Recommended Reading and Resources – So far . . .
by Thomas Farley
Beginning rockhounds should start with anything produced by Diamond Dan Publications. Mostly written by Darryl Powell, these titles are approachable and accurate:
Diamond Dan’s Mineralogical Dictionary for Mineral Collectors
Crystals and Crystal Forms: An Introduction to Crystallography for Mineral Collectors
Fluorite: The Rainbow Mineral
Minerals of the U.S.A.
The Best Bathroom Book for Mineral Collectors Ever Written
The Best Bathroom Book for Mineral Collectors Ever Written No. 2
The World of Minerals and Crystals: Their Properties, Forms and Uses
Everything below is more complicated. Every title is worthwhile, it’s just a matter of price. Support your local used bookseller and the used book outlets at many county, city, and university libraries. As for the net, these two online sellers are well established:
Main List of Desirable Reading
American Automobile Association. Tour Book Guide: Colorado & Utah (Heathrow, Florida: AAA Publishing, 2016)
A weak entry to begin with. These old Tour Book Guides dated quickly but provided good snippets on area history and cities. AAA may no longer be printing them.
Anthony, John, Sidney Williams, and Richard A. Bideaux. Mineralogy of Arizona (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1982)
Everything technically needed to know about Arizona minerals. Describes practically every mineral in AZ and their localities, along with many photos. Like a Mindat.org in print. Lots of nice line drawings showing crystal forms of many minerals. There is a new edition out, the old edition I have is fine for me.
Bates, Robert and Julia Jackson. Dictionary of Geological Terms 3rd ed. (New York: The American Geological Institute, 1984)
Definitive and easily handled paperback geology dictionary. Worth buying but see Howell’s work listed further on. The authors more current and comprehensive title is the Glossary of Geology, now in its fourth edition. It’s an expensive hardback. The third edition, used, of course, is a better value.
Burns, Japser. Trilobites (Wilmington, Delaware: Miller’s Fossils, 1999)
Beautifully illustrated book in black and white. Clear explanations of the many trilobites, the first fossils most people encounter.
Busbey, Arthur, Robert Coenraads, David Roots, and Paul Willis. Rocks & Fossils (New York: Time Life Books, 1996) Excellent introduction to everything rocks, gems, and minerals. Well-illustrated in full color. Great bargain used.
Castor, Stephen and Gregory Ferdock. Minerals of Nevada (Reno and Las Vegas: Nevada University Press, 2004)
The essential tome on Nevada minerals. Detailed descriptions of minerals and their locations by county. 30 dedicated pages of photographs.
Christiansen, Eric and Kenneth Hamblin. Dynamic Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology (Burlington, Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2015)
Current geology textbook, although several errors not yet acknowledged by the writers. Worth buying if an inexpensive used copy can be found and if an online errata sheet will be issued. $170 new.
Christiansen, Page. The Story of Mining in New Mexico. (Socorro, New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Mines & Mineral Resources, 1974)
The definitive historical work on mining in New Mexico. Written for the layperson. Available as a free download from here: https://geoinfo.nmt.edu/publications/guides/scenictrips/12/
Chronic, Halka and Lucy Chronic. Pages of Stone 2d. ed. (Seattle, Washington: The Mountaineers Books, 2004) Subtitled, “Geology of the Grand Canyon & Plateau Country National Parks & Monuments.”
Invaluable road trip book for traveling the Southwest. Explains the geology behind 24 National Parks and Monuments. Well-illustrated, much more than their roadside geology books.
Chronic, Halka and Lucy Chronic. Pages of Stone (Seattle, Washington: The Mountaineers Books, 1986) Subtitled, “Geology of Western National Parks and Monuments.”
This covers the Desert Southwest. Another essential. A look at basin and range territory from the tip of southern Idaho to Mexico.
Chronic, Halka. Roadside Geology of Arizona (Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press, 1983)
Classic description of Arizona’s geology. Don’t be bothered by the date, the landscape hasn’t changed much in thirty years, except to development. As with all road guides, these titles are best understood when read by a navigator or companion as a trip goes along.
