Steve Brusatte's Critical Reads

July 11th, 2018

Steve Brusatte is a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh. A graduate of the University of Chicago, he completed his doctorate at Columbia University. He writes frequently for Scientific American, including the May 2015 cover story on the evolution of tyrannosaurs. His academic research has been published by leading journals including Science and Nature (“Untangling the dinosaur family tree,” November 2017), and he authored a leading paleontology textbook, Dinosaur Paleobiology. He is also the “resident paleontologist” for BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs program. A native of the Chicago area, he now lives in Edinburgh with his wife, AnneSteve Brusatte will discuss The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs on Wednesdy, 7/18, 6pm at the Co-op.

The Dinosaur Heresies, by Robert Bakker - The gold standard for dinosaur books and the one that inspired me above all others when I got into dinosaurs as a teenager. The book that first brought the idea of active, dynamic, energetic, intelligent, successful dinosaurs to the reading public.

The Ends of the World, by Peter Brannen - One of my favorite science books of recent years, and one of the most important. Brannen uses lucid prose to describe the major mass extinctions of Earth history and their relevance for understanding--and hopefully mitigating--the rapid changes in our world today.

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy - A haunting novel that might seem to have nothing to do with dinosaurs. And it doesn't. Not really...except it paints a dystopic (but also touching) picture of what it might be like if humans faced a catastrophic extinction event.

Bloodlands, by Timothy Snyder - I study prehistory for a living, and always argue that fossils are important because they provide lessons from the past that could help us in the future. I love reading history books, particularly those that explain the how and why of some of the most terrible moments in human history. Moments we can learn from. This is one of my favorites.

The Crofter and the Laird, by John McPhee - McPhee is the greatest scribe of geology and brings rocks to life in a way that nobody else can. But my favorite book of his is this short writeup of his time living on a small island in the Scottish Hebrides, not too far from the Isle of Skye where I am doing a lot of fieldwork these days, looking for dinosaurs.

1984, by George Orwell - Because it's more important now than ever to learn the lessons from this book.

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck - Like so many people, I had to read this in high school. But I loved it. What else can I say?

T. rex and the Crater of Doom, by Walter Alvarez - My favorite first-person science book of all time. Walter Alvarez is masterful in using straightforward prose to explain how he solved the riddle of the dinosaur extinction and proved the impact of a six-mile-wide asteroid 66 million years ago.

The Evolution and Extinction of the Dinosaurs, by David Fastovsky and David Weishampel - The best textbook on dinosaurs, for anyone who wants to learn more about these fantastic creatures. A close second is Anthony Martin's textbook Introduction to the Study of Dinosaurs.

The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert - A timely and important book from one of the world's best nature and environment writers. We are probably in the midst of a mass extinction of the scale of the one that killed the dinosaurs, and we don't even recognize it.

The Dinosaur Artist, by Paige Williams - This book comes out in the autumn but I've read an advanced copy. It blew me away. Williams tells the story of the black market trade in dinosaur fossils and the sad story of one Mongolian tyrannosaur that was poached, smuggled, and auctioned...before being rescued. A cracking combination of dinosaurs and true crime!

About The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: In this captivating narrative (enlivened with more than seventy original illustrations and photographs), Steve Brusatte, a young American paleontologist who has emerged as one of the foremost stars of the field—naming fifteen new species and leading groundbreaking scientific studies and fieldwork—masterfully tells the complete, surprising, and new history of the dinosaurs, drawing on cutting-edge science to dramatically bring to life their lost world and illuminate their enigmatic origins, spectacular flourishing, astonishing diversity, cataclysmic extinction, and startling living legacy. Captivating and revelatory, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs is a book for the ages.

Brusatte traces the evolution of dinosaurs from their inauspicious start as small shadow dwellers—themselves the beneficiaries of a mass extinction caused by volcanic eruptions at the beginning of the Triassic period—into the dominant array of species every wide-eyed child memorizes today, T. rex, Triceratops, Brontosaurus, and more. This gifted scientist and writer re-creates the dinosaurs’ peak during the Jurassic and Cretaceous, when thousands of species thrived, and winged and feathered dinosaurs, the prehistoric ancestors of modern birds, emerged. The story continues to the end of the Cretaceous period, when a giant asteroid or comet struck the planet and nearly every dinosaur species (but not all) died out, in the most extraordinary extinction event in earth’s history, one full of lessons for today as we confront a “sixth extinction.”