The best dinosaur books

9 authors have picked their favorite books about dinosaurs and why they recommend each book.

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The Riddle of the Dinosaur

By John Noble Wilford,

Book cover of The Riddle of the Dinosaur

We can be a bit precious about all this. But it is important to keep in mind that we have not always known as much as we do now about the history of life on earth. Wilford gives us a very readable account of the practical history of palaeontology - the people involved, the excitement of the discoveries, the anecdotes of the expeditions, the thought processes that went into the interpretations . . . And how the public have percieved the various discoveries throughout history.


Who am I?

Dougal Dixon graduated from the University of St. Andrews with two degrees in geology. But although his education was entirely scientific his background was deeply artistic – a potentially unemployable combination back in the ‘70s. And so he ended up in publishing, as the Earth Science editor for an illustrated encyclopedia publisher. Since then he has become a full-time writer, specializing in geological articles for encyclopedias, handbooks on fossil collecting, and principally children’s books on dinosaurs. As well as that he has done a number of books on speculative evolution – exploring the principles of biology in novel ways.


I wrote...

After Man: A Zoology of the Future

By Dougal Dixon,

Book cover of After Man: A Zoology of the Future

What is my book about?

After Man explores a hypothetical future set 50 million years from now, a time period Dougal Dixon dubs the "Posthomic", which is inhabited by animals that have evolved from survivors of a mass extinction succeeding our own time. After Man used a fictional setting and hypothetical animals to explain the natural processes behind evolution. 


Dinosaurs Ever Evolving

By Allen A. Debus,

Book cover of Dinosaurs Ever Evolving: The Changing Face of Prehistoric Animals in Popular Culture

Like Wilford’s book, this one goes through the history of palaeontology, but puts it in the context of society at the time. For example the general appreciation of the dinosaur in the last 150 years has gone from an amazing curiosity, through a symbol of something that was too clumsy to survive, through a metaphor for our own vulnerability to climate change or pollution or nuclear annihilation, to the venerable ancestor of our lovely birds . . . It can be a bit nerdy at times – overly detailed plot lines of particular films or comic books – and can be somewhat repetitive – the same examples cropping up again and again. The sweep of the work references other writers in the field – including Septhen Jay Gould, Donald F. Glut and the above John Noble Wilford – giving a great coverage of the subject


Who am I?

Dougal Dixon graduated from the University of St. Andrews with two degrees in geology. But although his education was entirely scientific his background was deeply artistic – a potentially unemployable combination back in the ‘70s. And so he ended up in publishing, as the Earth Science editor for an illustrated encyclopedia publisher. Since then he has become a full-time writer, specializing in geological articles for encyclopedias, handbooks on fossil collecting, and principally children’s books on dinosaurs. As well as that he has done a number of books on speculative evolution – exploring the principles of biology in novel ways.


I wrote...

After Man: A Zoology of the Future

By Dougal Dixon,

Book cover of After Man: A Zoology of the Future

What is my book about?

After Man explores a hypothetical future set 50 million years from now, a time period Dougal Dixon dubs the "Posthomic", which is inhabited by animals that have evolved from survivors of a mass extinction succeeding our own time. After Man used a fictional setting and hypothetical animals to explain the natural processes behind evolution. 


The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

By Steve Brusatte,

Book cover of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of Their Lost World

The best seller of all time, a lively romp through dinosaur research (and researchers). This is for all readers, and you’ll be hooked by the lively, pacy text by Steve, as he hurtles from continent to continent, digging up bones from China to Poland, working on Tyrannosaurus rex and other great beasts in the basements of the world’s museums, and sharing with readers what it’s like to be a working paleontologist. For aspiring young bone-diggers, this is an inspiration, although it’s not like this all the time: paleontologists also sometimes have to mark student essays and fight with university systems to get their field trip costs refunded!


Who am I?

I’ve been mad about dinosaurs and ancient life since I was seven. I have been amazingly lucky to be able to develop a career as a professional palaeontologist and to be able to research and talk about the subject. We were first to show the original colours of dinosaur feathers, and this discovery provides a perfect way to open the discussion about how palaeontologists know what they say they know. In my books, I seek to amaze, amuse and inform. I have written many books, including pop science, textbooks, technical-scientific works, and books for children, and every year brings new discoveries to be transmitted to the world.


