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The 12 Days of Books to Buy for Your Science Readers: On the Twelfth Day of Book Lists…

On this, the last day of book lists (or is it…), I bring you a motley assortment of books about dinosaurs, snakes, and science. To begin with, I want to include a book that had been meant to be on the list for Monday, along with Norell’s book. For the life of me, I do not know how it got deleted from the list. But better late than never, I present possibly the best dinosaur book of 2018.

Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved, 2nd edition, by Darren Naish and Paul Barrett. 2018. Natural History Museum. ISBN-13: 978-0565094768

Dinosaurs-2nd-ed-new-cover-art-Nov-2018-Tetrapod-ZoologyThe Natural History Museum of London is known for putting out well regarded books for both the general populace and technical readers. Combine that with two paleontologists well regarded for both their scientific expertise and their ability to write for the general audience and you have a recipe for a great book. This is the paperback version of a book published in 2016. Ordinarily, that would make this kind of pointless, unless you just want to save some money over the price of a hardcover. However, it has been an eventful two years in dinosaur paleontology and Naish and Barrett took the opportunity to revise the book, making this a true second edition and one well worth getting. They even included new and better artwork, which you can see before you even open the book, as the cover art is notably different, marking a shift in tone in the artwork from the old style dinosaurs as monsters, as Naish puts it, to newer dinosaurs as living animals and part of a healthy ecosystem. All in all, if you haven’t picked up the first edition, definitely get this one. If you have already gotten it, go ahead and get this one too.

Thunder Lizard: The Art of Steve White by Steve White. 2019.

white2019Steve White put together the wonderful Dinosaur Art books showcasing some of the best paleoart around. Now he has put out a book showcasing his own art. He has some wonderful art of dinosaurs, sharks, and others. White has included sketches showing the development of some of the art from concept to finished pieces, making the book an interesting look into his process of creating paleoart. the only thing bad bout this book i want to say is that I know of no way to buy the book currently other than asking him directly for a copy, so contact him here for your copy.

American Dinosaur Abroad: A Cultural History of Carnegie’s Plaster Diplodocus by Ilja Nieuwland. 2019. University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN-13: 978-0822945574

nieuwland2019bDippy the Diplodocus is one of the most famous dinosaurs of all time, having a home for decades in the main hall of the Natural History Museum in London.  Dippy is one of several casts of the original that was made on the orders of Andrew Carnegie, who endeavored to supply the major museums in the United States and Europe with their own copies of the dinosaur, spreading its fame across the world. This book is an account of Carnegie’s campaign, from its origins and inspirations to reception of the dinosaur. It is a fascinating tale of dinosaur philanthropy back in the day that helped to inspire millions and spawned the dinosaur mania in modern culture and set the stage for the dinosaur research renaissance still going on today.

Assembling the Dinosaur: Fossil Hunters, Tycoons, and the Making of a Spectacle by Lukas Rieppel. 2019. Harvard University Press. ISBN-13: 978-0674737587

rieppel2019Whereas Nieuwland’s book focused on one famous dinosaur, Rieppel looks at the whole era of the late 1800s, when vertebrate paleontology, and especially dinosaurs, had gripped the imagination of the nation. The first American industrialists had made their fortunes, were looking for ways to display American greatness and nothing was bigger than dinosaurs. Rieppel tells the tale of these men on their quest to find the biggest and most impressive dinosaurs in the field, and their efforts to bring them back and put them on display. Their efforts led to the dinosaur exhibitions so many people grew up with, and still think about when envisioning dinosaurs on display. They instilled a fascination and wonder into people everywhere, inspiring generations of paleontologists, authors, and movie makers.

The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug by Staffanie Strathdee and Thomas Patterson. 2019. Hachette Books. ISBN-13: 978-0316418089

strathdee2019If you re an epidemiologist and your spouse takes ill with an unstoppable bacterial infection, what do you do? You go to work. Reading that statement might make one think the book is horror or science fiction, but it is all too real. This book tells the story of Dr. Patterson’s illness and Dr. Strathdee’s efforts to find a cure for something that resisted all known cures. Intensive research brought to light an avenue used much earlier, but had been discarded in favor of more modern antibiotics. They used viruses to bypass the defenses. Phage therapy like this has paved the way for a whole new field of viral medicine and is the basis of gene therapy. Superbugs like those that infected Dr. Patterson, bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics, are becoming more and more prevalent and our antibiotics are becoming less and less effective, making new approaches like this vitally important. But like all revolutionary advances, it starts with a personal story.

The Book of Snakes: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species from around the World by Mark O’Shea. 2018. University of Chicago Press. ISBN-13: 978-0226459394

oshea2018I just couldn’t leave the lists without just one more book about snakes and this is a good one. The previous book focused on a small part of the world. This one includes snakes from all over the globe. They come in all sizes and colors, venomous and not, docile and aggressive. But however, they come, snakes are an important part of healthy ecosystems. They are also just fascinating creatures and this book shows them off as well or better than any book out there. Packed with photos, this book will give you a wonderful tour of the wide diversity found in snakes throughout the world.

 

I want to end this list with two books about science itself. Science is  not frizzy-haired men in lab coats doing experiments. It is a way of thinking about the world and the importance of being able to back up one’s assertions with evidence that is vitally important for people to understand. If we want to live in a world that makes sense, science needs to have a central place in our society.

The Workshop and the World: What Ten Thinkers Can Teach Us About Science and Authority by Robert P. Crease W. W. Norton, 2019. ISBN-13: 978-0393292435

crease2019

Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, Reneé Descartes, Giambattista Vico, Mary Shelley, Auguste Comte, Max Weber, Kemal Atatürk, Edmund Husserl, and Hannah Arendt. These are the people to whom Norton has turned to gain insight into the relationship between science and politics. He begins by discussing the origins of science as an acknowledged field of endeavor and proceeds from there to discuss its ties to the humanities and often tenuous and contentious relationship with those in power. If you ever wondered why so many in politics take an adversarial role with science for the public good, how these attitudes came to be, and what can be done to counter it, you may find this book of interest.

Why Trust Science? by Naomi Oreskes. 2019. Princeton University Press. ISBN: 9780691179001

oreskes2019I want to end this list with a book whose main topic is one of utmost important in today’s sociopolitical climate. As we grapple with so many people questioning things that are so obvious in the sciences, such as vaccines, global warming, and even the shape of the earth itself, we should answer the question all these people are asking, why should we trust science?  As Oreskes explains, we don’t trust scientists because they use a fictional “scientific method.” Science is a way of thinking, not a singular method. Instead, we should trust scientists because it s an inherently social process. Science does not become accepted until it has been examined by checked by other scientists. Appeal to authority has less weight when even the authority has to supply data to support their claims. Science doesn’t demand to be taken at their word, they demand the data to be presented and the evidence to be examined. In a world where truth has become a commodity and equal to simple opinion, it is important we retain an arena where truth is known by the data it keeps.

In the 12 Days of Christmas, it ends on the twelfth day. But science never sleeps, knowledge is always advancing. So in honor of that spirit, on Monday I present to you the 13th Day of Book Lists, a baker’s dozen book lists.


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