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Full disclosure; I worked with the author at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center when he was a teenager. All who met him were impressed even then with Dean's intelligence, drive and enthusiasm. As his career has progressed Dr. Lomax has made important academic contributions, especially in the study of Ichthiosaurs, but a major focus of his work has been in science communication. Initially active in museum work, Dr. Lomax has also acted as a presenter in radio and television and now gives us two excellent books. His first popular book “Locked in Time” is almost like a “curiosities cabinet” of fossils that serve to show the behaviors of numerous extinct species. In “Dinosaurs” he takes a different tack, focusing on the facts gleaned from the thousands of dinosaur fossils discovered over the past 200 years. Each of the “Ten things you should know” begins with an interesting fact or set of facts and uses it to illuminate larger issues. In the first chapter the author points out that Stegasaurus and Tyrranosaurusrex never met, then uses that point to explore the immense time span represented by the Mesozoic. Other chapters explore the anatomic features that define a dinosaur, the reason that dinosaurs had a world wide distribution, who ate who and what, and even sex among the dinosaurs. Of course, no book on dinosaurs would be complete without a discussion of the extinction of the dinosaurs and their survival into the present as birds. While the author make it clear that paleontologists are by no means in complete agreement on some of the facts and issues (What would be the fun of that?), he does not go into great detail about most of the controversies. For example, there is no mention of the ongoing argument about the extent to which volcanic activity and climate change may have contributed to the extinction event capped off by the Chicxulub impact. A great question to ask any scientist about a scientific fact or statement is, “How do you know that?” The answer is almost always interesting. Dr. Lomax provides plenty of evidence for the dinosaur attributes and behaviors he discusses and makes it clear where there are real limitations for what we can know. He also makes it clear that often the paleontologist is working like a forensic crime scene investigator, putting together a series of clues to arrive at the most probable conclusion. What the author avoids, I think, wisely, is a deep dive into the technical details of some of the paleontolgists' methods. While explaining how trackways can be analysed may be done in a few sentences, a full explanation of stable isotope studies would have doubled the length of the book and risked losing half the audiance. Dr. Lomax keeps a good balance between clarity and depth. The target audience for this book is clearly bright young people with an interest in dinosaurs (Christmas is not far off). Any adult who simply wanted to know more, especially about recent developments in dinosaur paleontology would find it useful and enjoyable. For the professional scientist in almost any field, it offers an example of science communication done well.
I received my copy of Ten Things just a few days ago, cracked it open today and now here I am: writing a quick review for a book I just finished reading. Like I said in the title, this book might be a ‘never put downer.’
And Lomax apparently wrote his book with readers short on time in mind. And he must have since the subtitle mentions it’s for people short on time. But don’t mistake brevity (ten chapters; 117 pages) for shallow.
The book covers a variety of species and behaviors more thoroughly covered in his book ‘Locked In Time.’ However Ten Things efficiently makes up for what Locked In didn’t offer: such as how the eons and epochs are defined, what paleontology knows vs what they likely will never know, etc. So don’t mistake Ten Things as a condensed version of Locked In. Two separate books giving the reader two separate lessons.
And if you’re a Dino enthusiast like me (or are shopping for one) it’s those lessons that are the most enlightening and the most fun.
Ten Things belongs on my bookshelf with other works I’ve enjoyed. Most of my personal library is on Kindle, but some books are meant to be held, pages turned, and worn out bookmarks or sticky notes tucked into the most interesting pages and highlighting the most eyebrow arching passages. Something for my grandson to (hopefully) one day enjoy.
I truly recommend this book for that Dino lover in your life. The one you struggle shopping for, but hope they’re excited receiving a gift that lasts a lifetime!
Have you ever wished there was a book on dinosaurs that had all of the most important information and was written in an entertaining and accessible way? Enter Dr Dean Lomax to the rescue! ‘Dinosaurs: 10 Things You Should Know’ is a fascinating read, written in a fun, light-hearted way yet still extremely informative. The book is broken down into 10 essays, each focusing on a specific topic from ‘what makes a dinosaur a dinosaur?’ to ‘are they really extinct?’. Dr Lomax’s storytelling talent and enthusiasm jumps out at you from the start making it really hard to put the book down (to be fair you could read it all in one go!). I smiled many times reading this book. The amount of work and knowledge that went into it is incredible. For a small book it offers plenty of interesting insights into the life of these prehistoric creatures that once ruled the Earth. Dr Lomax clearly loves his job and is living the dream of all us once wannabe palaeontologists out there and I couldn’t be happier to see and experience it through his books. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend to anyone with interest in palaeontology and Jurassic Park fans!
As someone who finds this interesting anyway, a lot of the information was things I knew, but I may spend far too long reading articles on the Internet about dinosaurs. The writing style felt like a jokey conversation with a friend rather than an information heavy lecture. I would totally recommend this book to everyone. (The hard back sleeve is so aesthetic that I felt like I wanted to take it off the book to keep it pristine)