As I said last time, posting what I'm actually reading would involve mostly audiobooks about extremely Mary Sue-ish FBI agents catching serial killers and fanfic about Eddie Brock making sweet love to
his beloved spouse
a puddle of alien goo, so instead I'm posting themed rec lists. I'm linking to the Brooklyn Public Library's page for each book rather than Amazon because a) that's where I read them all, and b) fuck Jeff Bezos.Today's Theme: Evolution & Paleontology, Dinosaur Edition
Last time I recced paleontology books I did it in hard mode (no dinosaurs). Now, I offer a rec list composed entirely of dinosaurs.My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs
by Brian Switek
Just great intro to dinosaurs in general, especially for those who fondly remember the dinosaur-themed picture books of their 80s/90s childhoods (or Jurassic Park, or the glorious 1999 BBC series Walking With Dinosaurs
) but haven't really looked at the field since then.House of Lost Worlds: Dinosaurs, Dynasties, and the Story of Life on Earth
by Richard Conniff
About the early days of paleontology at Yale, and the founding of Yale's Peabody museum, the history of which is tightly entangled with the story of one of the greatest (or at least most infamous) scientific rivalries of all time: the bitter, decades-long, incredibly petty feud between Edward Drinker Cope and Yale's O.C. Marsh. This is less about the fossils themselves and more a history of the people - professors, paleontologists, university administrators, federal officials, government survey teams, former prospectors/miners turned fossil hunters, etc. - who found, excavated, brought back, and put on display the first major public exhibition of dinosaur skeletons.Dinosaurs Without Bones: Dinosaur Lives Revealed by their Trace Fossils
by Anthony J. Martin
On dinosaur trace fossils (trackways/footprints, burrows, etc.) and what paleontologists have learned from them, but it also functions as an interesting introduction to the world of trace fossils in general - footprints, burrows, claw and tooth marks, and all the other evidence animals leave behind other than their bodies. The Sauropod Dinosaurs: Life in the Age of Giants
by Mark Hallett & Mathew J. Wedel
A detailed overview (with illustrations) of history's biggest herbivores, the sauropod dinosaurs (of brontosaurus fame - you know, the really giant ones with the long necks and tails). This was a fascinating look into a family of dinosaurs I had never read about in depth before (my personal favorites are the therapods), covering not just beloved North American species like Diplodocus but also South American titanosaurs and several Asian sauropod lineages. There's also a section covering theories about sauropod diets and their possible roles in the prehistoric ecosystem based on studies of things like fossilized plants and pollen.
And finally, if the book about paleontologists backstabbing one another at Yale didn't provide sufficient dinosaur-themed academic wank for you, there's always this book by one of the BNFs of 20th century dinosaur wank:The Great Dinosaur Debate: New Theories Unlocking the Mystery of the Dinosaurs and Their Extinction
by Robert Bakker. (Originally published in 1986 as "The Dinosaur Heresies." I suspect it may be out of print - I found my copy in a thrift shop - but it's worth checking your local library for)
Travel back to the 1980s for a look at some of the biggest controversies in an earlier era of paleontology, written by one of the kings of dinosaur controversy, Bob Bakker. Beginning in the 1960s and 70s there was a major revolution in how paleontologists conceptualized dinosaurs (from cold-blooded plodding reptiles to warm-blooded ancestors of birds), and Bakker did more than almost anyone else to popular these new theories - the depictions of dinosaurs in the first Jurassic Park movie were heavily influenced by his work and the character of Dr. Alan Grant was partially based on him (well, a hotter, taller version of him who's distinctly lacking in Bakker's trademark mountain-man beard and possessed of better fashion sense - based on documentary footage, Bakker appears to have worn the same flannel shirt for the past 30 years). Reading Bakker's 1986 "Dinosaur Heresies" today, not all of his theories have stood the test of time (such is the way of science, especially in a field where so many major new discoveries have been made over the past three decades), but several of his key arguments, such as the close link between dinosaurs and modern birds, have stood the test of time and are now widely accepted.