General Shark Books

Abbreviations: Hbk = Hardback, or hardcover.
Pbk = Paperback.

Shark! by Jeffrey L. Rotman. Retail: $44.95 Amazon price: $35.96.
More info from the publisher, with photos.

This beautiful coffee-table book is a collection of stunning shark and ray (elasmobranch) photos by renowned underwater photographer Jeffrey Rotman. Most of the photos span both pages, although there are also smaller photos. The photos are not a standard collection of lateral views used for identification purposes, but rather feature unique angles, varying lighting and unusual situations. This book is shark art. An index with thumbnails of each photo (with page numbers) is present at the end of the book, supplemented with an identification of the species, location, and a short paragraph explaining the photo and related facts.

The book is split into nine parts of varying lengths. "One in the Sea" is a collection of elasmobranch portraits, often with humans involved. The next section, "Close-Ups", is particularly unique, giving readers the oppurtunity to get a intimate view of the eyes, skin, and faces of various sharks. Here we see the intrically designed placoid scales that texture the wonderfully pigmented skin of sharks; we peer into the eyes of numerous species; go face to face with the bizarrely convoluted nose and mouth of the California hornshark; witness the nictitating membrane of a Caribbean reef shark sliding to cover its eye; and more.

Photographs of white sharks, whale sharks and basking sharks make up the section "Giants". The white shark photos are fantastic, showing the great size yet sleek beauty of these notorious fish. Unique angles of the whale shark give a almost 360 degree view of the angle and show its immense bulk.

Rays and skates, the neglected sharks, get their own section. On one page, a squadron of cownose rays glide through the open ocean, and the next few pages feature huge mantas filter-feeding in the blue tropical waters. Numerous of other rays are featured. One of my favourite photos is an "up-the-nose" view of a thornback ray, in which you can see the Schneidarian folds used in olfaction.

"Feeding and Handling" is a collection of photos from a Caribbean shark feeding dive, including some great photos of sharks in tonic immobility. The next two sections, "Sharks in Danger" and "Shark Details" show aspects of shark research. The following section, "Shark Fishing", is the most depressing, with photos dead, bloody shark carcasses; a way I don't think sharks were ever meant to be. The book ends with "Shark Danger"--a few photos related to shark attack. The last two photos show a spiny dogfish embryo and the gaping maw of a white shark, respectively--two extremes in shark diversity.

Shark! is not intended as a text-rich book, so its use as a reference is limited. I would have liked to have seen more detail in the index photo captions. However, Shark! is a varied collection of fabulous photographic work. If you want beautiful, unique photos of all kinds of sharks, it is definitely worth picking up.

The Book of Sharks by Richard Ellis. Retail: $35.00. Amazon price: $35.00. Pbk.
This is Richard Ellis' first book, and it is one of the best summaries of sharks available. There is a chapter covering general biology of sharks, and then Ellis covers all groups of sharks, including chapters devoted entirely to a single species (such as the basking shark, the tiger shark), including information on classification to biology, behaviour and relations to man. There are also two chapters about shark relations to man, including one on shark attacks and one on "the shark people" - scientists, divers and others who have devoted their lives to sharks. It is very well written, has tons of great illustrations (including numerous excellent color paintings of selected species). This is a great source of information and a very entertaining read. Very recommended.

Sharks: Silent Hunters of the Deep by Reader's Digest. Retail: $19.95 Amazon price: $15.96. Pbk.
This is one of the best introductions to sharks available. The book is put togethor by Reader's Digest, with the help and contributions from many shark researchers from around the world. The first part of the book deals with shark biology, the second part relations to man (if you're interested in shark attacks, this book is great). The last part is probably the best feature of the book: a list of every species of shark known in 1987, with notes on size, color, distribution, latin name and common names and miscellaneous remarks. Also, each page of the annonated list has illustrations of three of the sharks on that page. Despite the fact not every shark is illustrated, the listing is an extremely useful reference. Finally, the book has a question and answer section, and a numer of maps for every part of the world showing locations of shark attacks, and telling whether they were fatal or not, or provoked or not. The book is filled with great photos and illustrations too.

Sharks and Rays (Nature Company Guide) Edited by Leighton Taylor et al. Retail: $29.95. Amazon price: $20.97. Hbk.
This is a great introduction to the sharks and rays, and has a ton of excellent illustrations and photos. Unlike most shark books, this one focuses equally on the rays, which (as is detailed in my shark classification page) are as much sharks as a white shark. The book is written and edited by a number of renowned shark experts around the world, such as Timothy Tricas (did research on white shark predation), John McCosker (has done a lot of research on shark attack, and white sharks), and Leighton Taylor (one of the first scientists to examine the first specimen of the megamouth). The photos in the book are equally impressive, given that such expert marine life photographers such as Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch and Kevin Deacon are behind them. The text is aimed at readers of all levels. This book has more science (i.e. how sharks work, behave etc.) in it than the Reader's Digest one, but less on shark attacks. So you decide which ones better for your interest!

Shadows in the Sea: the sharks, skates, and rays by Thomas B. Allen. Retail: $18.95. Amazon price: $15.16. Pbk.
This is a new edition of one of the first comprehensive books on sharks and their allies. A good book, with coverage on everything you'd expect; biology, behaviour, different species, relations to man. This book also includes recipes for shark-based dishes, which is interesting, eventhough we're supposed to be promoting shark survival here! In any case, it is a good book.

Sharks of the World by Rodney Steel. Retail: $29.95. Amazon price: $29.95. Hbk.
Another good general shark book, with all the typical information. This has a lot of very nice color and black and white illustrations - paintings, photos, and drawings.

Shark: A Photographer's Story by Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch. Retail: $25.00. Amazon price: $20.00. Pbk.
Stafford-Deitsch is one of the best marine fauna photographers in the world, and this book is packed with his great photos of numerous different types of sharks. The book starts with a very nice introduction to shark biology, behaviour and classification; later chapters deal with trips the author took to various parts of the world (for example, reefs in the Red Sea and Caribbean, kelp forests off California, white shark diving) in search of sharks. The narrative is very engaging and entertaining, and dispersed throughout is discussion of different aspects of ocean ecology, and of course, sharks. There are lots of interesting stories of course - such as the time Stafford-Deitsch was diving on a reef and decided to act like a dolphin - squeeking and making other noises to play with the real dolphins that were around. Rather than attract dolphin attention, he attracted the attention of a number of agitated reef sharks! A very entertaining read, with lots of facts and tons of photos and illustrations (including an appendix with illustrations and information on various sharks commonly encountered by divers, with a key to how potentially dangerous each are). Recommended.

Sharks in Question by Victor Springer. Retail: $19.95. Amazon price: $15.96. Pbk. (Or you can get the hardcover edition)
Published by the Smithsonian Institute, this is a very informative book about sharks and their allies. As the title suggests, the book is in the format of questions, but is very well organized so that it seems it is just a normal book on all aspects of elasmobranch biology and behaviour. It is very well written, and very useful, and there is a very nice center color photo section with some great photos of sharks most people only know from drawings. Recommended.

The Natural History of Sharks by Lineaweaver and Backus Retail: $14.95. Amazon price: $11.96. Pbk.
This is new edition of Lineaweaver and Backus's classic tome. It is a little out dated, but the book is still quite an interesting read, well written, and has a lot of interesting information on many sharks. Also contains a lot of info on shark attacks.