Last updated 5 August 2009.


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


Snakes, a complete pet owner's manual, R D and Patricia P Bartlett, Barrons.

The Bartletts have written a few herpetological books for the Barrons pet series, plus a good number of articles in herp magazines and publications. As might be expected, this book takes you through the general care of snakes and also touches on breeding, and then in turn deals with Boas and Pythons and Colubrine snakes, looking at the pros and cons of individual species and their ease or difficulty in captivity. Noticeable by their absence are all venomous snakes, ie the entire Elaphe and Viperidae families, a sensible omission in an entry-level book such as this. Unlike some TFH books for beginners, Barrons books normally include a lot of species information. I drew extensively on this book for writing these notes, and even if you've already had a lot to do with reptiles it's worth the £6 or so. The only slight drawback is that Bartlett writes for mainly the US market, so UK keepers will have to consider how appropriate some snakes might be in their own situation.

Keeping and Breeding Snakes, Chris Mattison, Blandford.

Mattison wrote a similar volume, Keeping and Breeding Lizards, and this book follows a similar format. It has two advantages for British readers: Mattison writes as a UK keeper, and the book also covers venomous snakes. As with most such books, general principles of care are laid out in the first chapters, and then Mattison goes on to cover Boas and Pythons, Kingsnakes, Ratsnakes, Bull-, Gopher and Pine Snakes, miscellaneous colubrids and finally venomous species. What is really impressive about this book is the amount of breeding data he has managed to accumulate for even the little-known species. Mattison does not condemn the keeping of venomous snakes, but does list exhaustively the precautions that need to be taken, how to move the snakes about, and in individual cases which species could prove fatal to their keeper. In addition there is an appendix on the laws, both here and in the US, pertaining to the keeping of snakes in captivity (see especially the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976). The book is somewhat older than a lot of the books on the market but still useful.

Snakes of the World, Chris Mattison, Blandford.

Although not directly concerned with snake keeping, this volume is very useful as it covers all the snake families, their geographical origins and their habitats. The layout is similar to that of Mattison's other volume in this series, Lizards of the World, and among other information contains a chapter on man's relationship with snakes. Covered here are not only the elaphids, vipers and colubrids, but also the little-seen typhlopidae and leptotyphlopidae and other rare snakes. The abundant colour photographs are superb. If you want more information on snakes and their ecology, this book is well worth the money.

Your First Snake, Elizabeth Walker, Kingdom

Kingdom books is a UK imprint of TFH publications, and this excellent little guide is written from a British point of view, although from the viewpoint of keeping snakes it doesn't make too much difference. Elizabeth Walker presents the basics of snake keeping clearly and concisely, and also firmly warns the novice away from difficult or dangerous species. After covering selection, handling, housing, feeding and health, she suggests a few ideal species for beginners, the choice of which I certainly wouldn't argue with. At only a couple of pounds or so it's a must-buy for anyone considering purchasing a snake, particularly a younger person who might not have huge funds. Recommended.

The Art of Keeping Snakes, Philippe de Vosjoli, Herpetocultural Library, 2004.

Firstly a disclaimer: I have not yet read this book. However de Vosjoli's Lizard Keeper's Handbook, of which this seems to be the corresponding title for snakes, was very helpful, and his reputation is generally good. The book apparently focuses on how to set up naturalistic vivaria (cages) for captive snakes. It may not be the best book for a person starting out, but it would probably be useful nevertheless.

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