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

ISBN-13: 978-0374135065 ISBN-10: 0374135061 Edition: 1ST

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My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs + Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1ST edition (April 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374135061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374135065
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Switek, a journalist who digests technical literature on paleontology for mass-market publications, presents dinosaurs through his own experience of enthusiasm, from childhood to his late-twenties present, for these giants of the earth. As a kid, his favorite behemoth was brontosaurus, which still inspires his adult imagination, though he knows apatosaurus replaced it in dino taxonomy. Memory of his inspiration by an iconic if mistakenly named dinosaur echoes in his tour of changing interpretations of dinosaurs by paleontologists during the century-plus they have studied them. Switek’s memories arise in descriptions of his visits to exhibitions of fossils, lending a road-trip tenor to a narrative that describes the up-to-date knowledge about dinosaurs, contrasting present views with previous caricatures of dinosaurs as solitary, oversize dimwits doomed to go down for the count in the evolutionary boxing match. Switek’s chapters tout dinosaurs as colorful, feather- and fuzz-covered creatures. Consideration of social behavior, from herding to fighting to reproduction, has spawned scientific theories on which, as well as those that debate extinction, Switek reports. Writing with unaffected ardor, Switek will resonate with readers fascinated by dinosaurs. --Gilbert Taylor


“Charming . . . We are beneficiaries of Mr. Switek’s undiminished passion . . .  The book is a delight, coming along when so much has changed in our understanding of dinosaurs, ever since the beginning of a renaissance in dinosaur studies in the 1970s and ’80s . . . This may be the one book for catching up on what has become of the dinosaurs you thought you knew from grade school.” 

The New York Times

My Beloved Brontosaurus is, in many ways, science writer Brian Switek’s love letter to his favorite animal . . . But the book is more than a personal ode to fossils. Switek meets experts, tours museums and visits excavation sites. He is searching no longer for preserved eggs that might one day hatch dino-babies but rather for an understanding of what life in the age of dinosaurs was like.”
The Washington Post

“Switek geeks out gloriously on everything from the truth about Jurassic Park to the ugliest roadside dinosaurs he has ever seen. He’s a friendly guide to the latest in dinosaur science, whizzing through journal article after journal article on how cross sections of dinosaur bone can tell us about their physiology, or how fossil olfactory lobes can reveal their sense of smell through time . . . Much has been written about the ‘dinosaur revolution’ of recent decades, in which the idea of sluggish, passive reptiles transformed into more active and engaging creatures. Switek takes the science a step farther and into the 21st century.”
The Dallas Morning News

“Switek passionately and playfully explores scientists’ evolving perception of the wild, wonderful dinosaur world, emphasizing at every turn the dynamic nature of their field despite its now inanimate subjects . . .  Switek intersperses his rich, well-researched scientific and historical discussions with personal anecdotes and cultural signposts, weaving together a narrative that reveals the current state of the field as well as some of the wrong turns along the way.”

“Fortunately for us, Brian Switek has continued to channel the enthusiasms of his own inner five-year-old. In his zany, sometimes mind-blowing romp through the new science of old bones . . . you too can nerd out anew . . . the discoveries Switek shares fill the old world with new wonders . . . Switek rekindles that childhood amazement at how vast the dinosaur world really was.”
Barnes & Noble Review

My Beloved Brontosaurus should appeal not only to those interested in dinosaurs, but to anyone interested in science, the history of science, or the natural world in general. It will also provide essential crib notes for any parent struggling to keep up with their child’s encyclopedic knowledge of the beasts.”
The Times Literary Supplement

“[Switek] deftly brings the concerns of dinosaur fanatics regarding the dinosaurian public image to the popular culture . . . it’s always a treat to read someone so captivated by the romance of natural history . . . Switek’s message is that dinosaurs are a relevant, vital field of study because the illumination extends to broader issues of evolution and the fate of our world. In the same way, My Beloved Brontosaurus uses the engaging topic of dinosaur lives as a way to celebrate the ongoing exploration of science at large.”
Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs (blog)

“Cleverly written, well researched and sprinkled with lots of tidbits of information gleaned from dinosaur sites that include Utah’s wealth of material, Brian Switek’s My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science and Our Favorite Dinosaurs is a jewel.”
Deseret News 

“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.”
Shelf Awareness (starred review)

“Fascinating . . . Switek’s scope of knowledge is awesome . . . This is in the classic ‘news you can use’ for nerds genre.”
Discover magazine’s “Gene Expression” blog

“If you are itching to learn more about dinosaurs than just the bare bones, so to speak, then Brian Switek’s My Beloved Brontosaurus is a must-read . . . In addition to being packed with fresh research, this book is just flat-out fun to read . . . Perhaps Switek’s greatest triumph with My Beloved Brontosaurus is proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that dinosaurs are not some esoteric, irrelevant subject, but are deeply connected to our own human story.”
—The Mindhut

