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DINOSAURS

and Other Mesozoic Life
Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops, by Charles Knight

"The combination of such characters . . . will, it is presumed, be deemed sufficient ground for establishing a distinct tribe or sub-order of Saurian Reptiles, for which I propose the name Dinosauria."

-- Sir Richard Owen, in an address to the British Association
for the Advancement of Science, August 2, 1841

I've been interested in dinosaurs for literally as long as I can remember. It went dormant for a while when I was in high school, then revived in full force when I read Robert Bakker's The Dinosaur Heresies in college. So it's no surprise that I have more books about dinosaurs than about any other fossil animals. They take up a good three shelves of my science collection. They also run the gamut from books that anyone can read to esoteric academic papers that only a real enthusiast would like. After some thought, I decided to break them down into four groups for listing here:

For the Casual Reader

These are generalized books about all dinosaurs, suitable for just about anyone who's interested in learning about dinosaurs. Most of them talk about the entire group Dinosauria, and give a chunk of the history of paleontology while they're at it. They don't use lots of scientific terminology, and they do include lots of the sense-of-wonder that attracts so many people to studying dinosaurs.

  • DINOSAUR AND OTHER PREHISTORIC ANIMAL FACT FINDER
    Author: Benton, Dr. Michael
    Copyright:1989
    Publisher: Kingfisher Books
    ISBN: 1-85697-802-8
    A basic illustrated guide to over 200 prehistoric animals, mainly dinosaurs but also including some fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Each entry includes the animal's name, when and where it lived, its size and mass, and some basic facts about it. As an introduction to the basics it works, but for anything more in-depth you'll have to look somewhere else.
  • DINOSAUR HERESIES, THE
    Author: Bakker, Robert T.
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Wm. Morrow & Co.
    ISBN: 0-688-04287-2
    Robert Bakker is something of a rogue among dinosaur palaeontologists. He was one of the leaders of the "dinosaur renaissance" of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the orthodox ideas of dinosaurs as sluggish, swamp-dwelling reptilians were overturned and replaced with pictures of dinosaurs as fast, smart, highly evolved dry-land dwellers. This book is a thorough exposition of Bakker's theories about dinosaurs: how they lived and died, how they evolved, whether they were warm- or cold-clooded, etc. Lots of good information, but lots of speculation too. Beware of getting confused between them; Bakker is very good at making speculation sound like solid theory.
  • DINOSAUR!
    Author: Norman, David
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: MacMillan Publishing
    ISBN: 0-02-860434-2
    The companion book to the A&E series DINOSAUR!. A general look at the Dinosauria, their world. their evolution and their extinction. Many good illustrations.
  • DINOSAURS PAST AND PRESENT, VOL. I
    Author: Czerkas and Olsen
    Copyright:1987
    Publisher: LACMNH
    ISBN: 0-938644-24-6
    A two-volume set that mixes nonfiction about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals with richly science-based fiction stories. Some of the stories are quite good in various ways.
  • DINOSAURS PAST AND PRESENT, VOL. II
    Author: Czerkas & Olsen
    Copyright:1987
    Publisher: LACMNH
    ISBN: 0-938644-23-8
    Volume 2 of the set.
  • DISCOVERING DINOSAURS IN THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
    Author: Norell, Gaffney, Dingus
    Copyright:1995
    Publisher: Knopf
    ISBN: 0-679-43386-4
    A detailed loook at the major species of dinosaurs which are included in the American Museum of Natural History's new dinosaur exhibit halls. This includes many extremely good photographs of dinosaur fossils.
  • ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DINOSAURS, THE
    Author: Lambert, David
    Copyright:1990
    Publisher: Bloomsbury Books
    ISBN: 1-85471-450-3
    Another book of information about dinosaurs. Includes a list of all known genera, descriptions of dinosaur families, where and when dinosaur fossils have been found, and more. Published in USA as THE DINOSAUR DATA BOOK.
  • FLYING DINOSAURS, THE
    Author: Currie, Philip J.
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: Discovery Books
    ISBN: 0-88995-078-4
    Under current theory, birds are literally flying dinosaurs: small dinosaurs that evolved feathers and wings and then took to the air. This book discusses both birds and those close cousins of the dinosaurs, the pterosaurs. The book consists of paintings and capsule descriptions of various kinds of pterosaurs and birds, arranged in a way that reviews the evolution of both groups.
  • ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DINOSAURS, THE
    Author: Norman, David
    Copyright:1985
    Publisher: Crescent Books
    ISBN: 0-517-46890-5
    Comprehensive look at all known dinosaurs, including morphology, taxonomy, evolutionary relationships, and a list of genera. The text is good, though a little bit sparse. Unfortunately, some of the artwork leaves something to be desired. Companion volume to THE ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PTEROSAURS. Companion volume to THE ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PTEROSAURS.
  • ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PTEROSAURS
    Author: Wellnhofer, Peter
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: Salamander
    ISBN: 0-86101-566-5
    Detailed, comprehensive examination of the known groups of pterosaurs: morphology, habits, classification, and evolution. Companion to THE ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DINOSAURS. A very useful book, because such a comprehensive look at pterosaurs can be difficult to find.
  • RIDDLE OF THE DINOSAUR, THE
    Author: Wilford, John Noble
    Copyright:1985
    Publisher: Vintage Books
    ISBN: 0-394-74392-X
    An overview of the history of knowledge about dinosaurs, beginning with Dr. Gideon Mantell (discoverer of the very first recognized dinosaur) and finishing with the state of the art in dino-science as of 1984 or so. Though it's now old and much of the material is out of date, this is still an excellent general introduction to the history of dinosaurology. I recommend it highly. John Noble Wilford is an extremely skilled and experienced science reporter and writer, and this book represents some of his best work.
  • ULTIMATE DINOSAUR BOOK, THE
    Author: Lambert, David
    Copyright:1993
    Publisher: Dorling Kindersley
    ISBN: 1-56458-304-X
    Extensive collection of data about dinosaurs and relatives, including taxonomic trees and detailed reconstructions of over 50 dinosaurs representative of the major subgroups.
  • ULTIMATE DINOSAUR, THE
    Author: Preiss and Silverberg
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-37304-8
    Factual articles interspersed with fictional stories about dinosaurs and paleontology

