The 8 Best Books About Snakes Around the World

We’ve searched our libraries and found our favorite books about snakes, including a few regional guides. They all have gorgeous photos and descriptions of where you can find a given species. Our favorite overall is the first book, Snake: The Essential Visual Guide.

Snakes have a bad reputation in many parts of the world. Something about their legless slithering is more than a little creepy if you’re not into reptiles. Then, there’s the fact that there are some truly dangerous snakes. However, they’re also an endless fascination to those who love these cold-blooded rodent-eaters.

There are about 4,000 species of snakes worldwide, spanning over 30 families in the suborder Serpentes. The number consistently changes as more species are discovered and as genetic research reveals new information.

  1. U.S. Guide to Venomous Snakes and Their Mimics
  2. U.S. Guide to Venomous Snakes and Their Mimics

    • Packed full of excellent color photographs of each species
    • Includes a color-coded map of the United States, making it easy to flip to the right section
    • Photos of every species of venomous snake in the country, making for easy identification

    Check Amazon

Snake: The Essential Visual Guide

Snake: The Essential Visual Guide by Christopher Mattison and Mary Ling is phenomenal and a terrific overall book on snakes. This book is dripping with facts, natural history, gorgeous photography, and artwork and includes information on over 3,000 species of snakes, with 60 in-depth snake profiles.

One of the advantages of Snake: The Essential Visual Guide is that it’s kid-friendly. Your 6-year-old may not be able to read all of the text. However, he or she may spend hours looking at the photos generously placed throughout the book.

It’s important to note that this is not a local guidebook. You may indeed be able to find information on the eastern indigo snake you think you spotted, but it’s organized by family (or type of snake), not region. Regardless, your nature-lover will probably love learning about the mysterious world of snakes with Snake: The Essential Visual Guide.

Best Overall

Snake: The Essential Visual Guide

The Book of Snakes: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species from Around the World

If you love snakes, this is a book you’ll want in your library. The Book of Snakes: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species by Mark O’Shea is overflowing with information and photos covering almost one-seventh of all known snake species worldwide.

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This is a fabulous desk reference for snake lovers; it’s organized alphabetically and has alphabetical indices for both species and common names. If there’s a complaint, it’s that there’s only one photo of each species, and “life-size” is a rather subjective term that depends upon the age and sometimes subspecies of the snake in question.

We love The Book of Snakes: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species for its wide variety of not-so-common species that you may never have heard of were it not for books like this.

Best Introductory Snake Book

The Book of Snakes: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species from around the World

Boas and Pythons of the World

While venomous snakes get in the news because of their danger level, we think boas and pythons are awesome. Snake expert Mark O’Shea agreed and gave us Boas and Pythons of the World, which includes information on over 100 species, including rare and endangered snakes.

We love the stunning photography in this snake book. When you combine it with O’Shea’s personal experiences with some of the world’s biggest snakes, you get more than just an encyclopedia of snakes: it’s an adventure.

Boas and Pythons of the World contains an introduction to snake biology, evolution, and anatomy and dispels myths and misconceptions with scientific facts (no, that snake probably can’t eat you). It’s organized by region, making it easy to find the snake you’re seeking.

Best Book on Constrictors

Boas and Pythons of the World

U.S. Guide to Venomous Snakes and Their Mimics

The question in online snake groups that follows the species identification is, “Is it dangerous/venomous?” After all, that’s what we really need to know — especially when we have children or pets that play in the yard where we spotted the snake. If you live in the United States, we have just the snake book for you.

Our pick for identifying venomous snakes in the United States is the U.S. Guide to Venomous Snakes and Their Mimics by Scott Shupe. The book is packed full of excellent color photographs of each species. The author also includes a few snakes with variances in their patterns or colors so that you can still identify the species.

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The U.S. Guide to Venomous Snakes is organized by region and includes a color-coded map of the United States, making it easy to flip to the right section. We love this book because it helps you narrow down species identification by location, general ecology, and natural history. It then gives further information on the snake’s danger level — including identifying nonvenomous Batesian mimics.

The guidebook includes photos of every species of venomous snake in the country, designed for easy identification. Even if you know the snakes, you’ll love being able to quickly reference them for your friends who may not be as knowledgeable.

Best Guidebook

U.S. Guide to Venomous Snakes and Their Mimics
U.S. Guide to Venomous Snakes and Their Mimics

  • Packed full of excellent color photographs of each species
  • Includes a color-coded map of the United States, making it easy to flip to the right section
  • Photos of every species of venomous snake in the country, making for easy identification

Check Amazon

Venomous Snakes of the World

All by themselves, snakes terrify people but add fangs and venom into the mix, and you’ve got a fearsome animal — the stuff of nightmares for some people. Yet, they’re mostly a misunderstood bunch. They’re not typically aggressive and would much rather avoid you than have a confrontation. None of the world’s snakes are out to get you, humans are not on their dietary menu, and a little knowledge goes a long way toward building respect for the “spicy noodles” of the world.

In Mark O’Shea’s Venomous Snakes of the world, readers can explore each region’s venomous snakes. Over 170 venomous snake species are profiled with a range map showing their distribution. We love that the author also includes his own experiences with the snakes, and his passion for the animals shines on every page of the book. This book contains some of the most common venomous snakes and many rarer species. It’s a great overview of worldwide venomous snakes for the snake-lover in your life.

Best on Dangerous Snakes

Venomous Snakes of the World

The Dangerous Snakes of Africa

Africa is home to several hundred snake species, and Dangerous Snakes of Africa by Stephen Spawls and Bill Branch covers all 136 of them. Also included are 70 species that are often confused with the venomous species.

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The Dangerous Snakes of Africa also covers the type of venom produced by each species and its effects on snakebite victims. We love the photos that (we think ought to be bigger) depict all of the snake species in the book and the thorough profile of each. Also included is first aid advice if you get bit and tips on how to avoid being bitten in the first place.

Best on African Snakes

The Dangerous Snakes of Africa

Snakes of the United States and Canada

The next snake book includes 131 species — all of the species known in the U.S. and Canadian at the publication date. It includes information about geographic variation, distribution, and even known fossils in North America.

While pricey, Snakes of the United States and Canada by Carl Ernst and Evelyn Ernst contains detailed profiles and excellent photos of the snakes. It helps you identify which snake you’re staring down on your front porch.

In an almost textbook-style thoroughness, this book sends you on a deep dive into the world of snakes. It includes detailed range maps, reproduction, and other behavioral traits. Our only complaint is that it hasn’t been updated for current information on snake families.

Best Comprehensive Book

Snakes of the United States and Canada by Carl H. Ernst, Evelyn M. Ernst(April 17, 2003) Hardcover

Snakes of the Eastern United States

The eastern United States has over 60 species of snakes — it’s an area of extreme biodiversity of reptiles and amphibians. This makes correct identification difficult yet vital.

Snakes of the Eastern United States by Whit Gibbons is our pick for the region’s general field guide on snakes. It covers the states east of the Mississippi, from Wisconsin to Mississippi eastward to the Atlantic coast. This book includes beautiful photos of all known snake species in the region, maps showing their geographic range, and complete profiles of each species. Each profile includes all the information a non-biologist needs to correctly identify a snake.

The 400+ pages in Snakes of the Eastern United States are filled with detailed information that anyone interested in snakes will love reading. It’s a bit big to take with you on a hike. However, it’s a great addition to your library.

Best Fieldguide

Snakes of the Eastern United States (Wormsloe Foundation Nature Books)

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