Chronic, Halka. Roadside Geology of New Mexico (Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press, 1987)
Another good one from Halka who divides New Mexico into three geologic provinces. The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, on the other hand, splits the state into five parts. This author’s guide to rockhounding follows the latter course.
DeLong, Brad. 4-Wheel Freedom – The Art of Off-Road Driving (Boulder, Colorado: Paladin Press, 2000)
DeLong wrote the Bible on off pavement. His lessons are old and mostly still current. Choosing a rig, 4-wheel basics, packing the vehicle, airing down for mud and sand, crossing streams, and on and on. As the kids say, “It’s all good.” Actually, it’s all great.
Durham, Michael. The Smithsonian Guide to Historic America-The Desert States (New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1990)
While not focused on geology, this book does cover the tone and temperament of the Southwest. Background material.
Eckert, Allan. Earth Treasures Volume 4A – The Southwestern Quadrant (Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse, 2000)
Eckert, Allan. Earth Treasures Volume 4B – The Southwestern Quadrant (Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse, 2000)
Reprinted in 2000, these books were originally written in 1987. Both “A” and “B” are needed to cover the entire Southwest. At first read, it seems Eckert explored more ground than Kit Carson or John C. Fremont. This inveterate rockhound collected in nearly every county in nearly every state. In New Mexico, he missed only five counties, in Arizona, none. In Nevada, none. He collected in all 58 counties of California.
Eckert shows all locations with snippets of road maps overlaid with partial township, range and section information. Atlases of each state with that information are therefore required, or individual maps by the dozen. In some cases, his directions are sufficient by themselves. Although his books were first copyrighted in 1987, their written date remains a mystery. He lists Ormsby County in Nevada, for example, although that county was renamed in 1969. Today, collecting is probably prohibited at many of his recommended sites, perhaps the majority. But Eckert’s works are a good guide to collecting areas in general, pointing to heavily mineralized ground or places with an established mining history.
Greer, Ira, ed. Glossary of Weather and Climate (Boston: American Meteorological Society, 1996)
Authoritative and well done. A weather dictionary. Get it.
Harris, Richard. Hidden Southwest (Berkeley, California: Ulysses Press, 2004)
Background on traveling the Southwest. Non-essential and dated but a good read.
Howell, J.V., ed? Glossary of Geology and Related Sciences (Washington, D.C.: American Geological Association, 1957.)
Best geology dictionary I have ever read. Miserably small type. Proper dictionary writing by a strong, seasoned dictionary editor, identity unknown. Gives many word origins along with the use of a term in a sentence. Tough, technical words are explained in plain English, making geology’s difficult vocabulary at approachable.
Now dated and lacking the latest terms, it stands as the last, literate geology dictionary made. Geologists controlled every dictionary after this, technically astute but always struggling to put their profession into understandable English. Bates and Jackson substantially revised and updated this title in 1980 but took the life out of the writing so filling the 1957 work.
Johnson, Mark. The Ultimate Desert Handbook (New York: Ragged Mountain Press / McGraw Hill, 2003)
A valuable read with countless tips and techniques to managing time in the desert. Much spent on foot travel and navigating thereby. But, also good information on vehicle travel as well. First aid and things that bite in the desert.
Johnson, Maureen. Placer Gold Deposits of Arizona (Washington, D.C.: Geological Survey Bulletin 1355) https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/b1355
A hardcopy reprint from Del Oeste Press in Tarzana includes a fold-out map, much superior to the online map. Del Oeste reprinted many, many guides to placer deposits in the Western United States. Avoid any copy of Bulletin 1355 printed on-demand as these may not contain the fold-out map.
Johnson, Robert. Nevada-Utah Gem Atlas (Susanville, California: Cy Johnson & Sons, 1978)
Another gem trail guide worth having if inexpensive.
