Customer Reviews: The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs (Princeton Field Guides)
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on September 30, 2010
Gregory S. Paul's 1988 book, _Predatory Dinosaurs of the World_Predatory Dinosaurs of the World: A Complete Illustrated Guide, reignited my childhood interest in dinosaurs when I was a teenager. I read it cover to cover several times and carried it around for months and months, lingering over his exacting white-skeletons-on-black-soft-tissue reconstructions with my eyes, ruminating over the accompanying text, and wistfully wishing that the book didn't stop with the last theropod but went on to cover sauropods and everything else in the same level of detail.

Now, some 22 years later, Paul releases what is probably his magnum opus: a big, bold 8 & 1/2 by 11 volume containing hundreds of reconstructions dozens of muscle studies and shaded skull drawings, and numerous fine color scenes. A feast for the eyes and an atlas for the imagination.

Paul writes in the preface: "Producing this book has been particular satisfying in that it has given me the reason to achieve a long-term goal, to illustrate the skeletons of almost all dinosaur species for which there is sufficiently complete available."

Thank you, Mr. Paul, from the bottom of our hearts! And thank you Princeton University Press for producing a durable big-format volume, the sort of thing that older boys can carry around on planes, trains, and automobiles . . .
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on November 7, 2010
This is one of the best dinosaur guides I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Lavishly illustrated, exhaustively researched, this guide is, in my humble opinion, the definitive guide to the prehistoric world. From well known dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Allosaurus fragilis, to obscure dinosaurs such as Nothronychus mckinleyi and Cryolophosaurus ellioti, there's something for everyone. The introductory section of the book really brings you into the frame of mind you would need to venture into the wilderness of the past as well as even a brief section on what would be needed if one were to travel to that far distant past. Even some of the more recent discoveries have made their way into this book, such as Torosaurus actually being fully developed adult Triceratops horridus. Other dinosaurs, such as "Nanotyrannus" suffered the same fate in the past, but have since been properly identified as juveniles, Nanotyrannus in fact being the juvenile of Tyrannosaurus rex. The only disappointment, and this is a tiny one as I will explain, is there is no section on pterosaurs. Now, I'm quite certain that this is because the pterosaurs are not dinosaurs at all, but are very simply flying lizards. Still, a mention would have been nice. All in all, I would definitely recommend this book to any dinosaur enthusiast.
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on July 9, 2011
"The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs" is artistically superb yet science-heavy. This is no simple picture or "coffee table" book. Unique in its configuration (textbook-sized, but formatted not unlike a backyard birder's handbook), this "field guide" is really more akin to a single-volume dinosaur encyclopedia (or, as another reviewer pointed out, a dino desk reference). And that's not a bad thing.

Dinosaurs of all shapes, sizes, and levels of fame (or obscurity) are ranked taxonomically and provided with detailed background information. Each species is not only illustrated in life-like artist's renditions, but skeletal systems are also depicted. This book is not quite as "pretty" as some of the other large paleo-books, but it's replete with information.

Due to the technical nature of the book, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for younger children or children who don't have an earnest academic interest in paleontology. Instead, I'd recommend "The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs" for adult dinophiles -- "grown ups" who never grew out of their dinosaur "phase."
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on December 10, 2012
Like many, I was introduced to Greg Paul's artwork as a young teenager in the 1980s. His Predatory Dinosaurs of the World was my favorite book for years. This book is a bit of a letdown in that aside from the teriffic skeletons, he offers no scale bars, zero information on the type specimens, the author(s) who named and described each taxon, or even the actual preserved elements. Stranger still, some taxa, known from reasonably complete specimens (Coelurus, Dilong, Guanlong, Torvosaurus, and Tanycolagreus for example) are not illustrated, while others that are known from similarly complete material (Ornitholestes and Irritator) are. Why? This is never addressed. Also, the color pencil drawings are absolutely amateurish and detract from the otherwise excellent art. Are these goofy little sketches really meant to convey an impression of the animals' heads? He's essentially traced the skulls, slapped in an eyeball, and presented it as a life portrait. Almost embarrassing. The text that accompanies the species descriptions appears to have been written by a child with a list of "enemies" provided for herbivores, and only the most cursory and useless description of the material: "most of the skull and minority of skeleton"...what exactly does that mean?!
So overall, you're getting some nice skeletal drawings, a brief note of where and when the thing was found, and some shoddy color pencil sketches. For me, the skeletons are worthwhile, but others might like a bit more actual information, so this book will perhaps be lacking.
On a final note, Greg Paul has recently declared that his guides should not be used as guides for artists wanting a skeletal reference upon which to draw or sculpt. So, be warned! This odd little man with an ego the size of Texas publishes some nice skeletal drawings, but if you use these references as know...reference, he might sue you.
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on December 11, 2015
Gregory S. Paul was one of my favorite paleo-artists back in the day, and it pains me to write this review. There are just too many problems to recommend to young kids, and serious dinosaur lovers.

