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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You don't have to love dinosaurs to enjoy this book
More than a book about a museum, Dinosaurs in the Attic is a survey of the last two centuries' at times predatory and rapacious drive to collect. I read this book years ago, and am still recommending it to people as one of the most interesting and enjoyable books I've ever read. The story telling is marvelous and the insights about the museum fascinating.
Published on October 13, 2000 by A.D. Georgsson

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read
This book is a great introduction into the real world " Truth is sometimes greater than fiction", and this book will open your mind to biology and auto biology books in your future .
Published 19 months ago by William B. Devlin


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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You don't have to love dinosaurs to enjoy this book, October 13, 2000
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This review is from: Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History (Paperback)
More than a book about a museum, Dinosaurs in the Attic is a survey of the last two centuries' at times predatory and rapacious drive to collect. I read this book years ago, and am still recommending it to people as one of the most interesting and enjoyable books I've ever read. The story telling is marvelous and the insights about the museum fascinating.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, hilarious (sometimes) human nature book, September 29, 2003
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This review is from: Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History (Paperback)
You wouldn't think of museums as providing the stuff for comedians, but I can see not enough people know about what actually goes on in these collosal monuments to human curiosity!
I came to this book by way of mystery writers (Preston and Child--Relic and Fairchild---The Bone Vault). So thanks guys for recommending this nonfiction read! Almost as quickly read as my mysteries.
The need for so many people to collect items, animals and even humans (would someone please stomp on Admiral Peary's grave for a while)! Geez. You wouldn't think people would be so obtuse as to not realize that living, breathing human beings do not belong in museums as specimens of a tribe or culture we do not know. But obviously the wealthy who often did the collecting, or those 'explorers' who put fame and glory above compassion had a problem with understanding basic human rights. And yes, if tribes ask for their ancestors back, the bones should be returned and buried. How would we all feel if someone went and dug up our grandparents and put their skeletons on display without concern for our need to respect them? You don't see museum guys going to dig up white American or English cemetary plots, do you?
Okay, off the soapbox. A fun read, well-written, well-researched. Preston went on to write several books using the museums as a somewhat creepy place, and frankly after reading this and other books, I don't think I'd want to be locked in the American Museum of Natural History. Pretty sure I'd freak out...too much past with too many ghosts attached to it. Besides, this place sounds like a mausoleum. Having just returned from visiting the Mutter Medical Museum in Philly with its assortment of bones, oddly shaped fetuses and a variety of other things like hands floating in some type of suspension fluid showing small pox at its worse...yikes, I don't know how much of this stuff I could take, and I took medical classes in the Morgue!
The history of the museum is fascinating...the fact that we are able to see so little of this makes me yearn to do exploring down in the 'tombs' and hallways in the presence of company and full daylight, thank you.
Karen Sadler,
Science Education,
University of Pittsburgh
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, July 10, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History (Paperback)
Until I read this history of the American Museum of Natural History and the stories of its great collections, I had little desire to visit NYC. While I thought "Relic" (the book AND the film) was a piece of junk, this book definitely made me travel to New York JUST to see the items described in this book. This was the first account I read of the tales of rival dinosaur hunters Marsh and Cope (now there is a film story). The hundreds of anecdotes such as the bone stripping beetles made it a fascinating read. I recommend it to anyone interested in the story of the finest collection of natural history artifacts on earth.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "must read" for history buffs, July 21, 2007
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Tim Bartels (Glen Ellyn, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History (Paperback)
The book is filled with all the unheard stories of the founding, and running of the museum. Also tales about the explorers, collectors, thieves and hunters that made this museum what is today. It holds all their dirty little secrets, their untold exploits, their skeletons in the closets. It is a completely entertaining and enlightening book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative, entertaining, and a lot of typos, September 9, 2012
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Dinosaurs in the Attic is a delightful, informative book containing wonderful stories about the people, animals, and fossils in the American Museum of Natural History. The book offers accounts ranging from overseas expeditions sponsored by the museum to how the bones of P. T. Barnum's Jumbo the Elephant came into the museum's possession. This is a great book diminished only by the many, many typographical errors that pepper almost every page. It's a shame that the publishers didn't invest a few more hours in editing the text. Other than that, this is a very entertaining book written by Douglas Preston who once worked at the AMNH and went on to co-author the Pendergast series of novels with Lincoln Child.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Behind the scenes, August 28, 2009
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Sharon S (Houston, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History (Paperback)
This book is an extraordinary look behind the scenes at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. The first half looks at the development of the museum and the explorers who returned with materials from various expeditions. The second half looks at the collections and the stories of how the collections were put together. Readers who are interested in museum collections and early 20th century explorers will want to read this book. There are some wonderful photos of the early buildings, assembly of dinosaurs and mounting of other specimens. Douglas Preston is known for taking a real life incident and turning it into great fiction. This book takes real life and makes it read like fiction!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A serendipitous trip, November 4, 2006
By 
Edward B. Hanna (The Berkshires, Massachusetts, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History (Paperback)
This is a classic. Anyone who has ever visited the AMNH or plans to will want to read this book. It's a gem.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book !, May 26, 2013
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This review is from: Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History (Paperback)
An extremely interesting book, by an author whose previous books I have read were all fiction. I started it the day I received it, and finished it the next day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating History, January 19, 2013
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I don't read a lot of non fiction and am pretty selective when I do. I took a chance on this book because I've been to the Museum of Natural History as a very small child and the images there still stick with me more than 60 years later. This book brings back many memories as well as the back stories of many of the displays I still remember. A very good read, well written and informative. I'd recommend this to anyone. An entertaining gem.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing insight into the Museum's hidden side, May 28, 2010
This review is from: Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History (Paperback)
This book constitutes a refreshing mixture of morsels and picturesque anecdotes rather than an integrated account on the AMNH history. Divided into two parts separated by a set of historical pictures, the book combines traditional expedition descriptions with intriguing reminiscences of the museum's old days, architecture and former staff.
