The most recommended fossil books

Who picked these books? Meet our 33 experts.

33 authors created a book list connected to fossils, and here are their favorite fossil books.
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Book cover of Remarkable Creatures

Louise Morrish Author Of Operation Moonlight

From my list on real women who did extraordinary things.

Who am I?

I’m a historical fiction author and librarian from Hampshire, and I’m passionate about women’s history. I write stories inspired by the lives of real women in the past, who achieved extraordinary things, but whom history has forgotten. My debut novel, Operation Moonlight, won the Penguin Random House First Novel competition in 2019.

Louise's book list on real women who did extraordinary things

Louise Morrish Why did Louise love this book?

This is one of my favourite novels about the imagined life of the 19th Century fossil enthusiast, Mary Anning.

Though poor and uneducated, Mary had a passion for dinosaur fossils, scouring the windswept Jurassic coast near Lyme Regis. She found fossils nobody else could, making discoveries that shook the scientific world. But science in the past was an almost entirely male-dominated arena, and Mary’s finds were effectively stolen from her, and she was ignored and forgotten in the scientific community.

Mary’s story is one of female hardship, endurance, and tenacity, and her contribution to our scientific knowledge deserves to be remembered. 

By Tracy Chevalier,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Remarkable Creatures as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling novelist, a stunning historical novel that follows the story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, two extraordinary 19th century fossil hunters who changed the scientific world forever.

On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, poor and uneducated Mary learns that she has a unique gift: "the eye" to spot ammonites and other fossils no one else can see. When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious community on edge, the townspeople to gossip, and the scientific world alight. After enduring bitter cold, thunderstorms,…


Book cover of The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology

Sam L. Pfiester Author Of Solomon's Temple: Musjid-i-Suleiman

From my list on earth history.

Who am I?

For most of my career as an oil explorationist I have worked with geologists, an exceptional group of men and women who, from observing earth’s surface as it is configured today, can decipher earth’s history. By understanding how rocks were originally formed and how in subsequent millennia rocks have been buried, transported warped, eroded, re-deposited, and altered by high pressures, high temperatures, hot water, and all the tectonic forces of nature that have formed the surface as we see it today, they believe, really believe, that they can visualize the subsurface.  It’s a fascinating four-dimensional detective story. 

Sam's book list on earth history

Sam L. Pfiester Why did Sam love this book?

Winchester’s book is a biography of William Smith, the orphaned son of a village blacksmith. It is the story of one man’s passion, triumph, and tragedy. In his youth Smith was engaged in digging canals in England. Through careful observation of the fossils, he was the first to document the sequential layers of earth’s history. His geologic map, completed in 1815, heralded the beginning of a new science, the science of geology. 

By Simon Winchester,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Map That Changed the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE EXTRAORDINARY TALE OF THE FATHER OF MODERN GEOLOGY

Hidden behind velvet curtains above a stairway in a house in London's Piccadilly is an enormous and beautiful hand-coloured map - the first geological map of anywhere in the world. Its maker was a farmer's son named William Smith. Born in 1769 his life was troubled: he was imprisoned for debt, turned out of his home, his work was plagiarised, his wife went insane and the scientific establishment shunned him.

It was not until 1829, when a Yorkshire aristocrat recognised his genius, that he was returned to London in triumph: The…


Book cover of The Meaning of Fossils: Episodes in the History of Palaeontology

Andrew H. Knoll Author Of A Brief History of Earth: Four Billion Years in Eight Chapters

From my list on fossils and the history of life.

Who am I?

An acclaimed scientist, teacher, and writer, Andrew Knoll has travelled the world for decades, investigating ancient rocks to understand the intertwined histories of our planet and the life it supports. His boyhood thrill at discovering fossils has never deserted him. It continues to motivate him to explore topics that range from the earliest records of life and the emergence of an oxygen-rich atmosphere; the diversification of both plants and animals, and the intricacies of mass extinctions, past and present. He has also participated in NASA’s exploration of Mars.

Andrew's book list on fossils and the history of life

Andrew H. Knoll Why did Andrew love this book?

It’s one thing to appreciate that fossils record the history of life, but something else altogether to understand how we came to know that. Rudwick’s classic book recounts the discoveries, large and small, that over centuries revealed fossils to be remnants of lost worlds. An exceptional exercise in the history of science. The Meaning of Fossils is required reading for students of paleontology.

