Specific Rock and Mineral Books

Specific Rock and Mineral Books

Acquiring books on specific rocks and minerals that you’re interested in learning more about can be quite the eye-opening experience for the amateur rockhound, such as myself. It provides insight into the complexities of the subjects without generally getting too technical.

Some of these books are difficult to find and out of print, so you will need to try finding them at the library, eBay, and other used sellers. For more modern titles, I have included links to the books on Amazon.

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Title: Agates: Treasures of the Earth by Roger Pabian, Brian Jackson, Peter Tandy
ISBN: 978-1770856448
Review: This book provides a very well-rounded overview of the subject of Agates in a way that I haven’t seen done anywhere else. From the formation of agates to how they have been used throughout history, the book covers it all and would make an excellent addition to someone’s library or as a gift for someone who loves agates. It walks to the line of being technical but doesn’t cross it, which makes the material very digestible for the amateur collector.

Title: A Pictorial Guide to Metamorphic Rocks in the Field by Kurt Hollocher
ISBN: 978-1138418660
Review: This is such an incredible book on the subject! I have struggled with the identification of complex metamorphic rocks for a while now, but after reading through this book, I feel like it’s now a subject that I have a much better understanding of. The book has hundreds of high-quality photos and is written in a way that even the amateur can understand.

Title: Collecting Agates and Jaspers of North America by Patti Polk
ISBN: 978-1440237454
Review: If you have any interest whatsoever in agates and jasper and if you intend to do some traveling, then this is a good book to have. The author does an impressive job showcasing the material that can be found in most of the US states, as well as parts of Canada and Mexico. I like that the author didn’t use museum grade specimens for her examples, which seems rare in the world of rock books. Instead, she uses good, but still obtainable, rock samples. My only real criticism of the book is that the author lists a price/value of the specimens which was likely inaccurate, even at the time of printing, since the market value of rocks can change rapidly.

Title: Ellensburg Blue by John Prentiss Thomson
Review: This is a rather short 22-page account from Mr. Thomson when he first discovered blue agates in the Kittitas Valley in 1913 and when he later returned in 1956 and undertook that gathering of information for this small booklet. Being that it is very short also means that it is very cheap! $5 at the Kittitas County Museum will get you a copy, or you can buy it online now.

Title: Nephrite Jade of Washington and Associated Gem Rocks: Their Origin, Occurrence and Identification by Lanny Ream
ISBN: 978-1387791279
Review: This is a book I needed to read, and I think you will agree with me if you buy it. Going into this book, my understanding of the Nephrite Jade found in Western Washington was limited to say the least, but that’s not the case anymore. Because of this book, I feel ready for some rockhounding on the streams of Western Washington come summer. The book isn’t like a traditional rockhounding book in that it doesn’t give you an X mark’s the spot to dig at, but the author does mention some names of streams in the book. He covers all aspects of the subject, from what jade looks like in the rough to analyses of specimens using Raman spectroscopy. The only criticism I have of the book is that some of the layout isn’t that great with text wrapping around images that sometimes only has two or three words on a line, which makes it a little challenging to read at times. I would rather the images all be larger and the book maybe cost a little more to cover the additional costs, I think that would be really worth it. 

Title: The Many Faces of Montana Agate Collections By Tom Harmon
ISBN: 978-0970710321
Review: Although this book has some good educational information about the Montana Agates that can be found on the Yellowstone River, it’s more of a collection of photos from various collections to show just what can be found. It’s rather extensive as Tom has a remarkable collection of Montana Agates, as well he has access to some extensive collections that others have built over the decades. This may not be the most education book on the topic, but from the perspective of having prime examples to view, it is perfect for that with its 400+ color photos.

Title: The River Runs North: A Story of Montana Moss Agate by Tom Harmon
ISBN: 978-0970710307
Review: I unfortunately didn’t have this book before our first real trip to Montana to hunt for moss agates, but now that I have it, I really wish I got it sooner. This book by Tom Harmon is spectacular, it covers so many different aspects of the Montana moss agate story, from the geology to how you should inspect and cut your finds. It also covers the history of regional agate shops that started to pop up in the early 1900s. Overall all I would highly recommend this if you’re at all interested in hunting for moss agates, cutting them or intend to search for the allusive iris.

Title: Zeolites of the World by Rudy W. Tschernich
ISBN: 978-0945005070
Review: I never had the pleasure of meeting Rudy, but his words live on in this masterpiece. I don’t believe it to be an understatement to call this book his magnum opus because it’s absolutely astonishing. If you’re interested in the zeolite group of minerals, then this is a must-have book. The only downside here is the price. I purchased my copy on eBay for $75, and it’s a used library book, which was a good deal as it can sell for upwards of $200. I know this puts the book out-of-reach for many people, but not all is lost, as you can get a free PDF copy of it on mindat.

