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I love The Feather Thief. I read it in like, two days and convinced two other people to read it immediately so I had someone to talk to about it. I’ve only read a couple of the other books on this list so far, but they’re all on my TBR, pretty high up. So, here are some books like the Feather Thief that you definitely need to read like, right now. These are also great non-violent true crime books.
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson
Lets start things off with The Feather Thief itself. One June evening in 2009, Edwin Rist, a twenty-two year-old American flautist, boarded a train after performing at London’s Royal Academy of Music.
He was headed to the Tring museum, a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History, which happens to be home to thousands of rare bird specimens with plumes worth staggering amounts of money to people like Edwin: Victorian salmon fly-tyers.
That night he walked out with hundreds of bird skins, some collected 150 years before by Alfred Russel Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin’s who risked everything to get them.
Stolen World: A Tale of Reptiles, Smugglers, and Skulduggery by Jennie Erin Smith
In 1965, Hank Molt, a cheese salesman from Philadelphia, reinvented himself as a “specialist dealer in rare fauna” then traveled the world to collect reptiles for zoos and museums. By the end of the next decade, new endangered species laws turned him into a convicted smuggler, but he continued to supply to the same people, just covertly now.
Soon, he had a rival: Tommy Crutchfield, a carpet salesman from Florida with every intention os usurping Molt as the most accomplished smuggler in the country.
Crutchfield forge ties with a criminally inclined Malaysian wildlife trader and emerged a millionaire while Molt ended up hanging around Crutchfields Florida compound planning his demise. The fallout from their feud resulted in a worldwide federal investigation.
The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
John Laroche is determined to clone an endangered flower: a Ghost Orchid. He’s deeply eccentric, oddly attractive, and most of all, wildly obsessed. He takes Susan Orlean on a whirlwind tour of the orchid world through Florida’s swamps, orchid shows, and more.
We meet the Seminoles that help him and the feds who fight him after he is caught stealing a Ghost Orchid from the Fakahatchee Strand State Park. We also meet other collectors and competitors to really see the seedy underworld of orchid-selling.
The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird by Joshua Hammer
Jeffrey Lendrum, an Irish national, was stopped at Britain’s Birmingham International Airport on May 3, 2010 with a strange parcel strapped to his stomach. Inside they found fourteen rare peregrine falcon eggs he took from a remote cliffside in Wales.
This is the beginning of a bizarre tale of two stories: a globe-trotting smuggler and a detective in charge of the UK’s National Wildlife Crime Unit. One captures endangered raptors worth millions of dollars as race champions, the other does everything he can to protect the world’s birds of prey.
A unique blend of crime drama and natural history, this is a riveting tale of rogues, scoundrels, and the hunt for nature’s bounty. It’s a stranger-than-fiction tale, like most of these, centered on a larger-than-life character who pursued the larger-than-life clam – the Geoduck – then led wildlife police on a two-year-long chase.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
This one isn’t quite like the others, but I still think it’s fitting for the topic, so I’m including it anyways.
A fire alarm sounded at the Los Angeles Public Library the morning of April 29, 1986. This was no ordinary fire. It reached 2,000 degrees, burned for more than seven hours, consumed 400,000 books, and damaged 700,000 more.
Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, it’s still a mystery. Did someone purposefully set the fire? If so, why?
The Art of the Heist: Confessions of a Master Thief Myles J. Connor
No museum was off-limits for Connor. He used every method in the book to make his heists from cat burglary to elaborate con jobs and breaking and entering to simply just taking it off the wall in broad daylight and running.
How did the son of a decorated policeman grow up to become one of Boston’s most notorious criminals? How did he survive a decades-long feud with the Boston police and the FBI?
How did he manage to escape one jail sentence with a simple fake gun carved out of soap? How did he trade the return of a famous Rembrandt in exchange for early release from another sentence? We find out all the secrets in here.
Every year, over 100,000 people visit the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, usually to see it’s vast orchid collection. But one of the most famous orchid in Selby’s history and the most magnificent in a century, isn’t even on display. Instead, it’s led to search warrants, a grand jury investigation, and headlines worldwide.
It was discovered in Peru in 2002 and quickly became the most sought-after orchid in the world. This caused prices to soar over $10,000 and otherwise rational people to bend rules and break laws in their obsessive quest to add it to their collection.
The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth’s Ultimate Trophy by Paige Williams
In 2012, a New York Auction catalogue boasted a”superb Tyrannosaurus skeleton.” The listing was a nearly complete T. Bataar skeleton, a close cousin to the T. Rex. It was unearthed in Mongolia, 6,000 miles from where it is now on display in Manhattan. The winning bid was over $1 million.
Eric Prokopi, a thirty-eight-year-old Floridian brought the extraordinary skeleton to market, but had he gone too far this time in the face of financial strain? As it went to market, authorities were notified and an international custody battle ensued and Prokopi watched his world unravel.
A network of hunters, traders, breeders, and customers are exposed in this book. They enable this nefarious business which is estimated at $10 to $20 billion annually, competing with illegal drug and weapons trafficking in the money it earns the criminals.
The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World’s Most Coveted Fish by Emily Voigt
Voigt is taken on a world tour in her search for the world’s most expensive aquarium fish, a wild Asian arowana, to see the bizarre world of ornamental fish hobbyists to some of the most remote jungles on the planet.
A young man is murdered for his pet fish. An Asian tycoon buys one for $150,000. A pet detective chases smugglers through the streets of New York. This takes us into the outlandish world of obsession, paranoia, and criminality.
The Asian arowana is the perfect example of a modern paradox: a mass-produced endangered species. Hundreds of thousands are bred in captivity, but a wild arowana has become a near-mythical creature and Voigt is following it’s trail to learn its fate in nature.
Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking by Rachel Love Nuwer
Rachel Love Nuwer takes us into the dark world of wildlife trafficking for jewelry, pets, medicine, meat, trophies, and fur. Our demand for these products is driving a worldwide poaching epidemic threatening countless endangered species.
Illegal wildlife trade is now one of the largest contraband industries in the world, yet it has received little attention compared to drugs, arms, or human trafficking.
This takes us around the world to see the forces currently driving demand for animals and their parts, the toll that demand is extracting on species across the planet, and the conservationists, rangers, and activist who believe it isn’t too late to stop the impending extinctions.
The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive Fungus by Ryan Jacobs
Behind the star chefs and crystal-laden tables, the truffle supply chain is touched by theft, secrecy, sabotage, and fraud.
Farmers patrol their fields with rifles and fear losing trade secrets to spies while hunters plant poisoned meatballs to get rid of rival truffle-hunting dogs. Naive buyers and knowledgable experts alike are duped by liars and counterfeits.
The Truffle Underground exposes the dark and sometimes deadly crimes at each level of the truffles path from ground to plate.
Well, I hope some of these books interest you because I know I just added them all to my wishlist. I think this might be one of my favorite genres of book after writing this list. I already have like, five of these. I hope you enjoy all of these books like The Feather Thief.
Have you read any of these? Which ones? What did you think of them? Anything I should add?