So apparently June 1st is #DinosaurDay. I’m not really sure how one celebrates this holiday . . . but I’m going to celebrate it by posting a book review because that’s pretty much what I do here on this blog.
Anyway, moving right into then, this book was interesting to me for several reasons, the first being it was a TED Talk. I haven’t actually watched Hunting For Dinosaurs Showed Me Our Place in the Universe yet, as I didn’t want to get the book and the video confused if there were subtle differences. I’ll probably watch it after this.
The second being its author, Kenneth Lacovara. His name sounded super familiar to me, but I couldn’t figure it out. Turns out he was part of the team that discovered Paralititan Stromeri which I’d done some research on for my WIP. The story of this awesome dino is written about in a book called The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt, which I started, but ultimately never finished and had to return. There’s apparently a documentary by the same title which is only two hours so . . . maybe I’ll watch that instead.
So was this book any good? Do Dinosaurs actually matter? The short answer to both is yes; the book was good, and dinosaurs matter, although I’m dubious that the book actually proves this.
What I enjoyed most about the book, was that it explained (in simple terms) some basic concepts that I’ve felt were necessary to understand when doing research about dinosaurs, such as what is considered a dino, and why (apparently it has something to do with their hip bones). He talks briefly about how the classification of dinosaurs works and which recognizable dinos go in each classification. Sauropods have long necks, while Therapods are the big Carnivores. Ornithischia has the duckbills, horned dinos, and armored dinos etc.
I also enjoyed the parts in which Lacovara actually discusses some of the adaptations dinosaurs had, and why they helped them survive in the environment they lived in. If you were ever curious as to why a T-Rex has such short and stubby arms, then go ahead and read this book.
Another fun part of the book was learning about how some of the first dinosaurs were thought to have looked. We’ve come a long way in our understanding of some of these creatures. Apparently, the way to go further is 3D printed Dinosaur robots! (I picked the wrong career . . .)
My only dislike, was how much time was spent talking about the history of paleontology and the importance of the “deep time” perspective. He discusses how ancient and medieval civilizations, essentially didn’t have the tool set to make the discoveries that where made later on, once Darwin had published On the Origin of Species (though it is interesting that the author seems to celebrate Charles Lyell, and James Hutton as being the true pioneers that set up the ‘headspace’ for Darwin’s theories). In general, I felt it painted ancient peoples in a bad light while trying desperately to do the opposite.
I wondered if a few things in the book were in need of updating (this is copyrighted 2017). He briefly mentions Spinosaurus Aegyptiacus, but our understanding of that weird looking fellow seems to be changing constantly. Another thing that stood out to me, was that he whole heartedly references Mary Anning being the inspiration for the ‘she sells sea shells’ tongue twister (he even cites a New Scientist article). While I’m glad he talks about perhaps the first woman paleontologist in his book, I think it’s pretty unlikely the tongue twister is a reference to her. There’s actually quite a bit of evidence it’s not. I’ve requested the article he cites from the library, so perhaps I’ll do a follow up.
In general, I greatly enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, and though the author can get long winded about a few things, his writing style is generally engaging, and it’s clear he’s VERY experienced with his subject matter. Perhaps my favorite parts were the ones in which the author actually talks about dinosaurs. He’s correct to think they’re fascinating, and I think this book is strongest when he focuses on the wonder they invoke and the reason for that wonder. The title asks if dinosaurs matter, to which I would say ‘who cares?’ We don’t need a reason to enjoy them as much as we do . . .
That’s all I have for this, thanks for reading and please leave some comments below if you thought the review was useful or even if you just wanna talk about dinos . . . I’m always up for that. Happy #DinosaurDay!