My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs

Brian Switek (Written in Stone) mixes memoir, travelogue and his infectious love of dinosaurs into an exploration of sauropod sex, Allosaurus social groups and much more in My Beloved Brontosaurus. Switek uses the "Brontosaurus"--an iconic giant that never really existed, but was the result of skull fragment fossils from a different creature misidentified and incorrectly assembled by an early paleontologist--as his mascot. It's both a nod to his own childhood fondness for the fictitious creature and, as he puts it, a "symbol of the tension between the actual animals paleontologists investigate and the pop-culture images of these behemoths."

That tension dominates much of My Beloved Brontosaurus. Switek debunks the popular misconceptions about dinosaurs that prevailed during his childhood, when they were imagined to have lumbered sluggishly through swamps with dragging tails. He explains the most up-to-date understandings of dinosaurs, discussing the evidence that altered the scientific consensus. New finds create more questions, and the view of dinosaurs as agile, bird-like, even feathered creatures seems like old news compared to the latest debates over growth rates and sexual dimorphism.

If all this sounds dauntingly academic, fear not--Switek has a knack for finding fascinating specifics and presenting them in engaging ways. He excels at relating fossil finds to their once-living counterparts, giving these animals an awesome sense of reality. Even readers whose younger days of dinosaur frenzy are long extinct will find My Beloved Brontosaurus a fascinating read. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

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