Dinosaurs (literally) for a dinosaur (metaphorically)
August 13, 2010 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Best books about dinosaurs for an adult who knows surprisingly little about them but who also has an appreciation for learning?

So kids - especially boys - like dinosaurs. Has it always been this way? I don't know, but it doesn't feel that way to me. I don't really remember a dinosaur trend as a kid. And I read lots of books about science. Volcanoes and earthquakes, yes. Space, hell yes. Dinosaurs, zilch.

So I don't know if I'm an anomaly in the 1974-1986 childhood set, but inspired by this question earlier this week, I started thinking and realizing that I really know absolutely nothing about dinosaurs.

I mean, I know that Jesus didn't ride them and that The Flintstones is inaccurate, and I read Jurassic Park before the movie, but other than that, nothing.

So please recommend any books for adults about dinosaurs, realizing I'm starting from only trivial knowledge, would like to be entertained but am willing to dive into pretty "dry" stuff if it's going to fill my knowledge hole.
posted by MCMikeNamara to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Digging Dinosaurs is specifically about one certain kind of duckbill dinosaurs, but it is a very fun read and you pick up a lot about dinosaurs in general, and about paleontologists go about their work.
posted by Danf at 1:46 PM on August 13, 2010

The Dinosaur Heresies was among the first works to really put forth the theory that dinosaurs were warm-blooded and related to birds. Older book, but a great read.

When a friend of mine got the chance to have dinner with Robert Bakker, the author, Bakker arrived at the dinner and immediately placed (what he said was) a T. Rex pubis bone in the center of the table. It was likely just been a goof with a fake bone, but my friend thought it was hysterical.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:57 PM on August 13, 2010

Ok I realize you said "for adults" but nothing will spur your interest in dinosaurs more than Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart's "Encyclopaedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs" pop-up book. Seriously. No really, stop laughing. It's awesome. Not a paleontological journal to be certain, but fun and educational.

Later you can get into The Scientific American Book of Dinosaurs or track down articles in American Paleontologist.
posted by elendil71 at 2:00 PM on August 13, 2010

I really like Dynamics of dynosaurs and other extinct giants by R. McNeill Alexander. The author is a zoologist, but, as he says in his introduction: "I like to think about animals in the kinds of ways that engineers think about machines and vehicles. That seems the best way of finding out how dinosaurs could have worked." He talks about their nasal cavity dimensions and what this tells us about what they might have sounded like, what their footprints and bone sizes tell us about how they moved, outlines the evidence for and against warm-bloodedness. Overall, the book gives a good sense of what is known about dinosaurs, but even more about what evidence this knowledge is based on.
posted by Killick at 2:32 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's more than a little bit dated now, but The Riddle of the Dinosaur was the most engrossing and adult-oriented of my many childhood dinosaur books. It's not about specific types of dinosaurs, so much as a historic overview of how people have theorizied about dinosaurs since their first discovery up through 1985 (when the book was published). I wouldn't read it to get an idea of what scientists today think dinosaurs were like so much as what scientists yesterday thought dinosaurs were like, which works out well because that's the book's topic, too.
posted by bettafish at 3:06 PM on August 13, 2010

Perhaps not quite about "big" dinosaurs, but instead about little critters like Hallucigenia (what looks kinda like weird-assed little mini-stegosauri), then I would most highly recommend Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History by Stephen Jay Gould. A wonderful book. You'll love it.
posted by ovvl at 8:18 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Speaking of Robert Bakker, (and as a long-ago fan of Big Red) I found Raptor Red very entertaining.
posted by dpcoffin at 9:31 AM on August 14, 2010

I still have my Ultimate Dinosaur Book by from the mid-1990s (the height of dino-craze, it would seem, and I was like 14 at the time). It's not really a childish book. It's not entirely up to date on current ways of thinking, of course (feathered dinosaurs and other stuff that I've not followed since).
posted by Harry at 2:15 PM on August 14, 2010

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