“Switek’s dinomania is infectious. The book charms with the author’s passionate curiosity . . . half guidebook, half love note. Switek lays out an accessible, rich history of these creatures, along the way meditating on the larger issues raised by their ancient lives and our modern study of them, including our evolving understanding of evolution, the role of personality and bias in the scientific process, and the psychology of just what we humans see in these fascinating monsters.”
The Boston Globe

“Switek’s writing is crisp and clean, and he knows his dinosaurs . . . [He] does a good job of keeping up with the latest refinements in dinosaur science. Crucially, he shares his enthusiasm well, writing about the fun, the weird and the wonderful without the tall tales of the explorers of old.”
New Scientist

“Switek’s book is a lifeline for the dinosaur enthusiast—an entertaining guide to the latest science of dinosaurs.”

“[C]harming . . . Read Mr. Switek’s book to rekindle your love of all things dinosaur: the cheesy movies, the action figures, the many happy hours spent wandering through imaginary Jurassic jungles. But more than that, read it to remind yourself that the dinosaurs’ story is our story and that, as Mr. Switek writes, ‘extinction is the ultimate fate of all species. Nothing so majestically encapsulates these simple, powerful truths of nature quite like a dinosaur.’”
The Wall Street Journal

“[Switek] offer[s] a compelling mixture of reliable infor­mation, personal experiences and thoughts, anecdotes about paleontological research and even science philosophy, delivered in a breezy and engaging style . . . [he] paints a comprehensive picture of how our understanding of dinosaur evo­lution gradually advances . . . Switek has succeeded in covering a wide range of inter­esting topics in dinosaur palaeontology with infectious enthusiasm.”

“A charming journey . . . Making scientific concepts accessible using a playful voice, in the manner of Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Malcolm Gladwell, Switek guides readers through the ever-shifting world of conventional dino-wisdom, from why they became the dominant life form of their time, to what they looked like outside those giant bones, and even covering how they might have had sex.”
Salt Lake City Weekly

“Switek’s chatty, infor­mative cross-country adventure is the perfect read for catching up on the latest, most fascinating dino science.”
Mental Floss

“[A] wonderful overview of current research and knowledge of dinosaurs, for both lifelong dino-lovers and people who need an introduction to the prehistoric beasts . . . informal, often humorous (in the tradition of great nonfiction writers like Mary Roach and Bill Bryson), without sacrificing scientific detail. The result is both readable and highly entertaining . . . an excellent field guide to the real dinosaurs that walked the planet.”

“In My Beloved Brontosaurus, the dinosaur fanatic Brian Switek enriches the childlike sense of wonder these amazing creatures instill in us . . . Endearing, surprising, and essential to our understanding of our own evolution and our place on Earth, My Beloved Brontosaurus is a book that dinosaur fans and anyone interested in scientific progress will cherish for years to come.”
The Guardian’s GrrlScientist blog

“Switek earned fame as the unabashed dinosaur advocate behind the fossil-focused blog Laelaps. He applies that same blend of boyish exuberance and serious science to this exploration of paleontology’s roots, revisions, and future course . . . his zeal is infectious . . . Switek fleshes out the monstrous skeletons that we all remember from childhood museum field trips with meaty new findings about their anatomy and behavior.”

“A revealing work of pop paleontology . . . Engaging and accessible enough for the lay person, readers will readily agree when Switek concludes that ‘dinosaurs are better than ever.’”
Publishers Weekly

“Writing with unaffected ardor, Switek will resonate with readers fascinated by dinosaurs.”

“An enthusiastic account of the history, description, discoveries, ongoing controversies and inaccurate media obsession with these popular but extinct creatures . . . A genuinely informative introduction to [Switek’s]...

More About the Author

Brian Switek is a freelance science writer, author of the critically-acclaimed book Written in Stone, and a paleontology volunteer at the Natural History Museum of Utah. He has written articles on fossils and natural history for a variety of popular and academic publications--from Slate and the Wall Street Journal to Nature and New Scientist--and he writes the blog Laelaps for National Geographic's Phenomena ( His next book, My Beloved Brontosaurus, will debut in April, 2013.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 53 customer reviews
The book is well-written and engaging.
Rebecca SG
I highly recommend this book if you enjoy dinosaurs or know someone who does.
robert rosteck
To my surprise I was not confused, go figure!
Darlene Cruz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Let's Compare Options TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The cover design and publisher hype about this book might make you mistakenly think that this is a kid's book, which is tragic because 1. It's not and 2. It might keep you from buying one of the best science books written this year, bar none-- for YOURSELF!

I "kid" you not-- if you want a break from your favorite mystery novel series for a plane ride or night reading, THIS IS IT! The author is a young genius at pulling our heart and head strings and leading us along with... what will happen next? The book is as engaging as a novel, but filled with research, science, documentation, citations, etc. as if it were researched as a scholarly text, then written for fun, love and enjoyment. An amazing blend.

