My friend Austen loves dinosaurs. I mean, I love dinosaurs, but he loves them. It began with Jurassic Park in his youth, of course, and it is a fascination that continues to this day.
A few years ago, we decided to return to where it all began, and embarked on a Jurassic Park marathon. We talked throughout about our favourite dinosaurs (me: Triceratops; him: Velociraptor), and I lamented the loss of the Brontosaurus I used to adore, now rebranded Apatosaurus, having been originally misidentified. “It was as sad as Pluto not being a planet anymore,” I said sadly. Usually, Austen would laugh and shake his head at my flights of such emotional fancy; in this case, he agreed. We both really missed brontosauruses, and we didn’t care who knew it.
The very next day, I happened upon My Beloved Brontosaurus, and naturally I couldn’t leave it on the shelf, the synchronicity was simply too perfect. Of course, not too perfect to make me read it immediately — and so here we are, four years later.
I wish I hadn’t waited so long.
Part travel journal, part personal reminiscence and part accessibly-written text book, this extraordinarily interesting work of popular science takes us on the road with dinosaur enthusiast Brian Switek, a dino-lover since childhood and a passionate advocate for the importance of paleontology in our understanding of the cosmos. From the early days of dinosaur discovery to the development of newer theories in dino biology, pathology and sociology, Switek takes a joyous, almost giddy, look at his favourite topic, as infectious in his enthusiasm as he is informative in his deep, deep knowledge.
In one sentence, he disposed of something that has bugged me since my days at a super-religious Baptist high school: the pictures of human footprints inside dinosaur tracks, which my Science text tried to convince me proved that our species had cohabited with the terrible lizards at some point in the past–namely, four thousand years ago. (I had dared ask the question “What?”, having come from a secular school and quite unprepared for this particular brand of magical realism, and had gotten detention for the first time in my life.) Turns out, when dinosaurs became a thing people knew about, forgers would carve human-like footprints into the rock to fake a shared dino-human past where one never was.
Those people, if they are still alive, should be ashamed of themselves.
This is simply one example of the fascinating facts, speculation and well-informed hypothesis that populate this gorgeous tome, and I am so very glad to have read it. It has reignited an interest in these beyond ancient creatures that I fear too much exposure to pre-schoolers and their obsession with same had previously dulled somewhat. (There is only so much Dinosaur Train a woman can take, as excellent as that show might be.) Switek takes himself to many fossil sites throughout his American homeland, and his adventures have me planning similar trips throughout Australia, and overseas as well.
That is some deep nerding, I know. Super excited about it.
TBR DAY 84: My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science and Our Favorite Dinosaurs by Brian Switek
GENRE: Non-Fiction, Popular Science, Dinosaurs
TIME ON THE TBR: 4 years.
PURCHASED FROM: Readings Carlton.
KEEP: I think I’ll give it to Austen…