Last updated 21 July 2008: updated several entries and the introduction, and added a section on Magazines.


The following is a list of books which deal with all lizards, or with a whole family (eg Varanidae). Books that deal with a group of or individual lizards are included under the appropriate sub-section (see Lizard Guide on the previous pages). General reptile books are dealt with under the appropriate section.

If you are starting with lizards for the first time, I would suggest purchasing one of the following: A-Z of Lizard Care by the Bartletts, The Lizard Keeper's Handbook by Philippe deVosjoli or Keeping and Breeding Lizards by Chris Mattison. If you are not sure whether you wish to keep lizards or not then one of the slim "Your First Lizard" booklets by Jerry Walls or Thomas Stewart (the latter probably being best for UK readers).


Lizards in Captivity, Richard H. Wynne, TFH.

This book is now rather out of date, but as a general guide to a comprehensive selection of lizards and their general requirements, it is not a bad book. It lists the families and their most representative species, and gives basic care notes on each one, including breeding. There are also chapters on housing, feeding and breeding. My main quibble with the author is that he does seem in places to underplay the difficulty in practice of keeping some of the lizards mentioned, eg the rarer agamas. Unlike a lot of TFH books, the pictures in this book are all relevant and very attractive, including a large number of colour plates. Not ideal as a first or main book if you are starting out, but if you can pick up a cheapish copy then it has some useful info.

Lizards of the World, Chris Mattison, Blandford.

This is one of a series of books entitled ".... of the World", eg Whales of the World, Snakes of the World. If the depth of this one is anything to go by, it is a pretty good series too. Mattison himself is a well-known British herpetological writer and naturalist and does the subject proud. After a series of chapters dealing with the biology of lizards and their natural history (behaviour, feeding, defence, etc), he does a chapter on keeping lizards in captivity before dealing with the lizard families one per chapter, finishing off with the amphisbaenians. Although not primarily written for the object of lizard husbandry, I found this book very useful and inspiring when I started out and I recommend it, particularly if you also get his other book (see below).

Keeping and Breeding Lizards, Chris Mattison, Blandford.

This book might almost be considered a companion volume to Lizards of the World, but obviously tackles it with reptile keepers in mind. The useful thing from a British point of view is that Mattison writes with the UK market (not to mention climate) in mind. His reservations about keeping monitors are perhaps a little harsh but certainly a welcome antidote to the previous lack of stress on the difficulties of these lizards. The chapters on different aspects of care are very comprehensive, and there is also an interesting chapter on outdoor vivaria for those lizards which are suitable (admittedly not many!).

The Lizard-Keeper's Handbook, Philippe de Vosjoli, Advanced Vivarium Systems.

Philippe de Vosjoli is another prolific herpetological writer, an expatriate Frenchman living in the USA. He has written quite a few in-depth guides on the care and husbandry of various reptiles, but here he applies himself to general lizard keeping, mainly with an eye to the insectivorous types (admittedly by far the most common if you include omnivores). De Vosjoli's book is if anything even more comprehensive than Mattison's, dealing with aspects such as cooling systems and surface-to-volume ratio. The sections on individual lizards themselves is correspondingly shorter, but as the author himself points out, it is up to you to go get the information from the books now available. I would find it hard to choose between Mattison's and de Vosjoli's manuals.

A-Z of Lizard Care, Bartlett & Bartlett, Barrons

Richard and Patricia Bartlett are commercial reptile breeders and regular writers of books in Barrons pet series. This is another good book, not just for beginners but also for experienced keepers, as it covers some of the lesser-known lizards such as Cunninghams Skinks. The general rules for lizard husbandry are dealt with in the opening chapters, and then the authors deal with lizards in chapters devoted to different habitats, eg woodland vivaria, desert vivaria, etc. Perhaps it's a bit of an artificial distinction but it works well as it allows them to enclose a good representative cross-section of animals. The book does not cover as many species as Wynne's, Mattisons or deVosjoli's, but gives a slightly different angle on them. In any event, the omissions tend to be the much rarer or less keepable species such as unusual agamids or very big monitors. The facts also seem more up to date than some other titles. Again, I would recommend it.

