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Dino reference books

Hey gang,

        There's been a lot of talk about dinosaur encyclopedias and other
dino reference books, so I've made a short review of the books that I use
regularly for reference. If you don't want to shell out big bucks for one of
these books, request that yor local public/university library gets it.

Here's the rating system I'll use:

*     Hardly worth the paper its printed on. 
**    Nothing special. Get it used or at a library.
***   Consider getting this book, but don't go out of your way.

        Keep in mind that the ratings refer to scientific value to an
amateur/professional paleontologist (as most of us here are).

David Norman/John Sibbick
Crescent Books
208 pp.
Rating: **1/2

        This book has set the standard for more recent dinosaur books, and
has a lot to offer. The text is decent, and is useful mainly to moderately
to highly educated laymen. It has been usually cited as the best general
dinosaur paleontology book around. However, it is not really useful to
amateur and professional paleontologists because of the lack of in-depth
citations. Some of the skeletal illustrations are quite good, but John
Sibbick's dinosaur restorations, though very good artistically, are very
much out-of-date. I'd recommend it to bright school children and broadly
interested adults, but it simply isn't up to par as a scientific reference

Peter Wellnhofer/John Sibbick
Salamander Books
192 pp.
Rating: ***1/2

        Although not on dinosaurs, this is an outstanding book. It is in the
same format as Norman's book (see above), but is basically a very much
superior work. The illustrations are all outstanding, and John Sibbick's
restorations are much better than in Norman's book. The text, while still
easily understood by most laymen, is very well documented with ample
citations to scientific literature. Basically, where Norman's book fails,
Wellnhofer's book scores, big time. I would give my full recommendations for
everyone, from layman to professional scientist, to at least take a look at
this book. As far as popular books go, it is definitely of great scientific

Don Glut
1076 pp. (I'm not kidding)
Rating: ****

        Glut's monumental volume covers each described dinosaur taxon in
explicit detail, with reproductions of the original published descriptions
and usually illustrations of the type material. The illustrations are
superb. The text is extremely useful, and ranges from a few sentences
discussing a given species to several pages of text and illustrations.
Easily, this is the most useful book on dinosaurs ever published, and all
amateur and professional paleontologists should at least have access to a
copy, if not get your own (if you don't mind coughing up some big $). I
wouldn't recommend it to those with a broad interest in dinosaurs (i.e.
laymen), but if you really want the nitty-gritty, this book's second to none. 

Weishampel, Dodson, and Osmolska
University of California Press
733 pp.
Rating: ***

        This is the old standard dinosaur reference book. The text is
divided by higher taxonomic rank and has a lot of very useful discussion,
with quite good documentation. The illustrations are all technical, and are
quite good. The taxonomy is growing quickly antiquated, as is the rest of
the book (sadly). If you have both the Currie and Glut books, you don't need
the Dinosauria. It is for very educated laymen and paleontologists. Again,
less useful now, but if you don't want to cough up the dough for the Currie
and Glut books, the Dinosauria would be a decent stopgap.

Editied by Philip Currie and Kevin "Mr. Afro" Padian
Academic Press
869 pp.
Rating: ***3/4

        Truly an encyclopedia, this new book is pretty good. It has
WONDERFUL text with ample documentation on a wide assortment of
dinosaur-related topics by hundreds of authors. The illustrations are good,
although not as good as Glut's book. I like everything about the book except
that it has absolutely no in-depth discussion of individual taxa. I would
say that it would serve as a good companion volume to Glut's book, but by no
means a replacement for it. They are very different books, and in all
honesty having both of them adds value to each book's counterpart. The text
is very scientific, and most laymen probably don't care how many species of
Hybodus are known from the Hell Creek Formation. Very, very good, but I
probably get more use out of Glut's book. Again, buy them both, they were
really meant for each other.

Don Lessem and Don Glut
Random House
533 pp.
Rating: **

        It's great for kids, but it has no real scientific value. There are
absolutely no references, and much of the data is inaccurate/obsolete. The
illustrations are very good. Again, this is a wonderful book for children or
even interested adults as a reference book, but for any serious paleontology
enthusiast it is useful only for its nice drawings (Franczak and Paul are
big assets, among others).

Greg Paul
Simon and Shuster
464 pp.
Rating: ***1/8

        This is a remarkable book, but since the advent of Glut's newest
book, PDW's value to a paleontologist has significantly diminished. The
illustrations, by the author, are quite simply the best ever published in
any book on paleontology. In addition to his incredible life restorations,
his now-famous skeletal reconstructions (for every species then possible)
are very handy. He covers all of the important predatory dinosaur taxa
(+ornithomimids and Avimimus) in fair detail, and has some very useful
measurements of the animals. Greg's book is extremely thorough and well
researched, with good references, but it is clouded by his rather unique
viewpoints, not the least of which is his curious approach of working with
higher-order systematics (he did the best that was possible at the time,
though). The text is very well-done, and is suitable for laymen up to
professional paleontologists. As the back cover claims, it does indeed set a
high standard. If you have the Glut and Currie books, you won't need PDW,
but the illustrations are SO GOOD, and the book is so cheap these days that
its worth getting. (paperback goes for a paltry $14)

Good hunting,

Sam Girouard

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