The Arachnologist’s bookshelf
I'm often asked to define the key resources for learning about spiders so I thought I would share some important books for spider enthusiasts (note: I know "Arachnology" refers to more than spiders, but for this post, I'll stick to the Order Araneae, the spiders - perhaps future posts can link to resources for other Orders).
For understanding the fundamentals of spider biology, anatomy and physiology, a must-read is Rainer Foelix's "Biology of Spiders" (now in its third edition). It's a great cover-to-cover read, and will allow you an excellent overview of the Order.
Spiders are also known for their incredible behaviour, and from courtship to prey capture, they have captured the imaginations of behavioural ecologists for decades. If that's your area of interest, Spider Behaviour: Flexibility and Versatility (edited by Marie Elisabeth Herberstein) will belong on your bookshelf.
It's hard to think about spiders without discussing their silk... they use it for capturing prey, making egg sacs, and for lifting themselves into the air via ballooning. Although I've only read a few chapters of Leslie Brunetta and Catherine L. Craig's book titled Spider Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating, I've been thoroughly impressed. The book covers so many incredible topics, and places spider silk within an evolutionary framework.
For those interested in identifying spiders (and if you live in North America), a key resource is Spiders of North America: An Identification Manual. This affordable, and accessible identification manual, and armed with a microscope and some patience, this manual will allow you to identify most spiders you find in North America down to genus. It includes amazing illustrations, and can really guide you towards becoming a spider taxonomist.
If you perhaps are interested in the common spiders of North America, and are looking for a text that's not technical, but still accurate (and covers fundamentals of biology), Rich Bradley's recent book is worth buying. The illustrations by Steve Buchanan are truly stunning, and I've spent hours just flipping through the pages, enjoying the rich content about common spiders. It's also a book that can easily fit in a backpack for a day-hike.
Finally, and for a great read that looks more at the cultural importance of spiders, from fairy tails to nursery rhymes, and including Arachnophobia, I have always enjoyed my copy of Paul Hillyard's The Book of the Spider. However, it looks like that title is not readily available anymore, but if you can grab an old copy, it's worth a look. I did notice that The Private Life of Spiders was published in 2011, by Paul Hillyard, and although I don't own that text, it looks quite lovely.
UPDATE! Amazingly when I first posted this, I forgot Spiders in Ecological Webs, by David Wise! (I've read this book probably 3-4 times) - it's also available now as an e-book.. This is a must-have book for ecologists, and benchmarks the state of spider ecology, and although published over ten years ago, it's still relevant.
I've only scratched the surface of what I might consider as key books for all the arachnophiles out there. For those of you on a tighter budget, there are also amazing web-links out there... I'll share those resources in a future post.