By Martin J.S. Rudwick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Meaning of Fossils as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"It is not often that a work can literally rewrite a person's view of a subject. And this is exactly what Rudwick's book should do for many paleontologists' view of the history of their own field."-Stephen J. Gould, Paleobotany and Palynology

"Rudwick has not merely written the first book-length history of palaeontology in the English language; he has written a very intelligent one. . . . His accounts of sources are rounded and organic: he treats the structure of arguments as Cuvier handled fossil bones."-Roy S. Porter, History of Science


From Cells to Ourselves: The Story of Evolution

By Gill Arbuthnott, Chris Nielsen (illustrator),

Book cover of From Cells to Ourselves: The Story of Evolution

Gill Arbuthnott Author Of The Keepers' Daughter

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author History nut Science nerd Mystery lover Feminist

Gill's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

4.5 billion years ago, Earth was forming - but nothing could have survived there…

From Cells to Ourselves is the incredible story of how life on earth started and how it gradually evolved from the first simple cells to the abundance of life around us today. Walk with dinosaurs, analyse fossils, and join Charles Darwin on the voyages that inspired his Theory of Evolution.

Written by Gill Arbuthnott and beautifully illustrated by Christopher Nielsen, From Cells to Ourselves is the story of life itself and the extraordinary creatures that have inhabited our planet.

From Cells to Ourselves: The Story of Evolution

By Gill Arbuthnott, Chris Nielsen (illustrator),

What is this book about?

From the Big Bang to the abundance of life that surrounds us today, this beautiful book - the third by the award-winning duo Gill Arbuthnott and Chris Nielsen - is the story of evolution, from the very first cells to ourselves.

How old exactly is the Earth? How do we know what was here before us? Are we still evolving? From Cells to Ourselves is the story of the beginnings of life around 3.8 billion years ago, to the millions of species alive today, including humans.

Learn about mythology giants who formed the Earth, analyse fossils, walk with the dinosaurs,…


Book cover of A Fish Caught in Time

Susan Ewing Author Of Resurrecting the Shark: A Scientific Obsession and the Mavericks Who Solved the Mystery of a 270-Million-Year-Old Fossil

From my list on curious creatures from deep time.

Who am I?

When I was young, I worked on fishing boats in Alaska and developed an affection for weird sea creatures. All manner of unusual marine life would come up on the line, like wild-looking sea stars, pointy-nosed skates, and alien-looking ratfish. Later, I graduated from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks with a degree in Communications. One of my early jobs was with the Washington Department of Wildlife public information department, writing about fish, as well as other wildlife-related topics. When I moved to Bozeman, Montana, I had the opportunity to create content for a museum exhibit on early life forms. That hooked me on all things paleo. It is a joy to write about and share the things I love—like oddball creatures from deep time.

Susan's book list on curious creatures from deep time

Susan Ewing Why did Susan love this book?

This fascinating, nail-biter of a tale has all the elements of a novel: quirky characters, chance encounters, a determined female curator, chase scenes, mystery, and hunt for something that scientists believed existed only in the fossil record. The story begins in 1938 in South Africa on the deck of a trawler, with young Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer picking through a pile of sharks, starfish, and ratfish—to uncover a beautiful, five-foot-long fish with hard iridescent scales and limb-like fins. Weinberg brings the story, and the coelacanth, to life, weaving a narrative as breathtaking as the fish itself. I enjoyed this book immensely!

By Samantha Weinberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Fish Caught in Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A gripping story of obsession, adventure and the search for our oldest surviving ancestor - 400 million years old - a four-limbed dinofish!

In 1938, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, a young South African museum curator, caught sight of a specimen among a fisherman's trawl that she knew was special. With limb-like protuberances culminating in fins the strange fish was unlike anything she had ever seen. The museum board members dismissed it as a common lungfish, but when Marjorie eventually contacted Professor JLB Smith, he immediately identified her fish as a coelacanth - a species known to have lived 400 million years ago,…


Book cover of Enlightenment: Discovering the World in the Eighteenth Century

Ludmilla Jordanova Author Of The Look of the Past: Visual and Material Evidence in Historical Practice

From my list on visual culture.

Who am I?

I’m a historian and writer who strives to combine the history of science and medicine, the study of visual culture, and cultural history in my work. Although I hated being dragged round art galleries and museums as a child, something must have stuck, laying the foundations for my interest in using images and artefacts to understand both the past and the present. Since the early 1990s I’ve been writing about portraits, how they work, and why they are important—I remain gripped by the compelling ways they speak to identity.  It was a privilege to serve as a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery in London between 2001 and 2009.

Ludmilla's book list on visual culture

Ludmilla Jordanova Why did Ludmilla love this book?

