LitStack Recs: Memoirs of Place and The Dinosaur Heresies

The Dinosaur Heresiesdino
Robert T. Bakker

With the new iteration of “Cosmos” exploding across our television sets, and with Neil deGrasse Tyson establishing himself as the superstar scientist of our time, science is definitely – and excitingly – on the uptick right now. And when I watched the episode that dealt mainly with evolution, I was fondly reminded of a time when evolutionary theory and biological diversity was pursuant interest of mine.

One of the first books that carried me into this diverse and amazing field was Robert T. Bakker’s
breakthrough “The Dinosaur Heresies”, wherein the charismatic paleontologist with the cowboy hat and the fuzzy beard was one of the first and most exhaustive proponents of some dinosaurs being warm blooded; up until this time, the prevailing belief was that all dinosaurs were cold blooded lizards – sluggish and stupid. He also was one of the first to draw a theoretical line between dinosaurs and modern day birds. Back in 1986, when “The Dinosaur Heresies” was first published, these ideas where highly controversial. Today, they are almost universally embraced.

So why read a book where most of the “discoveries” are now accepted by both learned paleontologists and 3rd graders alike? Because Robert T. Bakker is such a wonderful scientist, such an enthusiastic writer, and such a colorful character. His book is not one of dry, scientific findings or obtuse philosophical ramblings in support of his theories, but a passionate, involved, entertaining sharing of the field that he so obviously loves. While “The Dinosaur Heresies” may not be the cutting edge work it was back in 1986, it still is a wonderful introduction to a domain that has captured our combined pop culture imaginations since “Jurassic Park” first leapt off the screens in 1993.

But then, any 3rd grader could have seen that coming.

—Sharon Browning