the most fascinating animals on the planet. For many years Franck Bonin, Bernard Devaux, and Alain Dupré have traveled the world together to study turtles in their natural habitats. In this complete guide to the world’s nearly 300 species of turtles, the authors reveal intimate, little-known details of these intriguing reptiles in their native habitats: what they eat, where they live, how they behave, and when and where they lay their eggs.Originally written in French, the text has been translated by one of the world’s leading turtle experts, Peter C. H. Pritchard. The result is a beautifully written and illustrated book that belongs on the shelf of every library, public and private. Written for the millions of turtle lovers and nature enthusiasts who will find answers to their questions within its pages, this book is bound to become the standard reference for years to come.


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Handbook of Turtles

Archie Carr

Having spent years studying turtles in their native habitats, Archie Carr brought together a wealth of information in this celebrated volume. Organized in clear and concise fashion, written in an engaging and lively manner, and furnished with photographs, drawings, and maps, Handbook of Turtles gives a comprehensive summary of 79 species and subspecies of North American turtles.


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The Windward Road

Archie Carr

The Windward Road, published in 1956, made history. When Archie Carr began to rove the Caribbean to write about sea turtles, he saw that their numbers were dwindling. Out of this appeal to save them grew the first ventures in international sea turtle conservation and the establishment of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation.

In addition to sea turtle biology, Carr recorded his general impressions, producing a natural history sprinkled with colorful stories.


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The Lizard King

Bryan Christy

The Lizard King is the true story of crafty smugglers supplying rare animals to collectors and zoo curators worldwide; it is the story of an amazing multi-million dollar industry in genetically-designed snakes selling for $100,000; and it is a story of obsession.

…and not just the bad guys’. In researching this book, Christy was bitten between the eyes by a blood python, chased by a mother alligator, sprayed by a bird-eating tarantula, and ejaculated on by a Bengal tiger.


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Esio Trot

Roald Dahl

Mr Hoppy, a retired bachelor, harbours a secret passion for his neighbour, the lovely Mrs Silver. Unfortunately, she lavishes all her affection on another, Alfie, her pet tortoise. Mr Hoppy’s wildly ingenious plot to defeat his rival and win the love of his lady will delight and amaze, involving as it does a cryptic riddle and no fewer than a hundred and forty tortoises, large and small.


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Life in a Shell

Donald Jackson

Over 200 million years of existence, turtles have shared the planet with dinosaurs, witnessed the diversification of mammals and seen the spread of humans. Physiologist Donald Jackson conveys his love of the reptile in his book. He explains how its slow movements help it to survive winters under ice and describes how its shell functions as a home, armour and a buoyancy aid. By focusing on the physiology of this one familiar beast, he also reveals how scientific understanding evolves by building on the work of others.


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No Animals were Harmed

Peter Laufer

Investigative journalist Peter Laufer is back with his third book in a trilogy that explores the way we humans interact with animals. The attack of a trainer at Sea World by a killer whale in February 2010 is the catalyst for this examination of the controversial role animals have played in the human arenas of entertainment and sports.From the Romans throwing Christians to lions to cock-fighting in present-day California, from abusive Mexican circuses to the thrills of a Hungarian counterpart, from dog training to shooting strays in the Baghdad streets, Laufer looks at the ways people have used animals for their pleasure. The reader travels with Laufer as he encounters fascinating people and places, and as he ponders the ethical questions that arise from his quest.


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The Dangerous World of Butterflies

Peter Laufer

War weary after writing a book about Iraq and psychologically fatigued by a career of reporting bad and sad news, Peter Laufer jokingly said his next book would be about butterflies and flowers, simple analogies for peace and love. The result: an invitation to a butterfly preserve in Nicaragua where he soon discovered the behind-the-scenes world of collectors, criminals, and cops obsessed with one of nature’s most compelling miracles.


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Forbidden Creatures

Peter Laufer

On the heels of his acclaimed The Dangerous World of Butterflies, investigative journalist Peter Laufer is back to chronicle his worldwide quest to penetrate the underworld of international animal smuggling. In Forbidden Creatures, Laufer exposes the network of hunters, traders, breeders, and customers who constitute this nefarious business—which, estimated at $10 to $20 billion annually, competes with illegal drug and weapons trafficking in the money it earns criminals.

