We are going to start the week off with some of the best dinosaur books that have come out in the past year or so, a bit of paleontology history, and a good set of paleontology kids books to check out. If this doesn’t satisfy your dinosaur interest, there will be more coming as we wrap up the lists.
The World of Dinosaurs: An Illustrated Tour by Mark A. Norell. 2019. University of Chicago Press. ISBN-13: 978-0226622729
Dr. Norell is the paleontology curator for the American Museum of Natural History in New York and has written what is possibly the best general audience dinosaur book of 2019. This book is like a personal tour of the AMNH dinosaur collections by their chief curator who answers all your questions and regales you with all the stories of each display as he explains all about dinosaurs. Norell gives a general introduction to dinosaurs, then goes through each group of dinosaurs as represented by a few specific animals. The book is packed with high quality photos of the fossils, some of the best illustrations you will find anywhere, and top quality reproductions of old photos, maps, and charts. If you ever wanted to go to the AMNH, or even if you have and wanted to get the most out of the visit as possible, this is the book for you.
Dinosaur Facts and Figures: The Theropods and Other Dinosauriformes by Ruben Molina-Perez and Asler Larramendi. 2019. Princeton University Press. ISBN-13: 978-0691180311
You may have seen books that tried to be this before, ones that talk about the biggest, fastest, etc. You may have seen ones that talk about specific dinosaurs and give you lots of numbers like weight, length, etc. but this one is a step above. This book has better illustrations than the standard book like this, it has more accurate, scientific charts, it provides phylogenetic relationships. The production values in this book are a cut above any book like this I have seen. Moreover, this book does something I have never seen in any other book like this. It provides a discussion of its methodology for coming up with the data. If you want a book that is a ready source of numerous dinosaur facts and you want one that makes an effort to be factual over flashy, this is the book. You won’t find “Awesome!” or “Terrifying” in big, bold, colorful fonts. What you will find are facts, tables, and illustrations that will satisfy your quest to actually learn about dinosaurs, while inspiring you to learn more.
Weird Dinosaurs: The Strange New Fossils Challenging Everything We Thought We Knew by John Pickrell. 2017. Columbia University Press. ISBN-13: 978-0231180986
For a book titled “Weird Dinosaurs,” this is an unexpected find. There have been several books published with such titles. They have all been picture heavy and filled with superlatives and adjectives in big, bright letters designed to excite and dazzle the young mind. this book is very different. There is little in the way of art at all. This is a text that tells stories of the people and events surrounding the finds of some of the newest and strangest of dinosaurs. Pickrell is not a scientist. He is a science journalist. As such, he excels at telling stories of science discovery. He spends less time describing the fossils than he does discussing what they mean for the field. So if you are ready to move beyond the glitz and sink your teeth into the stories behind the glamour, to move beyond the marvel of the weird into understanding it in a larger context, check this book out.
Acrocanthosaurus Inside and Out by Kenneth Carpenter. 2016. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN-13: 978-0806153933
No dinosaur book list from a person based in Arkansas would be complete without mentioning the book focused on the only giant predatory theropod in the state. We may not have any of the famous tyrannosaurs or well known names of the carnosaurs, but we do have Acrocanthosaurus, which truthfully should be as well known as the others because with sizes reaching almost 12 m, it ranks among the largest known theropods; and with the high spines (thus the name, meaning “high-spined lizard), it stands out from the crowd of tyrannosaur-like theropods. Dr. Carpenter gives this dinosaur its due by focusing an entire book on the genus, providing the reader with everything they might want to know about this animal. Along the way, he discusses how and why we know what we know, so not only will you learn all about Acrocanthosaurus and how it compares to others, you will learn the process of studying dinosaurs.
King of the Dinosaur Hunters: The Life of John Bell Hatcher and the Discoveries that Shaped Paleontology by Lowell Dingus. 2018. Pegasus Books. ISBN-13: 978-1681778655
When people think of dinosaur discoveries, they tend to think of the paleontologists who studied them, but few people think of those who went out into the field and collected the dinosaurs in the first place. These days, paleontologists go out into the field and lead the expeditions, but in the 1800s, museums would often hire teams of professional field teams to find, excavate, and ship home the fossils. Marsh and Cope, paleontologists famous for their rivalry, hired such men as Charles Sternberg to lead the expeditions. John Hatcher, while today much less known than Sternberg and the more famous paleontologists, was one of the most prominent men in the field, leading expeditions in Wyoming and elsewhere that led to the discoveries of some of the most iconic dinosaurs in history and becoming an important paleontologist in his own right. Dr. Dingus provides a welcome spotlight on this often overlooked, but important, person in the history of vertebrate paleontology.
Dinosaur Empire!: Journey through the Mesozoic Era (2017) Ocean Renegades: Journey through the Paleozoic Era (2018) Mammal Takeover!: Journey through the Cenozoic Era (2019) by Abby Howard. Earth Before Us series. Amulet Books.
If you are in the market for paleontology books for an older elementary school aged kid, check out this series. These graphic novels take the form seen in such books as the Magic School Bus, wherein a guide takes a student back in time to look at living animals representing the different ages. Each book covers a different Era, defining what the time spans are and the major animals representing the time periods, as well as topic about biological concepts such as evolution and ecological niches. In this case, a student named Ronnie who needs help to pass his class from an eccentric neighbor who happens to be a paleontologist with a time tunnel. The information is a step above the Magic School Bus and the books are entertaining. If you like Mrs. Frizzle and her wacky bus, you should enjoy the Earth Before Us series.
A Brief History of Life on Earth By Clemence DuPont. 2019. Penguin Random House. ISBN 9783791373737
This is a strange, but intriguing book. The book provides a trip through time, each time period getting a two page spread showing an illustration of the time period giving an idea of the life forms present and the major environment in which they lived. Each section has a short paragraph providing a quick introduction to the time period. It is not written at a level too high for little kids, but not high enough for an adult, reading something like a description you might find on a display in a museum. the interesting thing about this book is that it is huge, at 22″ by 29″ and folds out into a timeline 26 feet long. For this alone, I think it worth checking out. It is a fascinating timeline providing an absorbing look at our earth’s history.