The first part of the book covers some of the glorious moments in the history of the museum, like the efforts in its creation or the huge expeditions sent out for recollecting specimens. For obvious reasons only a small number of these exploits could be considered, which are however representative of the huge economic and human investment made to establish one of the most important museums in the world.
Among the historic events recollected, we find an account on the very first attempts made towards the foundation of the Museum, information concerning founder Albert S. Bickmore, the first great expeditions sponsored by the Museum [Asia, Arctic regions and the Crocker Land expedition], the golden era of dinosaur's bone hunting, the expeditions of Carl Akeley to Africa or developments after the economic crisis of 1929, once the heroic expedition era was gone. Some historically important personalities deeply related to the Museum, such as Theodore Roosevelt Jr, Margaret Mead, Frederick Ward Putnam or Joel Asaph Allen are barely mentioned, but this is not further tragic because lots of books have been written about these people.
There is only one point in this first part of the book that puzzles me, as it appears to have been overlooked over the years: In the chapter [six] dealing with Barnum Brown, Charles Sternberg and Roy Chapman Andrews, I found some paragraphs that reminded me strongly on J. N. Wilford's "Riddle of the Dinosaur" (1985). Actually, after careful verification, I found that some sentences are practically the same. Although both books were released at practically the same time, and many of the references cited and considered are identical, and information exchange by the authors cannot be excluded, it is quite unpleasant to find such similarities without Wilford's book being cited at all.
The second part of the book recollects interviews with some staff members from the museum, as well as anecdotes concerning various specimens and dependencies usually not open to the public. Here some quite interesting histories on the preparation of specimen's or their accession by the museum are described, like the Chubb horses, the story of chimpanzee Meshie, the giant meteorites, the Rothschild bird collection, the Copper Man, anecdotes concerning roaches and the NYCTA or the big robbery of 1964, among others. Some are described with many details, while other are only sketched. But they effectively transmit that the Museum goes far beyond the exhibition halls. Often specimens kept in storage vaults are much more interesting that exhibited objects, even if they aesthetical qualities are below standards.
Personally I think that devoting the whole book to these non-official events would have been much more effective, because they correspond to the real, inner atmosphere of the institution, rather than the formal description of facts.
Fortunately, if you take the time to search, some of these anecdotes can be found in the Annual Reports of the AMNH. For example, photographs of the skeleton of "Sysonby" mounted by Chubb can be found in the Annual Report of 1908, pages 44-45. In that of 1926, further original descriptions on the expeditions of Burden and Akeley are given, as well as an original photograph of the Kiwu gorilla group before the diorama was done. These official reports are a quite interesting complement to the book, and present some additional material that was not covered by lack of space. Unfortunately the pictures in these reports could not be included in the book. As a final hint concerning the annual reports, those interested in seeing the photographic sequence of the model made from a living Burmese python can find it in the report of 1973, pp. 16-17 and the cover. [P.S: The reports of AMNH are freely accessible at the digital library of the Museum.]
The list of references is quite complete, varying from generic works to more specialized journal articles. Here I miss the book "Bankers, Bones and Beetles: The first Century of the AMNH", by G. T. Hellman (Natural History Press, 1969), which was written in the same anecdotical style.
Summarizing, this is a nice book that will certainly amuse you. For those fans of Preston, many of the anecdotes portrayed in this book were reused [in slightly different form] in his novel "Relic". Actually, the "Cerro de la neblina" expedition of 1984-85 [AR1984, page 23] on the border of Venezuela and Brasil explored the highland [the famous "tepui"] for flora and fauna, and was certainly the inspiration for the Whittlesey expedition in Relic, as well as some other scenes of the novel, like the labyrinth of the former power station.
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Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History
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