I wrote...

Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World

By Michael J. Benton, Bob Nicholls (illustrator),

Book cover of Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World

What is my book about?

Dinosaurs are not what you thought they were - or at least, they didn't look like you thought they did. This is a new visual guide to the world of the dinosaurs, showing how rapid advances in technology and amazing new fossil finds have changed the way we see dinosaurs forever. Stunning new illustrations from paleoartist Bob Nicholls display the latest and most exciting scientific discoveries in vibrant colour.

For the first time, we can claim that each illustration shows dinosaurs as they really were, each aspect of their skin or feathers, colours and patterns based on fossil evidence interpreted with the latest technology. Only 25 years ago, in 1996, the first dinosaur with feathers, Sinosauropteryx, was reported from China. Since then, thousands of amazing new specimens have come to light, and laboratory methods have improved enormously. Who says palaeontology is a dead, old discipline!

Dinosaurs

By David E. Fastovsky, David B. Weishampel, John Sibbick (illustrator)

Book cover of Dinosaurs: A Concise Natural History

This is the best textbook about dinosaurs. If you want to have all the latest information about the diversity of dinosaurs, how their bones are found and excavated, their history through time, all the key groups, how they are related to each other, and what we know about their life and times, this is the book. This is a tried and tested textbook, now in its fourth edition, but full of anecdotes, great text and great illustrations, many of them by the maestro, John Sibbick.


Who am I?

I’ve been mad about dinosaurs and ancient life since I was seven. I have been amazingly lucky to be able to develop a career as a professional palaeontologist and to be able to research and talk about the subject. We were first to show the original colours of dinosaur feathers, and this discovery provides a perfect way to open the discussion about how palaeontologists know what they say they know. In my books, I seek to amaze, amuse and inform. I have written many books, including pop science, textbooks, technical-scientific works, and books for children, and every year brings new discoveries to be transmitted to the world.


I wrote...

Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World

By Michael J. Benton, Bob Nicholls (illustrator),

Book cover of Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World

What is my book about?

Dinosaurs are not what you thought they were - or at least, they didn't look like you thought they did. This is a new visual guide to the world of the dinosaurs, showing how rapid advances in technology and amazing new fossil finds have changed the way we see dinosaurs forever. Stunning new illustrations from paleoartist Bob Nicholls display the latest and most exciting scientific discoveries in vibrant colour.

For the first time, we can claim that each illustration shows dinosaurs as they really were, each aspect of their skin or feathers, colours and patterns based on fossil evidence interpreted with the latest technology. Only 25 years ago, in 1996, the first dinosaur with feathers, Sinosauropteryx, was reported from China. Since then, thousands of amazing new specimens have come to light, and laboratory methods have improved enormously. Who says palaeontology is a dead, old discipline!

Dinosaurs a Children's Encyclopedia

By Dorling Kindersley,

Book cover of Dinosaurs a Children's Encyclopedia

The books so far are more for adults than children, although many children show remarkable powers of reading and learning with any dinosaur book. But this one is aimed at children, and it’s comprehensive and up to date. Dinosaur fans love lists and catalogues, and they want a book that has everything. This is probably the best such book, and it packs in a huge amount of material into its 300 pages.


Who am I?

I’ve been mad about dinosaurs and ancient life since I was seven. I have been amazingly lucky to be able to develop a career as a professional palaeontologist and to be able to research and talk about the subject. We were first to show the original colours of dinosaur feathers, and this discovery provides a perfect way to open the discussion about how palaeontologists know what they say they know. In my books, I seek to amaze, amuse and inform. I have written many books, including pop science, textbooks, technical-scientific works, and books for children, and every year brings new discoveries to be transmitted to the world.


I wrote...

Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World

By Michael J. Benton, Bob Nicholls (illustrator),

Book cover of Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World

What is my book about?

Dinosaurs are not what you thought they were - or at least, they didn't look like you thought they did. This is a new visual guide to the world of the dinosaurs, showing how rapid advances in technology and amazing new fossil finds have changed the way we see dinosaurs forever. Stunning new illustrations from paleoartist Bob Nicholls display the latest and most exciting scientific discoveries in vibrant colour.

