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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential, personal, modern review of dinosaur science., 15 May 2013
Brian Switek is not only one of the best living science writers, period, he is also the science writer who knows dinosaurs best, period. And he loves them; his passion comes hurtling through the chapters like a Yucatan-bound meteorite (but a meteorite that brings dinosaurs to life rather than brings them doom). You don't move from New Jersey to Utah to be closer to the coolest dinosaur dig sites and museums if you don't truly have a burning zeal for dinosaur research. His street cred is thoroughly established by that alone.

This is a very personal story of how one man's love of dinosaurs has stayed with him, has shaped his life, and how his perception and enjoyment of dinosaurs have changed along with the science. It's a book for dinosaur fans of ages roughly 12 and upwards. Switek writes extremely accessibly but intelligently- he does not dumb things down but makes them interesting, fun and even novel to an expert (like myself; I'm a professor who does dinosaur research and I learned a few things I'd missed out on!). And he doesn't make it lame, cheesy or nerdy- he stands up for good science and for dinosaurs as more than just kitsch. I loved phrases like "You can't get blood from a stone, but if you know where to look, you might find dinosaur colour."

The highlights of the book for me, first, include his vivid, firsthand experiences of what it's like- not just in terms of a sensory experience but in terms of a profound personal experience- to be in the field digging up or hunting for dinosaur fossils. His accounts of driving around the USA to visit various museums, field sites or researchers left me nostalgic for my own similar trips back in the 1990s. This is a part of Americana that not that many people experience, but it is immensely pleasing and educational, adding colour to American history and geography. Switek's writing brings the excitement of living in Utah; near the heart of American "dinosaur country"; to life.

And then Switek's reviews of the history of dinosaur research; the bulk of the book but organized thematically more than chronologically; are excellent. For example, why did Brontosaurus's name change and how has our understanding of that animal (Apatosaurus) changed over the past 2 centuries? He gives this question, often covered in other books (e.g. Gould's "Bully for Brontosaurus", which I've loved for ages), new vibrancy. And for once, the large meat-eating dinosaur Allosaurus gets its due, not as a wimpier cousin of T. rex but as a fascinating and fearsome animal in its own right. Switek's discussion of the sounds that dinosaurs made is very well informed and insightful, and his balanced treatment of how/why dinosaurs went extinct is refreshing and spot-on-target. There's much more than that in the book, but those are some parts that stuck with me.

All of these highlights are made possible by three things: Switek writes brilliantly, is deeply passionate about the subject (this is the #1 book he was born to write, I'd say), and truly knows the science. He goes to the conferences to keep up on what scientists are doing before it is published, he reads the original papers and knows what they mean and how to sort out B.S. or hype from good research, and he even regularly does the actual fieldwork with the top scientists. Switek IS a palaeontologist; not just some random journalist; but also he is one who can bring the science to life like perhaps no one else living today. He doesn't just write about it; he has lived it. He picks the right discoveries to emphasize because he knows the field's history and can think critically well enough to make his own assessments of what the modern view is or where the resolution to persistent controversies might lie. The book is modern (papers coming from ~2012 are discussed) because Switek has modern knowledge. He is quite aware of what the cutting edge research is and he personally knows many if not most of the researchers involved.

If you're going to read one general book about why dinosaur science is fun, still important and relevant in the modern age, and dynamically changing (indeed, improving amidst a new renaissance that has been sustained for at least 20 years!), read this. If in 20 years I want to look back on my career, close to my retirement, and reflect how the field has changed since today, I'd use this book as one first milestone for where dinosaur palaeontology was in 2013.

I bought the >6hr audiobook .mp3 version for my commuting. Switek reads it himself, and this adds to the personal touch. I highly recommend that. It is well edited, clear, nicely paced and has an interview at the end that was a nice surprise bonus.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For all dinosaur addicts, 13 May 2013
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This book provides an up-to-date and highly readable treatise on the latest state of play on dinosaur research - which the author stresses changes almost from day to day! I bought the book so that I could outwit a grandson who seems to know all there is to know about dinosaurs - on occasion, I can now prove him wrong. The book is logically written with chapters on all the known major aspects of dinosaur history, anatomy and physiology.

I give it only four stars as it suffers from a fault common to many science books for the generalist reader - the illustrations. They are of poor quality, generally not referred to in the text and the book seems to lack illustrations that would help the reader follow the text. For example, there is no overall "family tree" of dinosaurs to enable the reader better to understand the relationship between those that are referred to in the text. In addition, I am not convinced that the repeated descriptions of the author's car journeys and resultant visits to dinosaur museums and sites where dinosaur fossils have and are being discovered adds anything useful to the book. I don't like the method of referencing used by the author - you have to find the relevant phrase in the text to track down any further information or original articles/books provided in the section headed "notes" - these are numbered so why not give the number of the note at the relevant point in the text?

Nevertheless, this is a book for all dinosaur addicts and it will give all adults great satisfaction in being "one up" on their grandchildren/children and younger addicts will appreciate being updated on these fascinating creatures.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A true love story, 20 May 2014
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This review is from: My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs (Kindle Edition)
Brian Switek has the same enthusiasm and humour as the late and greatly missed Stephen Jay Gould. This is an inspiring as well as entertaining book. Highly, highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dinosaurs for adults, 20 April 2014
Simply, this book is amazing in my opinion because it's a book about dinosaurs written for adults. Nonetheless whilst still discussing the latest scientific thinking in a clear and understandable way, suitable for a lay man like me, Switek's child-like enthusiasm seeps through the entire book making it a pleasure to read. It covers a wide range of fascinating dinosaur topics from their origins, their colours and feathers, sex and growing up, and finally extinction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 12 Feb 2014
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I have only read parts of this book but I bought it for my partner and he loves it. Really well put together and the cover has a really lovely design. Apparently it is quite funny and covers a range of topics
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5.0 out of 5 stars What do the bones tell us?, 13 Jan 2014
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I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Well written, engaging and fascinating!

It takes me back to my boyhood and my fascination with dinosaurs, from Panini sticker albums, plastic dinosaur figures and regular showing on TV of 'One Million Years BC'.

The author updates some of the long held and wrong headed science that was prevalent in the 1970's and chronicles the updates that began in the 1980's with the work of Dr's Horner and Bakker and some of the 'dinosaur heresies' that are now accepted as established fact.

I came away feeling informed and my love of dinosaurs has been renewed-anyone know where I can get a T-Rex model for my desk?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best current Dinosaur book available, 5 Jan 2014
This is by far the best current Dinosaur book available.

But behold - this title is not for everyone! To fully enjoy this wonderfully written book you should at least have a basic knowledge about dinosaurs and know the creatures behind names like 'Triceratops', 'Torosaurus', 'T-Rex', 'Apatosaurus' and of course - 'Brontosaurus'!!

If these names don't seem to you like words from a Latin or Greek novel and if you are a dinosaur fan for at least a few years then this book will catapult your knowledge to the current state (it contains news of findings from 2012!).

Like in his last book, Brian Switek takes the reader to an adventure into the past.

With the information found in this book, you can hear and see these great creatures with other eyes.
Your image of them will be more realistic than ever!

Conclusion:
If you are already a Dino fan, this book is the best way to boost your dinosaur knowledge up to date.
All the others should consider buying a more suitable title for beginners.

For more information about Brian's books I recommend to take a look at his homepage: [...]
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