Many kids go through a dinosaur loving phase. What's not to love? These creatures encompass so many fascinations--giant monsters, huge teeth, a mysterious disappearance. Their size stretches our imaginations, and there is so much that is still unknown about them that it's hard NOT to speculate.
But these giants, both gentle and monstrous, aren't just for kids! There have been so many awesome discoveries lately that a lot of books have come out presenting new information that make the dinosaurs from when I was little seem almost silly. I never realized how much of what we thought we knew back then was pure speculation. Even now, there is a lot of guess work, but with advances in microscopy and with new methods of extracting data from fossils and new ways of looking at things, we are learning more than ever.
Here are a few books that will get you up to speed on more current dinosaur research, and that will ignite your love for dinosaurs once again!
My Beloved Brontosaurus, by Brian Switek. This book is part memoir, part science book, written in a conversational and fun tone. It chronicles some of Switek’s travels around the country as he talks about the latest discoveries in dinosaur studies, covering topics from feathers to diet, from dino society to dino sex, and of course, theories of extinction. The author's voice lends a great sense of wonder to the book, and even those who are not as into dinosaurs as I am might find it contagious. Reading about Switek’s adventures on the road gives things a personal touch, and helps bring a book about things dead many millions of years to life. My Beloved Brontosaurus is an easy, enjoyable, relaxing read written for the lay-person, yet full of amazing information about some of the largest creatures to ever roam the earth.
Dinosaurs: The Grand Tour, by Keiron Pim. This beautifully illustrated book takes readers on a tour through the age of dinosaurs, serving as an A-Z field guide to dinosaurs through the ages. Between the dinosaur listings (over 300!), which are written in an engaging way, there are entries about dino-science, facts and fiction, mythology, and new discoveries. There are lots of feathers and beaks in the gorgeous drawings by Fabio Pastori, that inspired me to practice paleodrawing again. If you are going to get one book from this entire article, if you are sadly limited, make it this book. After you read this book, you'll want to read the rest!
Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved, by Darren Naish and Paul Barrett. This book is not a field guide, but a book about dinosaurs in general, their history, their biology, scientists' latest discoveries, and their evolution. Illustrated with colorful photography, drawings, and diagrams, this book is accessible to the lay reader and full of information that will answer questions you might not even realize you had. This book fills a huge gap in dino literature. Most books I've found on the subject at this level have been field guides with a lot of general, repetitive information. This book looks at things from a wider view, looking at specific things like anatomy (teeth, digestive system, feathers, etc), ecology, how the dinosaurs moved, etc. An exciting and engaging book that many ages can enjoy.
How to Build a Dinosaur (The New Science of Reverse Evolution), by Jack Horner. This book is for the slightly more advanced dinosaur fan, but is still very readable and engaging. Jack Horner is the scientist behind a lot of the information in Jurassic Park, and yes, in this book, he does indeed discuss how we can reverse engineer chickens to make dinosaurs of our very own. This book discusses how to make cells with certain attributes work together in order to create specific systems that will make a custom creature. It looks at how scientists can active some parts of a genetic code, deactivate others, and basically recreate a species that has been extinct for millions of years. Clearly Horner didn't pay attention to what happened in the movie he was consulted for...
The Tyrannosaur Chronicles: The Biology of the Tyrant Dinosaurs, by David Hone. Here we are getting into more advanced territory. This book is for those who have moved beyond thinking about dinosaurs in general, and are ready to sink their teeth into more specific information about tyrannosaurids. Hones delves into the history of these monstrous giants, their evolution, behavior, and biology. While this book is more advanced information-wise, it is still written in a conversational and engaging way. It starts from the beginning, so I don't think amateur dino lovers will be lost at all if they pick this book up. A really fascinating read with lots of diagrams and a section of color images in the middle. You'll never look at the King of Dinosaurs the same way again.
The Sauropod Dinosaurs: Life in the Age of Giants, by Mark Hallett and Mathew J. Wedel. This book is an AMAZING exploration of the plant-eating giants, the sauropods. It's a survey much like the previous book, but complete with full color illustrations throughout. It's a big book that contains information about every facet of sauropod life, biology, diet, how fossils are found and sorted and stored. There are diagrams of bones, not just skeletal structure, but of the construction of the bones themselves. Readers learn how these giants mated and evolved, how they migrated, and what their end days were like. This is an amazing book for any paleo fan.
As you can see, there are a lot of great books out there for people with a passion for paleontology, whether they want an overview of information or they want specific academic information. All the books above are written in a way that anyone could enjoy them, and I highly recommend them all!
Melanie R. Meadors is an author and editor of science fiction and fantasy, blogger at The Once and Future Podcast, and a professional author publicist. She studied physics and astronomy at Northern Arizona University, where no day was complete without a heated debate over relativity versus quantum mechanics. You can find her at her website, melaniermeadors.com, on Facebook, and Twitter, @melaniermeadors.