These Books Rock: 10 Books about Rocks, Minerals, Gems, and Crystals

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Isabelle Popp

Senior Contributor

Isabelle Popp has written all sorts of things, ranging from astrophysics research articles and math tests to crossword puzzles and poetry. These days she's writing romance. When she's not reading or writing, she's probably knitting or scouring used book stores for vintage gothic romance paperbacks. Originally from New York, she's as surprised as anyone that she lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

If you’re looking to pick up a new hobby for 2023, let me suggest starting with some rocks and minerals books. There are lots of ways to go. You can get into rock collecting and/or rockhounding. Rockhounding meaning the rocks you collect are ones you find yourself out in nature. You can also learn more about geological features without having to collect anything. After all, all of us are living on a geological formation of some sort, assuming we’re not at sea. The barrier to entry is so low! All you have to do is go out to local parks and other natural spaces, and let your curiosity guide you. And there may be no better way to satisfy curiosity and relieve aggression than taking a hammer to an interesting-looking rock.

Beyond the science of geology, there’s a ton of history, culture, and art to examine as well. Why are some rocks considered valuable? What do the meanings we ascribe to different gems and crystals say about humanity? If you get deep into rock collecting, you may find related hobbies like rock tumbling or lapidary art, learning about the ways we prepare rocks to adorn our bodies and homes. If you’re on TikTok, go seek out the rock tumblers. I think they might be having the most fun with rocks.

If you’re someone who spends time around kids, sharing some rocks and minerals books is a fantastic way to get them connected to the place where they live. So I’ve included some books for younger readers that appeal to budding rockhounds. Warning: they may, like me, become the kind of kid who asks their grandmother to pick up a rock for them on her Caribbean cruise with her church friends.

Rocks and Minerals Books for Adults

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Roadside Geology of Arizona by Halka Chronic

I chose a Roadside Geology book from a state with particularly notable geology. But if you’re in the United States, I recommend picking up books from this series for any states you regularly travel through. These books detail where to find the coolest geological features available to the public, like those on hiking trails. The books also catalog things to notice from the car itself, like rock cuts from when the road was constructed.

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Rockhounding California: A Guide to the State’s Best Rockhounding Sites by Gail A. Butler

Similarly to the book above, this series of books notes the locations of places to collect rocks. You’ll learn what the collectible rocks are in the place that you’re going. These rocks and minerals books provide the GPS coordinates of the sites you’ll want to visit and explain how to collect samples. Furthermore, if you’re looking to make rockhounding friends, the book collects information about clubs from around the state.

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National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals by Charles W. Chesterman

No nature explorer should be without a field guide. Side note: I apologize that this list is so North American-centric. I hope these titles give you a clue of what rocks and minerals books to search for with the geographical terms swapped out. You might associate the Audubon Society with birds, but their field guide to rocks and minerals is top notch as well. While it’s too big to fit in a pocket, you’ll appreciate its thoroughness and high quality photographs.

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Rock and Gem by Ronald Bonewitz

When you’re in the comfort of your home, a large rock and gem book is where it’s at. Keep this one on your coffee table and watch how anyone who comes over will want to leaf through it. The earth producing truly stunning materials. This is a book that showcases that beauty while also providing tons of in-depth information. If you’ve got a youngster around, you may prefer a similar book from the same publisher aimed at the younger set: My Book of Rocks and Minerals: Things to Find, Collect, and Treasure.

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Crystal Clear: Reflections on Extraordinary Talismans For Everyday Life by Jaya Saxena

Crystals have been meaningful treasures since time immemorial. I’ve certainly noticed an uptick in interest in crystals as of late, related to the boom in other practices like tarot and astrology. This book isn’t meant to be a guide for getting into crystals, but it does examine what’s behind that uptick. I’m a huge fan of books that merge the personal essay with explorations of a topic. If you are too, this is a book for you.

Rocks and Minerals Books for Younger Readers

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Rocks and Minerals: Geology from Caverns to the Cosmos by Andy Hirsch

When I was a kid, my love for rocks and my love for comics had to take up separate places. How obsessed I would have been with this book, that takes readers on an adventure through geology. Where real-life rockhounding trips might take kids to hiking trails and lake shores, this book takes them inside the earth and even into outer space. It’s the perfect book to drum up excitement in a kid who shows curiosity about geology.

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Eye-Opening Earth Science Activities by Rani Iyer

If the weather’s no good for rockhounding, there are still plenty of activities to entertain a budding geologist. Using stuff from around the house, this book teaches about geologic activity like erosions and earthquakes with simple experiments. Kids can melt crayons to understand the rock cycle, or make a geode out of an egg. Once the weather has improved, they will be able to explain so much more about what they see and experience outside.

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Grand Canyon by Jason Chin

It’s hard to grasp the concept of the Grand Canyon, even if you’re standing right at the rim. It’s unfathomably huge. This picture book is perfect for capturing some of the awe that accompanies appreciating geology. While it’s perfect for someone who has visited the canyon, it’s also a great book to give a kid who’s looking to dream up their travel wish list. In addition to the breathtaking artwork, this book boasts die-cut pages that provide a look into the past, a fold-out spread to pore over, and lots of back matter for further reading.

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Learning to Carve Argillite by Sara Florence Davidson

As with the rocks and minerals books for adults, I believe it’s important to see how rocks figure into culture and art. This book chronicles a boy beginning his lifelong journey of carving argillite, a sedimentary rock Haida people living along the coast of what is now known as British Columbia traditionally prize. It’s a beautiful story, simply and meaningfully told.

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Rock Star by Kelly Starling Lyons

If you know a rock loving kid who finds making friends harder than finding rocks, this series about science-loving Jada Jones is perfect. In addition to being able to identify with the character, readers can see how Jada navigates and resolves conflict with school classmates. While the book explores Jada’s feelings a lot, there are also plenty of geology facts incorporated into the text to keep the real rock nerds reading.

If you’re interested in some bookish guidance from a field geologist, I recommend this charming little guest post from a few years back. We’ve also got more recommendations if you like trees (classic companion to rocks, honestly) and the natural world in general. I’ll see you out on the trail, rock hammer and field guide in hand.