The best nonfiction books about humanity and nature in the Galapagos Islands

Who am I?

I was born in Brussels, Belgium, but my parents followed their dream to live a pioneering life close to nature, settling in the Galapagos Islands when I was just two years old. The raw yet gentle nature of these islands, combined with my parents’ artistic eyes and naturalist interests, plus contact with visiting scientists, taught me everything I needed to know to become the islands’ only resident nature photographer and writer at an early age. Although my travels have taken me to the remotest corners of all seven continents, with publications about many of them, Galapagos draws me back like an irresistible magnet. These islands made me who I am; they are my spiritual home.


I wrote...

A Lifetime in Galápagos

By Tui De Roy,

Book cover of A Lifetime in Galápagos

What is my book about?

The latest of my six large-format titles on Galapagos is a compilation of my best photography, above and below water, taken over a period of five decades, from my first (and still best) seabird shots when I was 16 to some of my latest experiments with time-lapse and star trails coursing above sleeping giant tortoises, to name a few. I have arranged those images into a collection of discreet topics accompanied by short, intimate essays describing those special moments and concepts that I have witnessed over the years. There is also an illustrated introduction giving an overview of my personal history.

The books I picked & why

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Galapagos: World's End

By William Beebe,

Book cover of Galapagos: World's End

Why this book?

Almost one hundred years ago an extraordinary naturalist explored Galapagos for a few short weeks. The big surprise for me was that both his candid writing style and his boundless enthusiasm made me feel as though I was seamlessly transported into a Galapagos of yesteryear, when hardly anybody lived here. His exceptional eye for detailed observation may have surpassed even Darwin’s. His ability to convey his constant sense of wonder and discovery makes this book as fresh today as ever, except that some of the scenes he so vividly described are no more — succumbed to modern human activity in Galapagos — like being intimidated during his pioneering dives not by the masses of sharks, but by the toothy giant groupers that shadowed him at close range.


Darwin in Galápagos: Footsteps to a New World

By K. Thalia Grant, Gregory B. Estes,

Book cover of Darwin in Galápagos: Footsteps to a New World

Why this book?

I had known the authors for decades, as friends and neighbors, so when their book came out it took me by surprise, even more so when I discovered just how outstanding it is. This is a remarkable blend of meticulously researched historical facts about the life of the great 19th-century naturalist Charles Darwin, combined with sensitive commentary by retracing his Galapagos experiences step-by-step, as well as his life before and after. Every page is engaging, delving deep into his thoughts through his notes and correspondence, and his personal observations and how they led to his revolutionary theory of evolution.


The Galapagos Affair

By John Treherne,

Book cover of The Galapagos Affair

Why this book?

I grew up on Santa Cruz Island, and while Floreana Island was visible on the horizon, I only knew it as the place where mysterious things had happened to people. Only when I read this book did I begin to understand. While Europe was preparing for war in the early 1930s, William Beebe’s enchanting book about Galapagos, caused a bizarre set of adventurers to converge on this small island as their chosen Eden. Stranger than fiction, what ensued was a human-made hell instead, that fostered bizarre deaths and disappearances that have remained unexplained to this day. The author uses his scientific background to analyze the known facts and lets the reader fill in the blanks. This book was the basis for the documentary film, The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden, by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine.


My Father's Island

By Johanna Angermeyer,

Book cover of My Father's Island

Why this book?

As a young girl, Johannah was my friend and neighbor, a quiet and pensive young woman with a strong artistic bent and at times a wicked sense of humor. Her book is an enchanting, at times whimsical, account of a teenage girl rediscovering for herself what had drawn her late father, whom she barely knew, and his three brothers to carve out a life in the remote Galapagos Islands pre WWII, as an antidote to the rising Third Reich.


Galapagos Crusoes: A Year Alone With the Birds

By Bryan Nelson, June Nelson,

Book cover of Galapagos Crusoes: A Year Alone With the Birds

Why this book?

I can barely remember when, as a child in the mid-1960s, I met a young couple of biologists who had just spent a year living in a tiny camp among the seabirds of Galapagos, devoid of contact with the outside world. Part diary, part behavioral field notes, Bryan’s enduring book, Galapagos, Islands of Birds has just been rewritten and expanded into a brand-new edition by his widow, over 50 years later — a charming and timeless volume.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Galápagos Islands, murders, and Charles Darwin?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Galápagos Islands, murders, and Charles Darwin.

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