King, Vandall. A Collectors Guide to the Granite Pegmatite (Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2010)
Focuses on granitic gem pegmatites but many principles applicable to all pegmatites. Great colored line drawing illustrating a gem pegmatite pocket. Every Schiffer Earth Science Monographs are worth having. Heavy on great photographs; I don’t see how they make money from these books. Inexpensive used.
Klien, James. Where to Find Gold in The Desert (Baldwin Park, California: Gem Guides Book Company, 1994)
This happily titled book focuses primarily on California, with a brief look at other Southwestern States. Fairly vague locale descriptions and this is a pre-GPS book. Pointing to general areas is all an author can do. Exact occurrences are either hidden or claimed, instead, a prospector must range widely, putting time in over a large area.
Knoerr, Alvin and George Lutjen. Prospecting for Atomic Minerals (New York: McGraw Hill, 1955)
Retro-prospecting. Written when the United States had a bounty on finding uranium ore in paying quantities. When two men would set out for a month with “fifty pounds of flour, forty pounds of bacon and pork, six pounds of butter and six pounds of beans.” Oh, and 30 pounds of sugar! The authors may not have been gourmets but they could sure write an entertaining and informative book.
Lauf, Robert. Introduction to Radioactive Minerals (Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2008)
Wonderful photographs and authoritative text mark this the book the one to buy when putting together a radioactive ore collection. Which everyone should assemble. . .
Lincoln, Francis. Mining Districts and Mineral Resources of Nevada Reprinted ed. (Las Vegas, Nevada: Nevada Publications, 1982)
Typical reprint of mining district information. This one has an excellent, easy to use chapter on rock, gem, and mineral by county. Others have this information obscured in the entry for each district. Large paper maps of mining districts, by-the-way, are often available from a state’s geology bureau.
Lynch, Bob and Dan Lynch. Arizona Rocks and Minerals (Cambridge, Minnesota: Adventure Publications, 2010)
Excellent publication with real-life photographs and generalized locality maps. Highly recommended for use throughout the Southwest.
Lynch, Dan. Rock Collecting for Kids: An Introduction to Geology (Cambridge, Minnesota: Adventure Publications, 2018)
Terrific book for kids of all ages. An easy entry into a complex subject.
Magnuson, Jim. Gemstone Tumbling, Cutting, Drilling & Cabochon Making (Cambridge, Minnesota: Adventure Publications, 2015)
This book takes you from rough to refined. From a stone picked off the ground, Magnuson goes through every step needed to rock into rock art. Really good.
Massey, Peter, Angela Titus, Jeanne Wilson. Nevada Trails: Southern Region (Parker, Colorado: APC Publishing, 2015)
Describes many off-pavement roads and tracks that often go by old mines. Good advice on selecting an off-road vehicle. Gives every road or tour a difficulty rating. Recommended.
Mottana, Annibale; Rodolfo Crespi and Giuseppe Liborio. Simon and Schuster’s Guide to Rocks and Minerals (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978)
Authoritative and frequently cited. Widely available and inexpensive used. Beware of broken spines. Tremendous variety of rocks and minerals covered. No fossils. Difficult for the beginner. Small size makes it impossible to lay flat and to easily browse. Good photographs but see Proctor (below) for better images, if fewer in number.
Page, Jake. The Smithsonian Guides to Natural America: The Southwest: New Mexico – Arizona (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 1995)
Pearl, Richard. Colorado Gem Trails and Mineral Guide 3rd ed. (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1972)
Excellent book with maps detailed enough to follow today, provided listed roads are still open. Detailed references. Heavy emphasis on mineral collecting.
Pearl, Richard. Handbook for Prospectors 5th ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 1973)
Dated and excellent prospecting book. Pearl did everything, went everywhere. Enough remains true to warrant buying. An entertaining and informative read.
Powell, Darryl. Rocks, Minerals & Crystals: A Collecting and Coloring Book (Gem Guides Book Company: Baldwin Park, California, 2017)
Great book for kids to color and learn from. Represents most material in idealized form, rather than the way it is pulled from the ground. Still a good book for present crystals in all their forms. Link to the publisher at the top of this text.
