Spiders in general
There are a number of basic books that are useful for learning about spiders. One of the best, inexpensive books is a wonderful guide to all of the common non-insect arthropods of North America. That book is Spiders and their kin by Herb and Lorna Levi. It describes how to distinguish spiders from harvestmen (AKA daddylonglegs), mites and ticks, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes and others. This book contains descriptions and illustrations of a large variety of spiders worldwide. It is a compact, lavishly illustrated book that is packed with interesting and helpful information. It can be obtained inexpensively here.
One important classic source of information about the lives and habits of local spiders is American Spiders by Willis J. Gertsch. This book is now long out-of-print, but the second edition can be purchased as a used book here. It provides more detailed information about the basic biology of spiders as well as the life histories and behavior of many North American spiders.
For the serious student of spiders, there is no substitute for the Biology of Spiders by Rainer F. Foelix. The most up-to-date 3rd edition has chapters on anatomy, metabolism, neurobiology, webs, prey capture, reproduction, development, ecology, and the relationships of spiders worldwide. It can be purchased here.
There are numerous web sites that provide information about spiders. The American Arachnological Society web site is a gateway to the scientific study of arachnids, including spiders. At this site you can learn about spiders, how to contact active researchers, and subscribe to the Journal of Arachnology. This is the most important source for current published research about arachnids, including spiders and their relatives.
There are so many different kinds of spiders that telling them apart isn’t easy. In Ohio we have over 640 species, representing 41 different families. In North America there are well over 3,800 species classified into 69 families.
For a beginner, Spiders and their kin, described above is a good starting place.
My recently published (2013) book, Common Spiders of North America, will take you deeper into the subject. It is the first fully color-illustrated guide to spiders of North America north of Mexico. For more information about this book check here.
For technical identification of spiders, the American Arachnological Society has published a comprehensive identification guide to all of the families and genera, with information included that references all the sources of species identification. This source Spiders of North America: an identification manual (2005) was written by the specialists in each group and edited by Darrel Ubick, Pierre Paquin, Paula Cushing and Vince Roth. This is a must purchase for the serious spider student. Order it here.
For a compact book illustrated with line drawings and color photographs you might consider Spiders of the North Woods by Larry Webber. It has good coverage for that state up north, and many of the common species found in Ohio are included. The 2nd edition is available here.
An older, but still useful, book How to know the Spiders by B.J. Kaston (3rd ed. 1978) can be found as a used book here.
One excellent web site identification tool is Bugguide.net. This site provides photographs submitted by contributors across the country. Not all species found in North America are illustrated; but the coverage of common spiders is quite good and getting better all the time. If you have an idea of what group your spider might belong to, you can navigate using the name or group name in a search. Otherwise, start with the guide to spiders and use it to narrow your search. The best part of this site is that you can submit your photos and get the experts to provide an identification (if the photo is good enough).
Spider related Web Sites
The American Arachnological Society site provides a doorway to current research and many helpful contacts. There are also links to their Facebook page as well as the Journal of Arachnology. Link here.
The British Arachnological Society site provides many helpful sources of information as well as information about their publications; Arachnology and The Bulletin of the British Arachnological Society. Link here.
For anyone contemplating a trip down under to Australia; I can highly recommend the Australasian Arachnological Society web site. It provides links to many useful sources of information.
Last, but not least, the International Arachnological Society is the go to source for scientific information about arachnids worldwide. Link here.
If you are interested in raising spiders, or spiders as pets, you might want to check out the American Tarantula Society’s site.