Greg Paul likes to do something we call lumping, meaning he lumps together different genera of dinosaurs. For example, Tarbosaurus bataar (a relative of T.rex) is called Tyrannosaurus bataar in this book. This is widely disregarded among paleontologists, but at least it had been suggested before. There are times when lumping is correct, but Paul goes one step further and lumps together dinosaurs no one suggested. Let me put it this way: Greg Paul is the reason to general public thinks Velociraptor is 6 feet tall. Writer Michael Crichton used his book (Predatory Dinosaurs of the World) for reference when he wrote Jurassic Park 25 years ago. Greg Paul lumped Deinonychus into Velociraptor thinking Deinonychus is just a different species of Velociraptor. If your kids want to learn the names of the dinosaurs, they would get a lot of the names wrong.

The writing is a mixed bag. The opening intro and talk about the history of paleontology is well done, but once you hit the list of dinosaurs, that's where things get dicey. Some of his size estimates are off the mark (he made Deinonychus too big in Predatory Dinosaurs of the World), though that's a minor issue. The biggest problem is the anatomical descriptions of the fossils are so vague that you learn almost nothing about them. He also likes to add silly notes like dinosaur X is the enemy of dinosaur Y, like they have some kind of ongoing feud or something. On the bright side, sometimes the descriptions are very on the mark. He also likes to put dinosaurs that haven't even been officially studied into the book. These dinosaurs don't even have names, so they are essentially useless.

The biggest reason to buy this book is the art. His skeletal reconstructions are some of the most detailed. Paul also likes to illustrate the dinosaur from a top down view, giving you a more 3 dimensional look at the animal. You get a feeling of how wide that body is, not just the length. Props to that! The book is also sprinkled with fully fleshed out drawings, and that's where it gets bad. A lot of his pencil drawings look more like sketches. They look nowhere near as polished as some of his earlier work (which are also sprinkled throughout the book). I have the E-book and I don't know if it's in the printed version, but you can even see the artifacts left behind from scanning the artwork. It just looks so sloppy. Worst of all, don't let Greg Paul catches your kids drawing or tracing his art. I wish I was joking, but he's threaten to sue anyone who uses his art for reference. If you want dinosaur skeletals, look up Scott Hartman instead. He might not draw his skeletons from a top down view, but he's also less of a jerk.

I wouldn't recommend this book if your kids want to learn about dinosaurs. There are much better book. If you're an artist looking for inspiration, it still MIGHT be worth checking out. Just make sure you develop your own style of art. Paul actually tried to trademark some of the dinosaur poses.
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on June 22, 2014
In the 1997 I bought “Dinosaurs, the Encyclopedia” by Don Glut for $140. That is a very thick (~1000 page) volume that summarized all dinosaur genera known at the time. Every two years an equally thick supplement would come out at $100-150. Currently the latest is Supplement 6. I myself got up to Supplement 4 and decided that, although having a comprehensive review of dinosaur science was nice (and I actually read through each volume), this was much too expensive a series to follow.

Recently, I bought a brand new book “The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs” by Gregory S. Paul. This book has just as comprehensive look at the variety of dinosaurs in a much more compact format at an affordable price: nominally $35, but much less on Amazon. Greg Paul is a well-known illustrator of dinosaurs. While he does not have formal training as a paleontologist, he (like Don Glut) has a very deep and broad grasp of the subject of dinosaurs. I own three other of his books. “Predatory Dinosaurs of the World” (1988) is a classic. “Dinosaurs of the Air” (2002) is a comprehensive review of the dinosaur origin of birds. He also edited “The Scientific American Book of Dinosaurs” (2000), which is a collection of “special topics.” Paul is the originator of the “white skeleton embedded in a black silhouette” style of drawing prehistoric animals, which has caught on in a big way.

The “Field Guide” seems to be aimed at serious amateurs or professionals. It has a 63-page introductory section on various aspects: What is a Dinosaur?; Dating Dinosaurs; Skin, Feathers, and Color; Disease and Pathologies; Growth; etc. One the one hand, I admire Paul for putting so much information into so few pages. On the other hand, I have to say that he has a “review article” style of writing which is more suited to professional journals than a semi-popular work.

