Paleontology meets pop culture in a talented young author’s journey into the lives of dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs, with their awe-inspiring size, terrifying claws and teeth, and otherworldly abilities, occupy a sacred place in our childhoods. They loom over museum halls, thunder through movies, and are a fundamental part of our collective imagination. In My Beloved Brontosaurus, the dinosaur fanatic Brian Switek enriches the childlike sense of wonder these amazing creatures instill in us. Investigating the latest discoveries in paleontology, he breathes new life into old bones. Switek reunites us with these mysterious creatures as he visits desolate excavation sites and hallowed museum vaults, exploring everything from the sex life of Apatosaurus and T. rex’s feather-laden body to just why dinosaurs vanished. (And of course, on his journey, he celebrates the book’s titular hero, “Brontosaurus” - who suffered a second extinction when we learned he never existed at all - as a symbol of scientific progress.)
With infectious enthusiasm, Switek questions what we’ve long held to be true about these beasts, weaving in stories from his obsession with dinosaurs, which started when he was just knee-high to a Stegosaurus. Endearing, surprising, and essential to our understanding of our own evolution and our place on Earth, My Beloved Brontosaurus is an audiobook that dinosaur fans and anyone interested in scientific progress will cherish for years to come.
Includes a bonus interview between Brian Switek and Amanda Moon, managing editor of the Scientific American imprint at Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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Good story, bad reading!
- J. D. Botet
Self-inflicted wounds mar otherwise very fun read
Like the author, Jurassic Park really inspired me to pay attention to dinosaurs as fascinating animals instead of stop motion monsters, and this book was generally a fun ride through a lot of dinosauria's newest discoveries. A lot of it I already was aware of based on general interest news stories, but the book covered those things in further depth, which was great.
There were two problems with the book, though. First, the author felt the need to completely unnecessarily toss in some political jabs, making him look small and closed-minded (hardly attributes you want in any scientist). I don't have any patience for Creationists, but why go out of your way to attack them, particularly in a way that comes off as an attack on all religion? That carries over to contempt for past generations of scientists who got things wrong, but were working within the paradigms and the technological limitations of their times. A failure to understand why a different scientist may have - in good faith - come to a different conclusion is again the mark of a limited imagination, which limits his own scientific credibility. Sometimes I agreed with him and sometimes I didn't, but in all instances it was distracting, and those little windows of bitterness (that's how they came off) sadly reduced what is otherwise great joy in learning new things.
Second, the author should not have read the book himself. I have no doubt he's passionate about the subject, but his affect was flat, almost bored. There is an irrepressible, child-like joy in learning about dinosaurs, and that didn't come through. There's no shame in hiring professionals to more accurately convey the emotion of one's story, and that would have been an improvement here.