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Dinosaurs in Detail

These are medium-difficult books, meant for seriously interested folks. They assume the reader is familiar with basic paleontological and dinosaur terminology, so they use such jargon without any attempt to define or explain it.

  • COMPLETE DINOSAUR, THE
    Author: Farlow & Brett-Surman
    Copyright:1997
    Publisher: Indiana Univ. Press
    ISBN: 0-253-33349-0
    A sort of encyclopedia of current dinosaurology. Big, thick, heavy, and expensive -- but very thorough. However, as all the authors are scientists, they tend to assume a somewhat higher level of knowledge than general books like the ones listed above.
  • DINOSAURS, SPITFIRES, AND SEA DRAGONS
    Author: McGowan, Christopher
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press
    ISBN: 0-674-20770-X
    A look at dinosaurs and other Mesozoic life from an engineering point of view. McGowan has quite a bit of fun showing how the anatomy of these Mesozoic monsters embodied engineering principles that humans have only discovered in the past hundred years or so.
  • DYNAMICS OF DINOSAURS & OTHER EXTINCT GIANTS
    Author: Alexander, R. McNeill
    Copyright:1989
    Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press
    ISBN: 0-231-06667-8
    An examination of the structural dynamics of dinosaurs from a physics and engineering point of view.
  • HOT-BLOODED DINOSAURS, THE
    Author: Desmond, Adrian
    Copyright:1975
    Publisher: Hutchinson Radius
    ISBN: 0-09-174583-7
    A review of the renaissance that swept dinosaur paleontology in the 1960s and early 1970s. I recommend this only for the enthusiast because it's really a bit outdated, and of interest mainly to historians of dinosaurology.
  • TRACKING DINOSAURS: A NEW LOOK AT AN ANCIENT WORLD
    Author: Lockley, Martin
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: Cambridge Univ. Press
    ISBN: 0-521-42598-0
    Lockley is an expert on dinosaur trackways. This is his semi-technical guide to viewing and interpreting dinosaur tracks.

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The Science of Dinosaurs

These are the high end of dinosaur literature: articles and books with the same kind of writing you find in scientific journals. I don't recommend any of these for the casual reader; only a professional or very dedicated amateur is likely to be able to read these (not to mention have the money to afford them). They require a detailed background in paleontology, taxonomy, and geology.

  • ALLOSAURUS FRAGILIS: A REVISED OSTEOLOGY
    Author: Madsen Jr., James H.
    Copyright:1976
    Publisher: Utah Geo Survey
    ISBN:
    Only for the seriously interested, this is a detailed monograph on the large theropod dinosaur Allosaurus fragilis. Madsen examines every element of A. fragilis's skeleton, individually and in total, using the enormous number of bones recovered from the Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry in northeastern Utah. I rather like this item, because I think Allosaurus doesn't get the attention it deserves.
  • DINOSAUR EGGS AND BABIES
    Author: Carpenter, Hirsch, Horner
    Copyright:1994
    Publisher: Cambridge Univ. Press
    ISBN: 0-521-56723-8
    A collection of journal-quality articles about dinosaur eggs and babies.
  • DINOSAURIA, THE
    Author: Weishampel, Dodson, Osmolska
    Copyright:1990
    Publisher: Univ. of California Press
    ISBN: 0-520-06727-4
    This is a detailed look at the entire group Dinosauria as of 1990. The individual chapters are journal-quality articles on different aspects of the Dinosauria. Some involve the whole group, others focus on specific subgroups. Now somewhat outdated, but still an invaluable resource for the serious dinosaur lover. If you're thinking about getting it, be forewarned that it assumes the reader has a substantial knowledge of anatomy and taxonomy. This is not a book for a casual reader. A revised and updated 2nd Edition was published in 2004.

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