Laufer asks: What is being smuggled, from where and why? What is being done to stop the illegal trading and irresponsible breeding? Taking readers to exotic and often lawless locales, Laufer introduces brazen and dangerous traders and wealthy customers whose greed and mindless self-interest perpetuate what is now a crisis of survival for a growing number of wild species.


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Politics of Heroin

Alfred McCoy

The first book to prove CIA and U.S. government complicity in global drug trafficking, The Politics of Heroin includes meticulous documentation of dishonesty and dirty dealings at the highest levels from the Cold War until today. Maintaining a global perspective, this groundbreaking study details the mechanics of drug trafficking in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South and Central America. New chapters detail U.S. involvement in the narcotics trade in Afghanistan and Pakistan before and after the fall of the Taliban, and how U.S. drug policy in Central America and Colombia has increased the global supply of illicit drugs.


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Rafetus: The Curve of Extinction

Peter C. H. Pritchard

In this, Pritchard’s eleventh book, he tells the incredible story of the world’s rarest turtle, Rafetus swinhoei, a true giant of the chelonian world. This freshwater Loch Ness Monster, is represented by a single mystical giant living in Lake Hoan Kiem in downtown Hanoi, a juvenile in Dong Mo, perhaps a few specimens living in the shadows of deep lakes in nature, and a large adult pair who lived alone as zoo specimens for more than fifty years, separated by thousands of miles. By a miraculous feat of politics, ingenuity, and human labor, these two individuals were brought together for the purpose of saving the species. InRAFETUS: The Curve of Extinction, Dr. Pritchard presents a story of looming loss, but also of hope.


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Tales from the Thébaïde

Peter C. H. Pritchard

Dr. Peter Pritchard, Oxford scholar, conservationist, world traveler, and Renaissance man, is a multifaceted expert on turtles and tortoises. A cheloniological thread thus runs through his Tales from the Thebaide, as he expands the study of his favorite animals into commentaries upon the universe itself, and includes brilliant, erudite, and always humorous accounts of his adventures in many lands seeking further insight into the shelled reptiles. His preoccupation that important players in his life and in his field should not be forgotten led to inclusion of several in-depth obituaries, including one of Florida s own Archie Carr. His wild adventures looking for tortoises in the Galapagos Islands make up a major section of the book, as does his scholarly discourses on the taxonomic status of sea turtles. There is a long section on why he set up his personal Thebaide, the Chelonian Research Institute, and his delight in the zany, sometimes unbelievable players of the past who launched their own Cabinets of Curiosities. Pritchard s reflections encompass his love of life, and his hope that his readers will share his delight in people, science, culture, conservation, argument, scholarship, and (of course) turtles.


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Voyage of the Turtle

Carl Safina

Voyage of the Turtle is a global journey on oceans and coasts in pursuit of Earth’s last warm-blooded monster reptile. The Leatherback is the closest thing we have to a last-living dinosaur. It’s a turtle that can weigh over a ton.

Throughout our global explorations from tropical New Guinea jungle beaches to chilly waters off Newfoundland, we come face-to-face with animals, villagers, and researchers living and working at extremes. We meet poachers, fishermen, and native people who still worship the Leatherback Turtle.


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The Last Tortoise

Craig Stanford

Tortoises may be the first family of higher animals to become extinct in the coming decades. They are losing the survival race because of what distinguishes them, in particular their slow, steady pace of life and reproduction.

The Last Tortoise offers an introduction to these remarkable animals and the extraordinary adaptations that have allowed them to successfully populate a diverse range of habitats—from deserts to islands to tropical forests. The shields that protect their shoulders and ribs have helped them evade predators. They are also safeguarded by their extreme longevity and long period of fertility. Craig Stanford details how human predation has overcome these evolutionary advantages, extinguishing several species and threatening the remaining forty-five.


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4 Responses to “Recommended Books”
  1. Don’t forget “Song of the Dodo” by David Quaamen. An outstanding read and important book for the understanding islands and extinctions.
    Thanks for all your good work

  2. jg43 says:

    Hope that the artwork that Spring ’12 Parsons students illustrated based on the New Yorker article about Eric & The Turtle Conservancy make
    an appearance on your great blog! All best, Julie Gross Parsons Drawing Instructor, NYC

  3. Anonymous says:

    If I may also recommend Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500-1800, by Keith Thomas. It illustrates how people and animals lived/live together.

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