The world famous Galapagos islands in Ecuador are a nature’s paradise, bursting with hundreds of species of wildlife that you can watch just meters away. For those of you considering a trip to this wonderful archipelago, we’ve compiled a list of great books to read before you go and on your trip. Whether it's to inspire you, help you identify the multitude of creatures there, or to enjoy incredible tales of the isles - from Charles Darwin to Lonesome George, there’s something here for everyone. Don those reading glasses!
By Charles Darwin
The legendary explorer behind the theory of evolution recounts his fabled expedition to the Galapagos Islands. These events led to Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and his world-changing book, “The Origin of Species”. This shortened version of Darwin’s journal chronicles his voyage from England in 1831 to the Galapagos and his observations on the events, people, geography and wildlife they discovered there. It also contains additional notes and appendices from the captain of the Beagle, Robert FitzRoy.
By William Beebe
After reading the Voyage of the Beagle, continue with this account from 1924 of a scientific expedition following in Darwin’s footsteps. William Beebe’s entertaining and light writing style is great fun and interesting to read. He describes in wonderful prose the tale as the team explores the islands and gets acquainted with the locals and the wildlife, painting a brilliant picture of the Galapagos of the time. This book along with others about the region at the time inspired many people to visit the Galapagos islands in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
By Johanna Angermeyer
A fascinating autobiography about Angermeyer’s time living in the Galapagos islands in the 1960’s with her family. She never knew her father, who had left Nazi Germany in 1935 and moved to the Galapagos to begin a new life. Then he was separated from her mother as he was banned from entering US soil as a German in the war, leaving his life, and subsequent death in the islands a mystery to the author. In this account she chronicles the hardships of survival and wonder of life in the paradisiacal Galapagos islands growing up, as she pieces together her father’s story.
By John Hickman
Hickman collates a series of true stories of the Galapagos islands in an entertaining read. Featuring tales from such varied narrators as pirates, explorers, scientists, whalers, kings and poets, it’s a journey through history, human endeavour and high adventure.
By Henry Nicholls
This book tells the story of the world’s most famous tortoise - Lonesome George. This giant was the last of his species (he sadly died in 2012) and lived in the Galapagos, visited by thousands of tourists every year and studied by researchers who tried in vain to have him reproduce. As well as documenting George’s triumphs and failures, Nicholls uses the tortoise to segue-way into other topics about the island's’ natural history, eco-tourism and legacy in a warm and enjoyable read.
By Jonathan Weiner
Weiner follows two biologists: Peter and Rosemary Grant, who have been studying the finches of the Galapagos Islands for over twenty years. In the book he discusses and examines Darwin’s theory of evolution, with the work of the Grant’s and their findings of the rapid evolution of the finches providing the backbone for his fascinating arguments and musings. A critically acclaimed and great read, which won the nonfiction Pulitzer Prize in 1995.
By Dore Strauch
The story of an incredible true scandal on the Galapagos islands following World War II, where a small group of people took up life on one of its deserted islands. Tensions rise as the struggle for survival becomes real, lovers quarrel and trouble turns into outright murder. A real-life murder mystery, this is a first hand account of the strange events in paradise in the 1930’s which caused sensation at the time. The book was turned into a feature length documentary film in 2013 called “The Galapagos Affair”
By Henry Nicholls
By the author of “Lonesome George” (see above), this book is a great overview of everything about the islands from its history to its wildlife, human residents mixed with his own accounts of life in the Galapagos. A tribute to the place and a great primer before your trip.
By Michael H. Jackson
This is an updated 2016 edition of the best-selling guidebook, which combines descriptions of the Galapagos’ natural history with detailed information about the wildlife and information for visitors to the islands. Another good book to read before you go to get hyped up for the islands!
By David Horwell and Pete Oxford
An excellent and acclaimed overview of the island’s wildlife, Horwell and Oxford are naturalists with extensive knowledge to share about the diverse fauna of the Galapagos islands. Includes lots of photos for wildlife identification, and island trail maps.
By James Kavanagh
This comprehensive, laminated fold-out pamphlet is the best quick-reference guide to identify wildlife on your Galapagos walks. Ideal if you don’t want to lug a big guide around with you and fits in your pocket.
By Andy Swash
Another good, small-sized field book to take with you on your wildlife expeditions - with lots of photographs and diagrams to make identification easier.
By Pierre Constant
A comprehensive reference guide for scuba divers to help identify the vast range of oceanic creatures in the Galapagos. Contains loads of great underwater photographs and detailed information about the islands’ dive sites and advice for diving in this region.
By Paul Humann
A good guide for snorkelers or divers in the islands, with lots of photographs and diagrams to help identify the many fish you’ll encounter in the Galapagos reefs. This book has especially good reviews from beginner divers.
As ever, Lonely Planet provides a clear, easy to read and reference guidebook. Plenty of maps and transport information, info on the islands and how to plan a trip yourself.
The Rough Guides always have different recommendations and opinions to Lonely Planet, and this guide is no exception. A good, comprehensive guidebook worth checking out.
By Julian Smith & Jean Brown
A nice alternative to the big-name brand guidebooks, this detailed book is written by seasoned travellers who know the country intimately, with lots of practical advice.
By Pete Oxford & Renee Bish
A decade’s worth of work, this excellent photography collection features many incredible wildlife shots and a memorable gallery of the volcanic eruption of 1995.
By Tui De Roy
A tenth anniversary edition with images taken by De Roy, who was raised in the Galapagos islands. Features 245 superb photographs of the wildlife and beautiful landscapes of the archipelago.
As you can see, there are a ton of great Galapagos books out there. If you’re looking for inspiration before your trip, we’d suggest the Natural History section to give a good overview of the islands, and the photography books to fire up the imagination. Take a guide book and some wildlife guides with you, and some Galapagos stories to enjoy on those long flights and cruises. If you’re thinking about heading to the Galapagos islands, do check out our other articles about holidays in this wildlife paradise!