Proctor, Dean and P. Robert Peterson. Mineral-Rock Handbook (Sandy, Utah: Paulmar Publishers, 1989)
The best mineral and rock photographs in an everyday guide. Features large image sizes, especially helpful with identification. The spine is broken on my copy, be carefulto get an intact copy.
Rambo, Katherine. The World Came to Tucson (Tucson, Arizona: Stanegate Press, 2014)
History of the largest rock, gem, and mineral show in the world. Held each year, Rambo details its origin and continuation. Good background for anyone going.
Ransom, Jay. Arizona Gem Trails and the Colorado Desert of California (Portland: Mineralogist Publishing Company, 1955)
If the price is right.
Ransom, Jay. The Gold Hunter’s Field Book (New York: Harper & Row, 1975)
State by state and province by province descriptions of collecting areas. Good, general advice on gold and prospecting for same.
Sano, Jennifer. Gems & Minerals of The Southwest (Tucson, Arizona: Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2009) A very pretty book. Photographs by the famed rock, gem and mineral photographer Jeffrey Scovil. Photographs represent high-end collection and museum pieces. Detailed information on each subject, including metaphysical notes.
Schneider, Stuart. The World of Fluorescent Minerals (Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2006)
Part of Schiffer’s Book for Collectors series. Really nice.
Simpson, Bessie. New Mexico Gem Trails Revised ed. (Granbury, Texas: Gem Trails Publishing Company, 1965)
Straight, Jim. Nuggestshooting Dryplacer Areas 4th ed. (Rialto, California: Jim Straight, 1994)
No better prospector and writer than Jim Straight has ever come along. Technically challenging at times, Straight’s information applies to all metal detectors and dry washers. They are not product manuals, instead they teach everything needed to locate gold with any equipment the prospector owns.
Straight, Jim. Advanced Prospecting & Detecting for Hardrock Gold 4th ed. (Rialto, California: Jim Straight, 1998)
One could become a gold geologist by understanding everything Straight writes about in this book. Emphasis on research before traveling and on seeking areas little prospected. Depending on price, everything written by Straight is worth buying.
Thrush, Paul, ed. A Dictionary of Mining, Mineral, and Related Terms (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968)
Eight pounds of awesome, this 1,269-page boat anchor of a book belongs in the library of anyone seriously interested in all things rock related. Bates’ Dictionary of Geological Terms (above) should be the first choice of the beginning rockhound but this title, though dated, is a classic. Make sure the spine isn’t cracked and don’t overpay.
Ungnade, Herbert. Guide to the New Mexico Mountains (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1965)
The essential work on the mountains of New Mexico. Hampered somewhat by a few difficult to follow black and white illustrations. But in general, the graphics are good. Many worthwhile reflections on New Mexico mining, especially by first peoples. Worth getting.
Wilburn, James. Prospecting for Gold Mines (Mesa: Arizona Specialty Printing, 1984)
A favorite. Wilburn describes well the essentials of gold prospecting. He’s intense. He’s not looking to pick up a few flakes or nuggets, this work is fixed on finding enough to start a mine.
Wilson, James. A Collector’s Guide to Rock, Mineral & Fossil Localities of Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah Geological Survey, 1995)
Available free online but best in hardcopy, this is an extremely well-organized work. Takes the rockhound through geology and identification basics and then lists rocks, gems, minerals and fossils county by county. All books should be this well laid out.
Woodmencey, Jim. Weather in the Southwest (Tucson, Arizona: Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, 2001)
Short, well-illustrated book on Southwest weather basics. Not essential but don’t bypass it at a good price.
Wooley, Alan and Arthur Bishop. The Henry Holt Guide to Minerals, Rocks and Fossils (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1989)
Another field guide, another presentation on collecting and identification. Worth having. Avoid cracked spines.
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