Title: Zeolites The Misunderstood Minerals by Vincent Vozza Jr. and Judith Vozza
Review: Reading this book has left me wondering why it really exists, since it seems rather half-baked. It has no ISBN or even a published date printed on it but based on the fact its typeface is that of a typewriter, it must have been written before 1980, and I would say its descriptions of the different minerals are basic and the photos lacking somewhat but if you are looking for a basic introduction to the world of zeolites I could see this having a value.

The Collector’s Guide Series and Schiffer Publishing

Although I will likely never have all the books in the Collector’s Guide Series of books by Schiffer Publishing, I would still like to recommend all of them, since the ones I do have are extremely well done. If the other ones are even half as good as the titles I own, a person would be pleased with them. They have a number of titles on fluorescent minerals and radioactive rocks, which look fantastic.

Title: The World of Fluorescent Minerals by Stuart Schneider (2006)
ISBN: 978-0764325441
Review: This was a great attempt on the behalf of the author to explain the world of fluorescent minerals in its entirety, and I think he did check off many of the boxes for someone new to the topic as he covers everything from UV lamps to different locations around the world. That said, a few things irritated me a little with this title, the size of the font is rather small and that can be difficult to read, he has some photos in here where he may have gone a little overboard with his image post-processing and the price guide is a bit silly to have since the value of rocks and minerals changes so quickly that before this book was even published the prices were likely not accurate anymore, and it doesn’t factor in the regional differences.

Title: Collecting Fluorescent Minerals by Stuart Schneider 2nd Edition (2011)
ISBN: ‎ 978-0764336195
Review: Five years after the publishing of The World of Fluorescent Minerals, Stuart Schneider published this second edition of it and in the doing so he fixed many of the issues found in the first edition, however he still included the price guide for the specimens. Personally, I see a value in both of them, but if you’re only looking to buy one, I would recommend this newer edition.

Title: A Collector’s Guide to the Granite Pegmatite by Vandall T. King
ISBN: 978-0764335785
Review: This book starts off by saying “This book is written for the person wanting to know about granite pegmatites in uncomplicated terms and is not intended for the specialist intending to know all the latest scientific models or theories” and it lives up to that claim. Before having this book, my understanding of the pegmatitic process and its associated minerals was extremely basic. This book does such a good job of laying it all out in a very accessible way.

Title: Collector’s Guide to Quartz and Other Silica Minerals by Robert J. Lauf
ISBN: 978-0764341618
Review: If you’re interested in silica minerals such as quartz, then you will love the book. The topic is big to tackle, far bigger than can be done in this book, but the author does an impressive job of hitting the highlights and showcasing the diversity of the group, which is far bigger than most people realize.

Title: Collector’s Guide to the Mica Group by Robert J. Lauf
ISBN: 978-0764330476
Review: The mica group consists of many more minerals than I realized when I first purchased this book. I think plenty of people, at least in the Pacific Northwest, refer to the thin muscovite as mica and leave it there, when in actuality the mica group contains 37 different minerals and this book touches on most of them.

Title: Collector’s Guide to the Zeolite Group by Robert J. Lauf
ISBN: 978-0764346750
Review: This is a great book with some excellent photos, but really if you already have the book Zeolites Of The World or even the PDF you might not need this book. It’s still rather good, as it has some really nice photos of the specimens being discussed in it.

Title: Introduction to Radioactive Minerals by Robert J. Lauf
ISBN: 978-0764329128
Review: Although this is an introductory book on the subject, I felt like it was a little over my head at times and I found myself re-reading sections to grasp the material. The author assumes you have basic knowledge of chemistry, crystallography and geology. I went into reading this with zero chemistry knowledge. Overall, I think the text was good, and I did learn a lot from reading it, but I think the photos were a bit meh, many of his photos are a little dark, a little blurry at times. I can tell that all his photos taken under the microscope were not focused stacked, which seems like a big oversight. I would still recommend this title if you are interested in learning more about radioactive minerals.

Title: Mineralogy of Uranium and Thorium by Robert J. Lauf
ISBN: 978-0764351136
Review: At times reading this book, some of the information was over my head and I found myself having to re-read sections and research online some of the subjects to full grasp it and even still some of it is a bit much. This is a good book for someone who is interested in radioactive minerals, and you have already read a book or two on the subject that are more beginner-friendly. The book contains plenty of color photos which are good, but they are often small and not the highest quality images, I can tell that some of them that were taken under a microscope or a with a macro lens were not focus stacked which leaves parts of the images blurry at times which is a shame.