Lizards in the Terrarium, Harald Jes, Barron's Educational Series, 1987

An older and introductory book in the Barron's series that I believe has now been replaced or at least supplemented by Terrarium Animals by the same author. In fact the basic information and principles contained in the book seem fairly sound and includes good sections on breeding food animals, plants in the terrarium and health. My main quibble would probably be with some of the choices of lizard species: agamas such as Calotes and Hydrosaurus are not the easiest of reptiles to keep and in the latter case have fairly demanding requirements. Basilicus is also quite highly strung, while the two lacertids mentioned (Gallotia galloti and Podarcis pityuensis) are rarely if ever available and the latter is protected. The inclusion of the Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus) is also a questionable choice, and the information on the "Cape Monitor", which is described as V. exanthematicus) is almost certainly applicable to V. albigularis and if applied to the proper Savanna Monitor (V. exanthematicus) would be detrimental to its well-being. To be fair to the author, he does denote where a species is protected and does include optimum terrarium sizes, and the erroneous information on monitors was being repeated in virtually all books up until the mid-to-late nineties. If there is a more up-to-date version of this book then I would be interested to read it.

Your First Lizard, Jerry G Walls, TFH

Jerry Walls has also written a good number of herp books and articles, as well as being editor of Reptile Hobbyist magazine, a US publication. This is a short but useful and inexpensive little guide aimed at the person who is thinking about getting a lizard for the first time. Having given a brief overview of the basic requirements of lizards (re housing, food and water and heat and lighting), he then gives information on three levels of lizards - Level 1 (good for beginners), Level 2 (just a couple of drawbacks that could be a problem), Level 3 (to be avoided by beginners). Now you know where I got the idea from! It is also well illustrated with pictures of suitable pet lizards.If you are contemplating getting a lizard, this is well worth the couple of pounds you will pay. UK readers however may like to note the following book...

Your First Lizard, Thomas Stewart, Kingdom

Kingdom books is an imprint of TFH publications, and this little guide is based on the same format as the above but from a British slant. I have never come across Thomas Stewart before, but he writes on pretty much the same lines as Jerry Walls. Interestingly, though, the two writers often place the same lizards at different levels of captivity. Thus Stewart considers Green Anoles good first pets, while Walls relegates them to Level 3. Similarly Water Dragons and Green Iguanas are Level 2 lizards for Stewart, whereas they are both Level 3 for Walls. Conversely, Stewart considers monitors and tegus (perhaps with some justification) Level 3 animals, whereas Walls puts them at Level 2 with a short warning. The British edition was only printed a year after the reprint of the US edition (the latter in 1995), but fortunately includes the Bearded Dragons (the US edition didn't).

A Step-by-Step Book About Lizards, Ray Staszko, TFH

Ray Staszko is another author whose name I have never heard of apart from this book. This one is a bit thicker than the Your First Lizard guides, and again is one of a series from TFH. This book has both strengths and weaknesses. Let me concentrate on what I think are the two bad points first: crickets and heat rocks. First, crickets. Having taken a somewhat dismissive attitude towards crickets and other pet store staple insects, Staszko doesn't suggest anything to put in their place. In fact I have never met anyone who has spoken disparagingly of brown crickets as a dietary staple for most lizards. Secondly, hot rocks. The author says these are the only method he can really recommend, but in fact virtually every other writer I have read on the subject, either in print or on the Web, is extremely cautious about, if not opposed to, the use of hot rocks. Considering this book was published as late as 1990, there are really a few other bloopers in it regarding the keeping of some species, eg can you really feed Uromastyx dog food? On the plus side, Staszko writes humorously and is best when talking about the species he has kept. This is by far the best section, and the writer shows refreshing honesty in only listing those species which he has personally kept (still quite a few, and including most if not all of the major representative species). Overall, a book which needs to be approached with caution. There are in my opinion better books for beginners.

Lizards as a New Pet, John Coborn, TFH

Yet another entry-level book from TFH. John Coborn is an American living in Australia and has written a number of herpetological books on both reptiles and amphibians. While I have found one or two of his introductory books a bit simple, this is quite a good one and covers the basic needs of lizards followed by a representative cross-section of good first lizards. It is a bit thicker than the Your First Lizard books. Again, it is written mainly for the North American market.