For the first time, we can claim that each illustration shows dinosaurs as they really were, each aspect of their skin or feathers, colours and patterns based on fossil evidence interpreted with the latest technology. Only 25 years ago, in 1996, the first dinosaur with feathers, Sinosauropteryx, was reported from China. Since then, thousands of amazing new specimens have come to light, and laboratory methods have improved enormously. Who says palaeontology is a dead, old discipline!

The Greatest Adventure

By John Taine,

Book cover of The Greatest Adventure

To take a break from his day job as Professor Emeritus of Higher Mathematics at Caltech, Eric Temple Bell (John Taine was his pen name) wrote a series of science fiction novels that dealt, not with mathematics, but largely with biology. Any of these are still quite readable today, and notable for their discussion of biology and related fields when most writers of science fiction were focused on physics and space travel.

The Greatest Adventure deals with mutated dinosaurs in Antarctica, which sounds like something out of a 1950s horror film but which Bell uses as the basis for an investigation into science and not schlock. I suspect he utilized the pen name John Taine so as not to embarrass his supercilious colleagues in the math department (or possibly himself).


Who am I?

I started collecting science fiction as a teenager. As a collector, as opposed to just a reader, you come in contact with stories that considerably predate what you find for sale in stores. This led me to books from the 1930s and much earlier. John Taine was one of only two SF writers I encountered from the 1920s and 30s whom I still found enjoyable (and exciting) to read (the other was E.E. “doc” Smith).


I wrote...

Triplanetary: Science Fiction, Adventure, Space Opera

By E. E. 'Doc' Smith,

Book cover of Triplanetary: Science Fiction, Adventure, Space Opera

What is my book about?

The argument rages: did Dune influence Star Wars and if so, how much? Or was the primary influence on Star Wars the Flash Gordon movie serial? Or 2001: A Space Odyssey? The question is moot, since the granddaddy of them all was the Lensman series of novels.

The first of these, Triplanetary, appeared in the Jan-April 1934 issues of Amazing Stories. It’s all there: multiple intelligent alien species, an evil empire bent on galactic domination, people with heightened mental abilities, gigantic battles in space; all set against a vast galactic background. The science is primitive and so are some of the characters, but the action and scope carries you along. When much of science fiction was struggling to tell stories inside the solar system, Smith was ranging across the entire galaxy. Adjusted and fixed up, all six of the main Lensman novels are still readily available—and for a reason.

The Dinosaur Heresies

By Robert T. Bakker,

Book cover of The Dinosaur Heresies

It is Bakker’s controversial rethinking of the lives and science behind earth’s prehistory. In his avant-garde ideas, Bakker proposes and answers questions of things like what these monsters are and how they defended themselves or hunted. He even spoke on how they might have reproduced.

It’s a book to create dreamers who can take the torch to shed new light on those questions we all share in common as members of humanity.


Who am I?

As a decades-long collector of fossils & student of undiscovered and/or extinct creatures, I’ve gained traction in both fields on a professional level, which is what my spark ignited into. My choice for the final position could’ve been a tie between The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien, Roadmarks by Roger Zelazny, Farseer by Robert J. Sawyer, but since I could only choose 5 which sparked the dreamer.


I wrote...

Murder Red Ink

By Mord McGhee,

Book cover of Murder Red Ink

What is my book about?

In Murder Red Ink, Mord McGhee imaginatively explores the incomprehensible depths of horror, human nature, and captures the brutal reality of the monster behind the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888 in a science fiction whirlwind of the darkest sort. 

Dinosaur on Shabbat

By Diane Levin Rauchwerger, Jason Wolff (illustrator),

Book cover of Dinosaur on Shabbat

This is a favorite of mine and my students. Every preschool child loves dinosaurs, and nothing is more exciting and fun than a dinosaur celebrating Shabbat! Laughter abounds when the silly dinosaur makes mistakes just like the mistakes that the children hearing the book have made at Shabbat. The rhymes have a nice flow that keeps the attention of young listeners.


Who am I?

I believe that good Jewish stories are important tools in building Jewish identity. But when I first taught preschoolers, the books were either too didactic or written for older children. One day, when the children in my class were enthusiastically discussing the Christmas display at the mall, the idea came to me that maybe an eight-legged Spider celebrating the eight days of Hanukkah could compete with Frosty the Snowman. When Sammy Spider asks to spin a dreidel, he is told, “Spider’s don’t spin dreidels. Spiders spin webs.” The response became a favorite with Jewish children and a form of the phrase is part of all the Sammy Spider holiday and values books.