London’s British Museum, with its massive and diverse collections, is world famous and the story of its foundation and early years in the eighteenth century sheds light on the histories of collecting, knowledge, and exploration. More than twenty essays were assembled to celebrate the opening of the Enlightenment Gallery in the King’s Library after years of research and refurbishment. These essays draw readers into the people, the objects, and the ideas that shaped this important and influential institution. The book is lavishly illustrated with gorgeous photographs of paintings and statues, coins, fossils, china, and much more—a wonderful way to grasp the museum’s stupendous holdings and also to understand better the controversies it has engendered.

By Kim Sloan (editor), Andrew Burnett (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Enlightenment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The extraordinary companion to the British Museum's 250th anniversary exhibition.
Opened in 1753 as the world's first public museum, the British Museum epitomized the Age of Enlightenment's dream of a rational universe. Indeed, in many ways the museum was the age's most potent instrument: the incarnation of a world that could be parsed, classified, and comprehended through the physical observation of objects, all in the name of reason, progress, and civic improvement.


In this lavishly illustrated volume, published to coincide with a new permanent exhibit, the museum's centrality to the Enlightenment enterprise is explored through the stunning breadth and variety…


Book cover of The Palaeoartist's Handbook: Recreating Prehistoric Animals in Art

Dougal Dixon Author Of After Man: A Zoology of the Future

From my list on popular depiction of evolution.

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.

Dougal's book list on popular depiction of evolution

Dougal Dixon Why did Dougal love this book?

So often we find popular level dinosaur books with the most ridiculous and inaccurate illustrations. Usually, the fault lies with the middle-man – the children’s writer or the artist. In this book, we have an instance that is, luckily, becoming more common – the academic who has the skills to communicate directly with the general audience. Dr. Witton has the experience of studying fossil animals (pterosaurs are his specialty) and in his book demonstrates how the various aspects of his work command an accurate approach to his artwork (he is a superb artist). Any speculation in his book is based on his sound observations – who would have guessed that the keratinous covering of the horns of Triceratops continued to grow throughout life and so the horny sheaths would have produced weird curly structures like those of elderly sheep?

By Mark Witton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Palaeoartist's Handbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Extinct worlds live again in palaeoart: artworks of fossil animals, plants and environments carefully reconstructed from palaeontological and geological data. Such artworks are widespread in popular culture, appearing in documentaries, museums, books and magazines, and inspiring depictions of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals in cinema. This book outlines how fossil animals and environments can be reconstructed from their fossils, explaining how palaeoartists overcome gaps in fossil data and predict 'soft-tissue' anatomies no longer present around fossil bones. It goes on to show how science and art can meet to produce compelling, interesting takes on ancient worlds, and it explores the…


Book cover of The Last Legends of Earth

Brent Hayward Author Of Filaria

From my list on sci-fi able to stand toe to toe with any genre.

Who am I?

I’m a Canadian science fiction writer who writes very, very slowly. I’m interested in experimental fiction and books that are unique, both thematically and stylistically. I’d like to think my books fall into this category, or at least that’s what I aspire to. I used to read science fiction exclusively, and the five books I’ve listed here were all read during those formative years; they were fundamental stepping-stones for me, as a writer, and each of them left a profound mark on my idea of how good, or effective, novels can be.

Brent's book list on sci-fi able to stand toe to toe with any genre

Brent Hayward Why did Brent love this book?

Attanasio can run hot and cold, but when he’s hot he’s on fire! This book may have the most ambitious plot of any novel I’ve ever read and is almost impossible to describe. It spans galaxies, has a truly bizarre vibe, and yet rings true, with a love story thrown in.  

By A.A. Attanasio,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Legends of Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Seven billion years from now, long after the Sun has died and human life has become extinct, alien beings reconstruct homo sapiens from our fossilized DNA drifting as debris in deep space. We are reborn to serve as bait in a battle to the death between the Rimstalker, humankind's re-animator, and the zōtl, horrific creatures who feed vampire-like on the suffering of intelligent lifeforms.

The resurrected children of Earth are told: "You owe no debt to the being that roused you to this second life. Neither must you expect it to guide you or benefit you in any way." Yet,…


Book cover of Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones

S.K. Wenger Author Of Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!

From my list on dinosaurs and evolutionary relationships for kids.

Who am I?

