Book Review | The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

In The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, paleontologist Steve Brusatte takes us through the development of the dinosaurs. He explores what their world was like, as well as the evolutionary advantages they obtained that enabled those during the Cretaceous period to rise to the top. Then, he explains what occurred during their cataclysmic end, how mammals and birds survived, and how our world got to where it is today.

Brusatte has an enjoyable narrative voice: he’s personable without being patronizing and educational without being excessively wordy. This is particularly important for nonfiction books, and Brusatte proves himself adept at making this subject understandable to the layperson. His knowledge can’t be contested, but he also feels like a person you could easily chat with without being intimidated.

This book is part biography of dinosaurs and part memoir of Brusatte’s career so far. He fluctuates between scientific passages about dinosaur physiology or how geologic processes preserve fossils, to describing anecdotes about famous paleontologists or about his own experiences excavating specimens. While this makes for an interesting read, sometimes these two things interweave in a way that feels slightly meandering or random.

On the other hand, this is a generally wonderful look at dinosaurs. We are shown how they came to be, with lots of information about the beings that came before, most of which I didn’t know. The chapter dedicated to Tyrannosaurus rex shines with a fanboyish glee, and the epilogue about the asteroid’s aftermath ends with appropriate apprehension—but still wide-eyed curiosity—about our own time and our current climate crisis. In the end, Brusatte proves to be a brilliant and passionate scientist, as well as a skilled writer with an overall excellent sense of how to make education personal, epic, and expansive. Anyone who has an interest in dinosaurs should read this.

Overall rating: 8.5/10

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