I wrote...

Sammy Spider's First ABC

By Sylvia A. Rouss, Katherine Janus Kahn (illustrator),

Book cover of Sammy Spider's First ABC

What is my book about?

Sammy Spider goes through the English alphabet using the Jewish holidays and traditions celebrated by the Shapiro family. With its sweet rhymes and iconic illustrations, this book is a fun new addition to the Sammy Spider collection. “A is for apple, a Rosh Hashanah treat. Josh dips it in honey, so tasty and sweet!”

How to Build a Dinosaur

By Jack Horner, James Gorman,

Book cover of How to Build a Dinosaur: The New Science of Reverse Evolution

It’s nice when scientists talk like regular people, with a sense of humor and simple explanations of how impossibly complex stuff works. That’s paleontologist Jack Horner, who has been the dinosaur consultant on all the Jurassic Park films. He’s currently trying to re-create a real-life dinosaur, which he makes sound like tinkering with the engine of a 1960s Mustang. Who me? Just trying to get a chicken embryo to grow into a dinosaur, to see if I can. And if it works, by the way, there’s your proof about the theory of evolution.  


Who am I?

As an author of YA science books (as well as being an editor), my goal is to inspire teens to think deeply about our world, but especially about our relationships with animals. To be honest, I knew bubkis about bioengineering until I was writing my previous book, Last of the Giants, about the extinction crisis. My head exploded as I learned how close we are to “de-extincting” lost species. The power that genetic engineering gives us to alter animals is unnerving, and it’s critical that we understand and discuss it. Bioengineering will change our future, and teens today will be the ones deciding how.    


I wrote...

Glowing Bunnies!? Why We're Making Hybrids, Chimeras, and Clones

By Jeff Campbell,

Book cover of Glowing Bunnies!? Why We're Making Hybrids, Chimeras, and Clones

What is my book about?

With modern bioengineering, science fiction’s “what if?” has become the scientist’s “why not?” Today, we have the tools to remake animals in almost any way we want, and genetic engineering is being used to help solve a range of urgent problems related to climate change, species extinctions, conservation, disease, human health, and the food industry. But as science fiction likes to warn us, altering animals isn’t without dangers, and it raises profound ethical questions. Glowing Bunnies!? explores how genetic engineering is currently reshaping animals and our world and asks that all-important question: Given what we can do, what should we do?

Time Out

By J. Cassidy,

Book cover of Time Out

Although this book is only 16 pages long, it tells a story that could easily have been a novel, which is that she is capable of condensing something so dense down to so few words without making it feel like anything was left out. Here we see a rather fantastical time travel tale, but one that, although at first seems quite light-hearted, ends up being one of the darkest of such tales I've ever read...and the most thought-inducing.

I loved this book and have a very difficult time reviewing it without giving too much away, but if you've got a spare thirty minutes (you know, for you slow readers), I'd highly suggest you pick this one up immediately.


Who am I?

As an independent author, I’ve been lucky enough to find a wealth of other independent authors out there. People who are doing things that aren’t quite mainstream. Artists who are experimenting with the written word and doing truly unique things. Where the world is filled with books made for the sole purpose of being turned into movies, these authors are creating works of fiction that are suited for the written word. Masterpieces that will make you think and want to find even more new forms of fiction. Simply put, independent authors are pushing books into new realms that you simply can’t find in the mainstream market.


I wrote...

The Agora Files - Part 1

By Adam Oster,

Book cover of The Agora Files - Part 1

What is my book about?

When dying alone on the hot sands of the Mohave Desert, Cyrus has no regrets. He loves a challenge. Being tasked with running from San Francisco to Boston in fifteen days, while the United States government and a host of bounty hunters hunt for him, sounds like fun. Being at death’s door only a day into his trip doesn’t faze him either. It’s when he’s joined by fellow runner Eve, bringing new emotions to the surface, his confidence cracks.

The Agora Files follows Cyrus Rhodes, a smuggler in a dystopian near-future, as he unwillingly works to take down a corrupt government. This series is a non-stop thrill ride of a road trip across America that looks to expose who the real villains are.

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