In response to my recent post “Dinosaurs Ain’t What They Used to Be,” reader romunov asks:
I remember one of my friends having a stack of dinosaur magazines, probably a translation from an American magazine (I was around 10 at the time) and found “dinosaurs” quite interesting. I’ve been studying for my vertebrate class for the past few weeks and “dinosaurs” have somehow stood out. Can you recommend any good text books on them that I could benefit from? While the magazines would probably be worth digging up for the pictures, but I’m a tad more interested in technical stuff, especially ecology.
There are certainly a lot of dinosaur books out there, enough to build a library entirely devoted to them, but which ones are the best for people who want to know more than that Apatosaurus was really big? The field changes so quickly that no one book can cover everything, but there are a few reference titles in my own library that I use more than others.
- Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-To-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages by Thomas R. Holtz, illustrations by Luis V. Rey
It may look like a book designed for children, but (as the title says) this is presently the most complete and up-to-date book on dinosaurs you can get your hands on. All the major groups of dinosaurs are covered, reconstructed in eye-popping colors by Luis Rey, and it is a good resource to quickly become familiar with dinosaur diversity. The author of the book, paleontologist Thomas Holtz, has also been updating the list of known dinosaur genera on an online appendix, which is one of the most useful resources available to those wanting to keep up with new discoveries.
- The Dinosauria, 2nd edition, edited by David Weisamphel, Peter Dodson, and Halszka Osmolska
This is generally regarded as THE reference book on dinosaurs. While the technical terms in the massive book might be daunting, there is no other resource presently available that is as informative. If you want something a little more challenging and detailed, this book is a must-have.
- The Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs edited by Philip Currie and Kevin Padian
While it is now a little bit dated, this volume is still a useful A-to-Z guide to dinosaurs. More than just covering the animals themselves, this book also has entries on bone structure, biostratigraphy, and other topics related to the study of dinosaurs. For someone just becoming familiar with dinosaur paleontology, it provides a way to quickly catch up with the field.
- The Complete Dinosaur edited by James Farlow, M.K. Brett-Surman, and Robert Walters
This easy-to-understand compendium introduces the reader to the study of dinosaurs as well as the dinosaurs themselves. While it might be best used as a reference, this is the kind of book that can be read from cover-to-cover with relative ease, and covers topics of paleobiology (or how dinosaurs lived) in addition to the characteristics of each group. It is an excellent book to start with if you want a more technical understanding of dinosaurs but feel awash in a sea of unfamiliar scientific terms.