Rock and Mineral Identification Books
Obtaining a book to help you identify some of the rocks in your collection is very likely the first step everyone takes when getting in to the hobby of rock identification. It’s important to point out that books are just the first step since visual observation can only take you so far and at some point you will need to start buying tools to help you gain additional information for the identification process.
When choosing which books to buy it’s always best to buy books for your local area, state, or regional when possible over the books that are meant to be more general since this will give you the best results.
Some of these books are hard 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: A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals by Frederick H. Pough
Review: This book is somewhat similar to the National Audubon Society book in that its layout leaves a lot to be desired. I also don’t really believe that it’s a great book for the beginner. I do think this is a good addition to the library for someone that is already really into rocks and minerals and has somewhat of a more technical understanding of the process of identification.
Title: Golden Guide – Rocks and Minerals by Herbert Zim and Paul Shaffer
Review: I don’t know how useful this book is, as it was published in 1957, but I love it and I think you will too if you pick up a copy. The illustrations in it are lovely to look at and in many ways an illustration of something can be better than a photo since it allows you to put more emphasis on the key characteristics that you want to show.
Title: Love Is in the Earth – Mineralogical Pictorial: Treasures of the Earth by Melody
Review: What a horrible name for an otherwise really good book. I saw this book as I was walking through my local used book store I thumbed through it and was impressed enough to buy it for $3.95 and I think its worth it if you can look post the odd title and new age hippie vibes of the book. Its not a very serious identification book but I think would be good for the visual learner as it is pretty much just a book of photos with specimen names and locality next to them. I really like that the specimens used are very common and not museum grade which you are unlikely to encounter. I don’t think this is something that can be used as your primary identification book but rather it should be used as a secondary sourse for images.
Title: Minerals of the World by Rudolf Duda
Review: This is a great book and, at least at the time of writing this, when I want to identify something this is the first book I reach for. It’s a large format textbook sized book, the layout is perfect, and it has all kinds of amazing charts in the back of the book to aid you in the identification process. The photos are large and in full color, and the information for the mineral is right next to photo so no flipping around for things. This is the book that the others should aspire to be like.
Title: Minerals of the World 2nd Edition by Walter Schumann
Review: This is a great little identification book that I picked up for the low price of $2.60 and its worth every penny. This is not a second edition of the other Minerals of the World by Rudolf Duda but it could be cause its that good. The layout in the book is good and focuses 500 more common minerals one might encounter.
Title: Mineral Identification: A Practical Guide for the Amateur Mineralogist by Donald B. Peck
Review: This book put aside all of the highly advanced mineral identification tools that now exist that are are out of reach for the common man and true gets back to the fundamentals of the identification hobby. If you really want to have deep understanding of mineral identification than this is an important book to have. In it the author beautifully breaks down all aspect of mineral identification in a way that anyone can grasp and provide easy to follow charts as well as chapter on different instruments you can build to aid you. Often when you when you see this book listed on place like Amazon it can be really pricey but go look for it on eBay as well as one the Mineralogical Record website to see if they have any in stock.
Title: Mineralogy For Amateurs by John Sinkankas
Review: Original published in 1964 and I believe reprinted with a few different covers in 1993 this book now holds an important place on my shelf as it bridged a gap for me. Modern mineralogy is highly dependent on expensive tools such as XRD, XRF, raman spectroscopy and electron microprobes, due to this we as amateur mineralogist need to look back in time before these expensive machines became so prevalent in mineralogy. This book really bridges the gap between the average rockhound and professional mineralogist. It covers all of the bases of mineralogy from basic chemistry and crystal growth to optical properties and associations of minerals for identification purposes. This is a must have book.
Title: National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals by National Audubon Society
Review: This is the book that I see suggested the most by people when the topic of rock and mineral identification books comes up but in my opinion this should be the last one on your list to buy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good book: the information is all very accurate, and the amount of color plates in it makes it something that is absolutely lovely to look though. The downside to this book is the layout that spreads the information out, which means you are flipping all around to get the information you want. Also many, if not all, of the photos in this book are of super high quality museum grade specimens, some of which are shot under a lot of magnification which ultimately doesn’t help much for someone self collecting materials.
Title: Rocks & Minerals of Washington and Oregon: A Field Guide to the Evergreen and Beaver States by Dan R. Lynch and Bob Lynch
Review: This is an excellent little publication for those living in Oregon and Washington. The specimens shown are from the area and not museum grade stuff which really aids in the identification process. It also provides some good advice on the locations where you could find each specimen listed to help you narrow it down which is something I think more books like this should attempt to do.
Title: Rocks, Minerals, and Geology of the Pacific Northwest by Leslie Moclock and Jacob Selander
Review: Although this book could be used for rock and mineral identification it’s not like most of the other books which are pretty much a directory of rock facts for you to search. Instead, this book is more about communicating to the reader the basics of our geology and the more commons rocks and minerals that you might be able to find here. I think this book would make an excellent gift.
Title: Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Rocks & Minerals by Martin Prinz, George Harlow and Joseph Peters
Review: The only reason I have this book is because someone online chastised me for not having it and they said it was the very best there is. I don’t agree with this but it is pretty good and it’s also very easy to find a used copy of this for under $10, which is a pretty good deal when you consider the cost of some of the other identification books new.
Title: Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals by Chris Pellant
Review: This book was one of my first rock and mineral identification books and my fondness for it hasn’t changed. The layout of the book is colorful and intuitive. It’s really something that you could hand to almost any person regardless of knowledge level and they could figure out how to use the book and look up rocks in it.
Title: The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Minerals & Rocks by Jiri Kourimsky and Randolph Lucas
Review: It would appear that this book has been reprinted a number of times with different paper jackets but this is what the hardback cover of my copy looks like from 1977. This book is very much so like many of the other general rock and mineral identification titles out there but it has its own slightly more European take on it and many of the photos are not of specimens found in America. Since this was printed in 1977 the photos are a mixture of color and black & white which is less than ideal by today’s standards.