Echsen [Lizards], 2 vols, Manfred Rogner, 1992

First the bad news: if you flunked German O-Level or GCSE at school, then you'd better find the English translation of this set if there is one. The good news is that if you can speak German, or at least know the meaning of words such as Fortpflanzung (breeding), then this is an excellent pair of books that cover each of the lizard families in some depth, including many genera that I have never seen mentioned before in anything other than encylopedia-sized reference volumes (eg the Bayavia genus of the Gecko family). Rogner does not cover every single species but does cover at least a representative one or more from (as far as I can see) every single genus, and gives the place and habitat of origin, size, description, and detailed care instructions, including preparations for breeding and incubation of any eggs. As if that weren't enough, Rogner adds the amphisbaenians, the crocodiles and the tuatara at the end of Volume II. Coupled with the colour photographs, this is a superb addition to any herpetological library. I will try to find out if there is an English edition.


Living Dragons, Rodney Steel, Blandford

A very comprehensive and well-illustrated guide to the entire family Varanidae, including the Helodermatidae (Gila monster and Mexican beaded lizard) and the obscure Borneo Earless Monitor, Lanthonotus. White covers the origins of the varanids and devotes an entire chapter to the Komodo Dragon before covering Asian, African and Australian monitors in turn by chapter, and then the helodermatids and Lanthanotus. There is also a fascinating chapter on the extinct relatives of the monitors, the mosasaurs who dominated the seas of the Cretaceous period. In his concluding chapter, Steel is quite upbeat about the future of the varanids. It should be pointed out that this book is quite technical in places, especially when dealing with aspects such as bone structure, and an interested layman might want to skip these parts or at least have a zoology reference handy.

Giant Lizards, Robert George Sprackland, TFH

This was once the weightiest herp book in my collection, a large-size hardback volume that normally sells for about £48 or so in this country. TFH boast in their ads that it is the only volume of its kind covering all the giant lizards (here describing all those of 3ft or more in length which look bulky), but this is a bit misleading as Barrons have published a book by the Bartletts covering monitors and tegus, not to mention Living Dragons (see above). Nevertheless it does aim to be comprehensive in its coverage, taking in the monitors, tegus, iguanas and helodermatids, finishing up with a few "marginal giants" (eg large chameleons, Lacertid lepida and the larger plated lizards) for good measure. One of the book's strengths is that it does give details of scaling and patterning for some of the subspecies of monitors, useful information not always available elsewhere. A minor grouch is that the husbandry section is fairly general and not as detailed as one might be led to believe by the advertising blurb. The photos are all full colour and often full double-page size, so this is quite an aesthetically appealing volume to own. If you can justify the price then it's a good one to have on display even if you don't own any "giants".

Geckos, Bartlett and Bartlett, Barrons

This was the first of the Barrons' pet books that I read, and the first of many books and articles by the authors. This book covers firstly the general aspects of gecko keeping and what not to do (ie don't overhandle them, especially the non-Eupblepharine species), and then subsequent chapters cover geckos by continent or by genus, eg the terrestrial or eyelid geckos. All the geckos really are covered here, even the tiny sphaerodactyline ones of the Pacific and the little-seen European species. If you are looking for coverage of one particular species then you might find one of the more specific guides more useful, but this is a good book if you are interested in keeping several species or simply want to find out more about this family of lizards.

Monitors, Tegus and Related Lizards, Bartlett and Bartlett, Barrons

Another one in Barrons series, this covers what essentially might be called the giant lizards, as there's even a page on the Komodo Dragon and the Borneo Earless Monitor, neither of which usually come up for sale. As in their book on geckos, the Bartletts cover most if not all aspects and individual species. Moreover, as the varanid and teiid families are considerably smaller than the geckos', this is quite a good book to buy if you just wish to consider obtaining one or two captives. They do stress the needs of these large reptiles, something that usually needs emphasising. Interestingly, Michael Balsai's book in the Herpetocultural Library series looks very similar, and I hope to review it here soon.

More books will be reviewed here as I come across them.


As one might expect in these days of hobby publications, there are magazines dedicated to reptile and amphibian keeping, although none in the English-speaking world dedicated solely to lizards. Although magazines have varied in quality in the past, most are reasonable and all try to be responsible in disseminating not only information but also a responsible outlook to pet keeping and conservation. The currently available ones are Reptile Care (UK), Reptiles (US) and Reptilia (European, with an English-language edition). Since most shops don't stock any of these, a subscription is probably the best way to regularly obtain a copy. I have never read Reptile Care but can vouch for the other two. Back issues of older and no longer extant magazines also often carry useful articles, although be aware that our knowledge of reptile husbandry is constantly evolving.

Back | Back to Lizards | Back to Reptiles| Back to Herpetology | Back to HomePage