The meat of the book is a series of short (many per page) summaries of each dinosaur species: estimated length and possible weight, Fossil Remains (how much of the skeleton is known), Anatomical Characteristics (special features relative to similar dinosaurs), Age (e.g. Late Jurassic), Distribution and Formation (e.g. Central China, Shanghaximiao), Habitat (e.g. “forests and lakes”), and Notes (any other info, e.g. “Thought to be the biggest dromaeosaur”). The genera are arranged cladistically, e.g. a section on theropods has a subsection on avepods, which has a subsection on Allosaurus-like genera. This is in contrast to the usual arrangement by alphabetical order in most encyclopedia-format books. But not to worry, there is a very good index. A large fraction of the entries have a “skeleton in silhouette” drawing which allows the reader to tell at a glance which parts of the skeleton are known. There is sometimes also a detailed drawing of the skull. Sprinkled around the book are color restorations of a single species or “action scenes” with two or more dinosaurs.

There are ~1500 dinosaur species named in the literature, but probably only about half are valid (i.e. there is enough material to tell they are truly distinct, and not juveniles, females, geographic variations, etc. of some other type of dinosaur). The “Field Guide” covers 735 species. I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable amateur, but I have not heard of the vast majority of the dinosaur genera in this book--which is a good thing. Also, I had no idea there were so many species assigned to each genera. (For example, there are 5 species of Diplodocus.) I know of a lot of cases where genera could be lumped together, for example, Tarbosaurus is probably an Asian variety of Tyrannosaurus, and Dracorex is probably a juvenile Pachycephalosaurus. It surprised me a little that Paul partly equates Styracosaurus, Einosaurus, Achelousaurus, and Pachyrhinosaurus with Centrosaurus. These are all ceratopsids with a nose horn, and horns on the frill, but no brow horns; but the shape and number of horns is quite diverse. Similarly with Corythosaurus, Lambeosaurus, and Hypacrosaurus. These are all hadrosaurs with tallish crests on their heads, but of different shapes.

For those dinosaur enthusiasts who like to “read the encyclopedia” as I do, this is a very valuable book at a very good price. The only downside is that dinosaur discoveries happen all time, with a new species of dinosaur named every six weeks on the average, and a book like this gets out of date very quickly. For a book this compact, one- or two-year supplements wouldn’t make any sense (they would only be only 10 pages long), but it would be nice if the whole book was updated periodically. The price is so good, it would be no problem to re-buy it every few years.
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on January 16, 2014
My husband loves this book. It's scholarly, but still accessible and amply-illustrated. He's been reading dinosaur books for years and still found much new information here. (My favorite thing in the book is the many silhouette illustrations showing the dinosaur's shape, with the portions of the skeletal structure discovered to-date superimposed on top. This shows how much actual fossil the paleontologists have to work from. Pretty neat.)
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on October 1, 2010
This is a top quality book on dinosaurs at a price that most can afford. It is packed with excellent graphics and is filled with skeletal reconstructions of the professional quality that Gregory S. Paul is famous for using. There is knew information as well as some of the knewer dinosaurs and synonymies of formerly known kinds. Clearly, this is a must have for any dinosaur enthusiast.
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on December 27, 2010
The bulk of this book is a listing, drawing, and description of identified dinosaur skeletons. It is quite complete and includes the recent discoveries in China as well as in more mature bone sites. The introductory chapters are a real highlight. They describe such subjects as energetics, warm bloodedness, and size. They are written with logic and understated authority that makes readers feel that they have learned something and that dinosaur study is a science as well as a "wow, what will we find next" activity. Paul is an advocate of bird-like depiction of dinosaur appearance. As such, his muscular studies and his beautiful reconstructions have an intriguing look for someone who grew up assuming dinosaurs lumbered rather than strutted. I would highly recommend this book to any dinosaur lover who wants to see the state of the art.
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on December 5, 2015
Well the cover was great but things seemed to go downhill from there. Yes this may be one of the most complete inventories of dinosaurs out there, but there's practically nothing written about most of them.... many a sentence or two and that information often reads like a musty catalog inventory of length of bones, etc. There are a few rare good pictures but most of the illustrations are high school level sketches... many of the dino legs even have straight lines even, like the illustrator used a ruler. Aside from this, this is essentially a book of bones. It may be more geared toward a paleontologist.

I was also a bit put off by this (pg 44): "...dinosaurs were throw-away organisms, unlike large, big-brained mammals that are major investments requiring extensive parental care and resources. The short life spans of these great dinosaurs were acceptable because they were expendable creatures, being fast breeding strategists that could readily replace their losses." Seriously, was this written in the 1900s? Thats just crazy arrogance and turned me off the whole book. Who are we to call other creatures "expendable"... they were more successful and they lived far longer on this planet than we probably ever will.

Amazon socked me with a return fee which was half the book, so I'm stuck with it. I'd give it away to a nephew or cousin but don't want to kill their interest in the subject, lol. Eh well.
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