It’s #DinosaurDay again! Celebrate with ‘Dinopedia: A Brief Compendium of Dinosaur Lore’

Well, it’s June 1st again, which means it’s the first day of #JurassicJune, and perhaps more fun, #DinosaurDay!

I’m still not entirely sure what I’m supposed to do to celebrate this random holiday, but I’ve decided to do the same thing as I did last year and review a dinosaur book (last year’s pick was Kenneth Lacrovara’s Why Dinosaurs Matter).

This year, we have Darren Naish’s Dinopedia: A Brief Compendium of Dinosaur Lore. Naish seems to have all kinds of credits to his name, but I most recently recognized him as a scientific advisor on Disney+’s Prehistoric Planet.

But my first exposure to this work, did not come through the House of Mouse, but from The Inquisitive Biologist’s post reviewing Dinopedia.

I briefly re-read the review before writing my own, but I’ll try to keep this post filled with my own opinions though I’m sure there will be some overlap.

So What Did I think?

I really enjoyed this one. I’ve never tried to read a book like this before, even though dinosaurs have been a topic which has fascinated me since I was a kid, and I found the experience quite rewarding even though there were moments I felt a bit out of my depth.

I think it’s worth noting up front that this compendium is not meant to be read from front to back like a novel (which is what I did), but perhaps realizes its truest self when read like a website, linking from topic to topic as interest piques in one section or another. However, now that I have read each of the entries, I’ll know what’s inside, and if I’m researching in another place and I encounter a word I don’t know (realistically the name of a group or clade), I can easily find it and quickly study up before continuing on with whatever else I’m working on (Huh, I suppose that’s how encyclopedias are used after all hahah).

Perhaps the book’s best feature, is Naish’s prose themselves. He’s clearly expert in a variety of subject matters, but the text never reads like a textbook. He’s by turns funny, ironic, and serious, whatever the occasion calls for. Some of my favorite parts were when he did (humbly) inject his own opinion into matters. Perhaps the funniest description came from the entry on Scansoriopterygids (try that one in your next scrabble game), specifically when talking about a dinosaur named Yi Qi (translates to Strange Wing; so cool):

“Just about all of them [artistic reconstructions of Yi Qi] made this derpy, pigeon-sized creature into a black screaming nightmare dragon of death, where as in reality it would surely have looked more like a grayish parrot.”

Naish, D. Dinopedia: A Brief Compendium of Dinosaur Lore, 2021, pg. 152

This is probably the most overtly funny line from the book, but that humor is always there in the background, making the reader smile even as they want to cry because another word which they thought ended in “–saur” has been discovered to possibly also end in “–oid”, “–ine” or “–saurus” (this is just science in general I think though, chemistry was way worse for me in this way).

Finally, I’ll admit that while learning about the taxonomy of these amazing creatures was interesting in its own right, I would have definitely enjoyed a few more entries which discussed their importance to the larger world, either in paleontology, or the culture at large. The entry on Jurassic Park may not have been terribly interesting considering most of us know at least the film, if not the novel, but the entries on the Zallinger Mural, the Birds Are Not Dinosaurs (BAND) movement, or Zigong Dinosaur Museum were fascinating, and really allowed the reader to build up a picture of what these creatures mean (as well as add a few destinations to my vacation bucket list).

Naish said in the beginning of the book that at the outset of his writing he had the goal in mind to have the book be entirely about the cultural affect these creatures have had but that having to explain the taxonomical elements got in the way . . . Now that he’s written the Dinopedia I hope he finds the time to try his original vision again. Heck, if we get stuck while reading the new book, we’ve got a handy guide to help us through.

Anyway, that’s pretty much all I have on this one. It’s an interesting read and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking to take their knowledge of Dinosaurs to the next level.

What did y’all think of this one? What’s your fav dinosaur mentioned within the text (besides Spinosaurus lol). What was your favorite bit of history or culture? Let’s talk about this one in the comments!

Oh and because I’m me, I’ve listed every book mentioned within the text so that I can link to them if I get around to reviewing them here on this blog so . . . here’s that list (in no particular order):

  • All Yesterdays by C.M. K√∂semen, Darren Naish, and John Conway
  • On the Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin
  • The Dinosaur Heresies by Robert Bakker
  • Raptor Red by Robert Bakker
  • The Origin of Birds by Gerhard Heilmann
  • The Age of Birds by Alan Feduccia
  • The Origin and Evolution of Birds by Alan Feduccia
  • Riddle of the Feathered Dragons by Alan Feduccia
  • Bully for Brontosaurus by Jay Gould
  • The Horned Dinosaurs by Peter Dodson (“We got Dodson over here!”)
  • The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs by Adrian Desmond
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Chrichton
  • West of Eden by Harry Harrison
  • Digging Dinosaurs by Jack Horner
  • The Complete T. Rex by Jack Horner and Don Lessem
  • Predatory Dinosaurs of the World by Greg Paul
  • Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World by John Foster
  • The Dinosauria by Halszka Osmoska, David Weishampel, and Peter Dodson
  • The Complete Illustrated Guide to Dinosaur Skeletons by Greg Paul
  • The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs by Greg Paul
  • The Sauropod Dinosaurs: Life in the Age of Giants by Mark Hallett and Mathew Wedel
  • African Dinosaurs Unearthed by Gerhard Maier
  • Dinosaurs of the Isle of Wight by Darren Naish and David Martill
  • The Age of Reptiles edited by Rosemary Volpe
  • Dinosaurs and Other Archosaurs by John Ostrom

See you next time!!


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