In any halfway decent bookstore, and in almost every library, you can find good field guides. At the library's computer terminal, just type in the key words "field guide" and look for titles such as "A Field Guide to the Birds." In bookstores, of course field guides are found in the nature section.

Happily, field guides are used by so many people that usually their prices are surprisingly low -- low for books with so many illustrations and such specialized information. You should know about the following series of field guides:

Audubon Society Field Guides, published by Alfred A. Knopf of New York, are comprehensive and attractive. Moreover, if only one field guide series is available in your bookstore, it'll probably be this one. Audubon guides illustrate species with color photographs, not realistic hand paintings typical of most other guides. On the one hand, it's good to see real organisms in their native habitats but, on the other hand, beautiful pictures often don't emphasize the field marks you need to see for fast identification in the field. Audubon produces different kinds of fieldguides with various technical levels.

"Audubon Field Guides": For the fairly serious adult, usually cost from $15 to $20. These guides are based on photographs. They have a lot of information about each species, often showing pictures of various color phases of the same species, plus good maps. However, I find their indexes hard to use, which can be aggravating when you're trying to ID something before it gets away. Moreover, pictures are in one part of the book and text in another, and this also makes field identifications clumsy. To review some titles available at Amazon.com, click here.

"Audubon First Field Guides":   For readers at the 9-12 age level, this small collection of "beginner's guides" aspires to stir interest early. They are small books making no effort to be complete; they just focus on what's most common, most interesting and most colorful. The softcover editions cost about $9, and those with "school & library bindings" cost double that. To review titles available at Amazon.com, click here.

"Audubon Pocket Guides": For "beginning adults," these just profile the most common species. The average Pocket Guide costs about $9.00. To review some titles available at Amazon.com, click here.
The Peterson Field Guide Series, published by Houghton Mifflin Company of Boston, is the most comprehensive series using drawings and paintings (not photographs). They are not as glossy and colorful as the Audubon Series but, for fast, easy identifications, they are often superior, precisely because hand-drawn illustrations can highlight field marks. The series was established by the famed artist and naturalist Roger Tory Peterson. To review titles in The Peterson Field Guide Series available at Amazon.com, click here.

Golden Nature Guides, published by Golden Press of New York, are the best for rank beginners unsure they want to pay for more complete field guides. They are inexpensive little books of 160 pages or so, typically illustrating and describing only the most common species of the group being dealt with. For example, the comprehensive Manual of Cultivated Plants by L.H. Bailey describes 5,347 horticultural plants, while the Golden Guide called Exotic Plants, covering much the same territory, presents only 400. However, Golden Guides describe the basics for learning about the various groups of plants and animals, and they do a good job describing what's interesting about the common species. To review titles in The Golden Nature series available at Amazon.com, click here.

Probably no group of organisms is better covered by field guides than the world of birds. You may enjoy looking over our special birding field-guide page.

To review all kinds of nature books, click here.

If you have special interests not covered by the above editions you may want to use the search forms below. For example, if your special interest is "beetles" and you want to see all the differente kinds of learning aids available (including flash cards, CDs, software, etc.), keep the top of the form saying "All Products" and type "beetles" into the lower blank.

In North America, use this form:

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