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« Field Guide to American Wildlife »


We have quite a collection of field guides, as you might imagine.

I find them at garage sales and thrift shops mostly, although we sometimes pick up regional ones when we’re on vacation.

I love them, new or old, for children or for adults, and we use them all the time.

This, however, is my absolute favorite: The Complete Field Guide to American Wildlife, by Henry Hill Collins, Jr.

It is 7.5 x 4.5 inches so very portable, and if it’s a bit heavy, well, it’s not as heavy as when I try to bring along all the field guides I think we might need or want.

I ordered my 1959 edition from Amazon for under five bucks including shipping after reading what Tamia Nelson said about it:

I used to take a whole library of field-guides with me on trips. Now I take only one book — this one. The color plates are muddy and the paintings are tiny, but I can live with that. When I’ve got Collins in my pack, I’ve got a guide to every bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian, and freshwater fish in eastern and central North America — and to a fair number of seashells and marine invertebrates, as well. That’s not bad for a book no bigger than some paperback novels! There’s more, too. Collins was a biologist with a difference. Nearly every entry concludes with a personal note, a quotation from some natural history classic, or a stanza from a poem.


[I]f a creature clings, burrows, swims, crawls, plods, runs, or flies anywhere in eastern North American, chances are excellent that you'll find it described in this compact book. The illustrations range from mediocre to muddy and the nomenclature is sometimes dated, but the text is marvellous: witty, informed, and entertaining. No other one-volume guidebook can equal this one. I like the book so much that I often read it simply for pleasure.

We bring this book on road trips, on hikes, on kayak trips (in a ziploc bag!), on scenic drives … it’s the perfect one-stop source for looking up the wildlife you see along the way, and it makes a great casual read, too.

I highly recommend it!

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Reader Comments (25)

It looks marvelous! I will have to keep an eye out for a copy. We have a few of the Audubon Society Field Guides but I've been wanting to collect others. (Don't tell my husband. There is no room for the books we have.)

January 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnnika

It does look like an excellent, one-stop source of information, and it's obviously well used.
Now, can anyone recommend anything (similar) for UK wildlife? Anyone...? :-)

January 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSam

Cool! Thanks; I just ordered one from Amazon. :)

January 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSherry

annika, if you click that link in the post, amazon resellers has them for 39 cents plus $3.99 shipping. that’s where i got my copy! (and where sherry got hers! ;^)

i understand about the no room for more books .. sigh .. when we were moving to our current house, we had boxes of books stacked up in the back hallway from floor to ceiling. one day i stopped at a garage sale and brought a whole ’nother box of books .. which i just stashed straight in that giant wall of boxes, so the husband wouldn’t see it!

sam, we need some UK recommendations! get on that! ;^)

sherry, hope you love it! :^)

January 9, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

I saw that! My reaction was pretty much "!!!" I'm sending the link to my mother before I order, though - she works at a library and may be able to get her hands on a copy for me.

January 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnnika

i wish my mom worked at a library! ;^)

mine cover is starting to come off, but since it’s a field guide, i’ll just tape it up with book tape and keep chugging. ;^)

January 9, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

Lori - I'll trawl the charity shops, and I'll check out the library. I might even visit a (full-price) bookshop *gasp*. LOL at the extra box of books. What a cunning idea :-D

January 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSam

This book looks great. My 5yo loves to look at field guides in bed before she falls asleep. I can tell she would love this one and it would be great to take on hikes as well of course :)

January 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah N.

sam, i had a serious book addiction. :^P i think i was ready for an intervention.

sarah, it really is great! i love the text descriptions of the different animals and fish. they aren’t dry at all. and there is poetry quoted here and there .. it’s just wonderful.

and it’s a bit heavy? but you know, if you stack up a few of even the smallest field guides, they’re just as heavy, but you don’t have near as much info. so i tough it out. ;^)

January 9, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

thanks lori! i just ordered a copy for 35 cents, but man they get you with the shipping :) i love field guides.

January 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermolly

Oh, I love field guides...esp. the older ones. They are fun to collect!

January 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

molly, oh, let me know if you love it! :^) even with the shipping, it’s such a great deal!

denise, i know! i have so many, and i’m always enticed by one i don’t have. :^P my favorite thing is to find vintage ones at thrift stores for a quarter.

January 9, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

my husband just went to run an errand, but when he gets back the first words to him will be "honey, will you order this for me"

and i was wondering....will there be a way to subscribe to the comments on this blog too?

January 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarah

sarah, oop. i will set that up! :^)

if you get the field guide, let me know! and let me know if you like it as much as i do. :^)

January 10, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

after seeing the illustrations, i just had to order my very own copy. thank you for the suggestion and inspiration!

January 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjane

jane, i hope you like it! :^)

January 10, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

East, Central and North - as in, not West. Anyone have a comparable suggestion for a comprehensive book about what goes on beyond the Rockies?

January 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteramy

amy, there is a western edition of the same book by another author -- i haven't seen it though, but i did order a copy -- here are a couple links for you:

western edition:

combo eastern + western edition:

i ordered a copy of the western edition, so in a week or so i can tell you what i think! :^)

January 10, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

Ooh, I love this book, was just going to ask for a west coast version, but I see it's been asked already!! Thanks for the link, I'll check our library. Blessings,

January 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith

Sounds like a great book, and I'm definately going to keep my eye out for a copy locally. I don't dare try ordering one unless I can sneak it into another order somewhere down the line. It seems I'm not alone in my excess book problem... Is there really such a thing as too many books? I believe not. Rather we have a problem with inadequate storage. Now if only I could convince my husband of that! I LOVE the boxes of books wall idea for stashing yet another box! Pretty sure I have enough boxes of books I could pull that off. Just need to rearrange a bit...;-)

January 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBoondock Ma

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