Long before becoming an author and awarded science teacher, I was a child who explored the unpaved colonial roads in rural New Hampshire and brought home bucket loads of tadpoles, frogs, and turtles from nearby wetlands. I knew the rock walls that lined those roads had been placed by others who’d worked the land long before. My curiosity extended to wondering what the area had been like before humans started changing things. In retrospect, perhaps I wrote Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! in part for that backwoods girl full of questions about the world around her. Equally so, it’s for every curious child—even those who aren’t sure about dipping their toes into the mud just yet. Enjoy!

Shaunda's book list on dinosaurs and evolutionary relationships for kids

S.K. Wenger Why did Shaunda love this book?

What I love about this book is the pattern of step-by-step questions posed to the young reader about what kind of dinosaur they would be if certain bones were added or lost to their skeletons, followed by a surprising answer. Not only does this book explore some of the most popular land-walking dinosaurs, it also extends to the first reptiles that flew (Pterosaurs) and others that swam in the seas. My favorite part of this book is that it brings readers to recognize that modern-day avian dinosaurs are still among us—in birds! Along with an ultimate invitation to step into the best place for observing and learning more about them, which is outdoors.

By Sara Levine, T.S. Spookytooth (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fossil by Fossil as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What dinosaur would you be if you had a bony ridge rising from the back of your skull and three horns poking up from the front?

Answer: a triceratops!

This picture book will keep you guessing as you find out how human skeletons are like—and unlike—those of dinosaurs!


Book cover of Locked in Time: Animal Behavior Unearthed in 50 Extraordinary Fossils

Michael J. Benton Author Of Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World

From my list on dinosaurs from a palaeontologist.

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.

Michael's book list on dinosaurs from a palaeontologist

Michael J. Benton Why did Michael love this book?

This is about dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts, but it’s unique and unusual.

Author Dean Lomax has run to ground some of the most extraordinary fossils ever found, and artist Bob Nicholls turns them into stunning reconstructions. Here you can read about a beetle within a lizard within a snake, a giant beaver that made huge corkscrew burrows 3 meters deep, the mammal that ate dinosaurs, insects caught in the act of mating, and dinosaurs with cancer.

What I like is that, weird and wonderful as each story may be, each is based strictly on the fossils and reasonable interpretations of those fossils. Dinosaurs may spark the imagination, but as scientists, it’s important to show people how we come to our conclusions, and that needs evidence and reason in a discussion.

By Dean R. Lomax, Robert Nicholls,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Locked in Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fossils allow us to picture the forms of life that inhabited the earth eons ago. But we long to know more: how did these animals actually behave? We are fascinated by the daily lives of our fellow creatures-how they reproduce and raise their young, how they hunt their prey or elude their predators, and more. What would it be like to see prehistoric animals as they lived and breathed?

From dinosaurs fighting to their deaths to elephant-sized burrowing ground sloths, this book takes readers on a global journey deep into the earth's past. Locked in Time showcases fifty of the…


Book cover of Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter!

S.K. Wenger Author Of Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!

From my list on dinosaurs and evolutionary relationships for kids.

Who am I?

Long before becoming an author and awarded science teacher, I was a child who explored the unpaved colonial roads in rural New Hampshire and brought home bucket loads of tadpoles, frogs, and turtles from nearby wetlands. I knew the rock walls that lined those roads had been placed by others who’d worked the land long before. My curiosity extended to wondering what the area had been like before humans started changing things. In retrospect, perhaps I wrote Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! in part for that backwoods girl full of questions about the world around her. Equally so, it’s for every curious child—even those who aren’t sure about dipping their toes into the mud just yet. Enjoy!

Shaunda's book list on dinosaurs and evolutionary relationships for kids

S.K. Wenger Why did Shaunda love this book?

How can kids not walk away inspired to dig into their own interests after reading this book, especially if they feel like their dreams are out of reach or that they lack the skills to attain them? I love this book for the true life story it shares about a kid who grew up exploring the world around him, while paying attention to the details in a way that led to fascinating dinosaur fossil discoveries—discoveries that started small—with fossilized shells. Jack Horner found passion in hands-on science and persevered, despite dealing with the hardship of severe dyslexia. He also was helpful to me as I wrote my own book and was part of the inspiration behind it. It’s awesome to see such a great book about him.

By Sophia Gholz, Dave Shephard (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

When Jack Horner was a child, nothing fascinated him more than fossils. Dinosaur fossils to be exact. He hunted for them at every chance he got and dreamed of being a great paleontologist. But school was hard, reading was even harder, and he struggled to succeed like the other kids in his classes. Jack persevered, finding his own way to success, until he became one of the world's most famous paleontologist, immortalized in Hollywood movies and known as Jack Horner: Dinosaur Hunter!