If you're a fan of "popular science books" you'll be surprised that even though the read is fast, engaging and fun, the author doesn't dumb down the material at all-- there is plenty of deep palenotology snuck in, and you get a sense not only of his love for these critters, but his respect and determination to understand them scientifically. Our struggles to survive as humans, our coping with tragedy, and our many talents, are subtly reflected in every page as we watch creatures who, like Scott's "aliens," should be immune to extinction, then cope with situations nothing can handle.

With Jurassic Park type genetic biologists telling us that we may indeed be able to bring these creatures back some day (assuming WE make it), without being preachy, the author gives us a lesson in how we should view our more fragile fellow inhabitants here. If you've ever seen ANY episode of the discovery channel that you enjoyed, you won't be able to put this book down, even if you're not a dinophile. If you are... what are you waiting for, go for it!
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca SG on April 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I pre-ordered this book without hesitation because I'm a fan of Brian Switek's blog and think he's a talented science writer. As a bonus, the hardcover editions dust-jacket folds out into a cool poster. The book is well-written and engaging. I've loved dinosaurs since I was a kid, but as my academic path has led towards paleopathology my knowledge of paleontology has gotten ever more antiquated. From the charming introduction describing his adventures in paleontological preschool plays to fuzzy feathers to his theoretical discussion of dinosaur sex, Switek draws his readers in and entertains while he enlightens.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Wulfstan TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is *THE* book for layperson dino lovers who want something beyond kids books. Other than rather inadequate illustrations, the book is about the best I have read. Each chapter segues into the next and we cover all the bases- including why the Brontosaurus is now Apatosaurus. Even includes a fascinating chapter on what color the dinos were, dino sex, and of course T-rex and what Killed them all (or did it?).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By W. M. Shipman on May 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
If you don't track dinosaur research on a regular basis, it's difficult to keep up -- new papers seem to come out daily, and new dinosaurs are being discovered (or re-classified) at a dizzying rate. Switek is one of the most well-regarded reporters on the dinosaur beat, currently writing a blog about prehistoric life for National Geographic. He's also written for a host of other news outlets, and maintained blogs on paleontology news for both Wired and Smithsonian. In short, he knows his stuff.

That's important, because the dinosaurs you remember from your childhood (whether you're a child of the 1950s or the 1990s) have been given a makeover. Scientific advances have given us new insights into how dinosaurs looked, moved and sounded (yes, sounded). Switek gives readers a highly-readable overview of the high points, illuminating how much we've learned about these amazing creatures over the past few decades -- and how much we have yet to discover. What's more, he makes an excellent case for why studying dinosaurs is important, and what it can tell us about the life on Earth that still goes on all around us. Well worth a read -- I suspect you'll enjoy it.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Johnson on May 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is as fun and easy to read as I'd hoped. Lots of facts in a friendly easy fashion and lots of the authors feelings and experiences. Not many pix; just a few b&w illustrations. This book tells the story of errors in paleontology. I loved dinosaurs as a kid and now at 51, I still love them. Brian, the author seems like a cool, casual guy who's love for dinosaurs became his life as a paleontologist. And he knows his stuff. This is a great read. I haven't finished the book yet, halfway through, and am enjoying every page. I would recommend this book to dinosaur lovers. Also, the book jacket unfolds into a large two sided dinosaur poster! I recommend this book for adults and older teens rather than children, for the reading level, not because of the chapter on dinosaur sex.
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16 of 23 people found the following review helpful By D_shrink VINE VOICE on April 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brontosaurus never was because lexicographically it should have been referred to as an Apatosaurus, since the name Apatosaurus was used first and the Brontosaurus existed as only a minor variation of the Apatosaurus. Of course, whatever you called it the animal itself did exist, however, in science, naming is a really big thing.

There many things I liked about the book and a few, I saw, as negatives. First and most importantly of the positives, the author exhibited a deep knowledge about his subject matter, which is dinosaurs in general and his favorite member of that species the Brontosaurus or more correctly referred to as the Apatosaurus, in particular. The author described many facts that made the book interesting as:

1. "Tyrannosaurus lived closer to us in time - 66million years ago than it did to Apatoaurus, which died 84 million years prior." [p29] Therefore the fight scenes between these two giants, most of us have seen in movies over the years, could never have occurred since they didn't live at the same time.
2. "For all those stunning forces to exist, though, dinosaurs had to have sex." [p57] He describes how this theoretically occurred in a chapter titled THE BIG BANG THEORY. :)
3. It also seems that we know more about about female dinosaurs due to their fossilized pelvic bone structure than male members of their species, since male sexual apparatus would be soft tissue and not become fossilized. [p65] But inquiring minds still want to know!
4. It seems that paleontologists can estimate a dinosaurs age at time of death by bone growth rings similar to dating trees. [p69-70]
5. We also learn that female dinos did protect their young hatchlings, at least for a short while, and this would have varied with different members of the species.
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