15 of the Best Dinosaur Books for Adults
Are you looking for the best dinosaur book for adults? Whether for yourself or as a gift, books are an almost universal choice. Whether they are avid readers or not, most people will pick up a book about a subject that they find interesting.
People tend to link dinosaurs with children. When it comes to dinosaur books for adults, you may find fewer options. Despite this, there are a plethora of great options available.
Some readers want to learn about dinosaurs while others just want to find something entertaining. That’s why our list will cater to any dinosaur enthusiast. Keep reading to find the perfect book or books for you.
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Scientific Reference Dinosaur Books
The books in this category are useful for learning more about dinosaurs and general paleontology. Readers interested in these books are looking for nonfiction books that can serve educational or reference purposes. They make great additions to your shelf, but with the rapid progression of science, some aspects may become outdated quickly.
Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life: The Definitive Visual Guide to Prehistoric Animals
Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life: The Definitive Visual Guide to Prehistoric Animals is a fantastic guide to the most popular prehistoric creatures. At its core, the book is a modern visual encyclopedia that provides up-to-date information at a glance. Reviewers praise the accuracy and accessibility of the content.
This makes it a universal standard for all readers: young readers will grow into it, adult readers will get the most out of it, and paleontologists will appreciate it. The presentation alone is top-notch. This will look great on a shelf or table, as it’s one of the best-looking covers of the bunch.
That said, some reviewers mention that their copies were damaged. While I did not have this experience, poor packaging was once a problem for this product. I cannot comment if this has been addressed, so do take note of the condition when you receive your copy.
This book serves as a foundational piece in a collection. It’s a worthy addition at any stage of paleontological knowledge.
Dinosaurs – The Grand Tour: Everything Worth Knowing About Dinosaurs from Aardonyx to Zuniceratops
Dinosaurs – The Grand Tour: Everything Worth Knowing About Dinosaurs from Aardonyx to Zuniceratops is an excellent pick-up for fans of paleontology. While the title is a mouthful, this book gets right to the point. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s “everything worth knowing.”
There are many great books about dinosaurs, though this one serves as a unique reference guide. Even someone with extensive knowledge can go to this book to look up specific details. It provides beautiful illustrations and silhouettes to demonstrate size references for different genera of dinosaurs.
That said, some negative reviews cite that this book is not intended for beginners. Though not a textbook, some aspects may be inaccessible to a general reader.
Most dinosaur enthusiasts, however, will have at least some of the knowledge already. For me, it serves an encyclopedia purpose when I don’t trust what is available online for accuracy.
The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs
The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs is an exceptional book by renowned paleontologist Gregory S. Paul. The second edition guide covers more than 750 different types of dinosaurs. The guide includes a vast array of visuals and diagrams.
The skeletal diagrams alone justify a spot on the shelf. Paul’s dinosaur anatomy has long been praised by his colleagues. Odds are you’ve encountered them time and time again in dinosaur media.
The issue therein lies, that Paul’s assertions are often debated within the community. His classifications of certain dinosaurs are dubious, to say the least. A general reader may take everything as factual if they rely only on this text.
Nonetheless, I can still wholeheartedly recommend this book. Its place in the dialogue of paleontology cannot be understated, especially for those producing skeletal drawings. While it lacks the flair of the previous books, it remains the de facto dinosaur field guide.
Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World
Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World is a guide that explores how prehistoric animals appeared in life. This book takes a conversational tone that appeals to most readers. While topics covered have a level of complexity, paleontologist Michael J. Benton breaks them down in a concise way.
Each chapter covers a unique prehistoric animal. This drills down on a unique animal in contrast to the brief mentions they receive in other texts. Illustrator Bob Nicholls portrays the words on the page in vivid detail in more than 100 colorful images.
While it does break down scientific topics for adults, it is more advanced than books targeted at children. Most teenagers into dinosaurs could comprehend the text, so don’t let that stop you from getting it.
It’s one of the most detailed modern books on the market right now. Benton’s writing style is very enjoyable and makes this book read more like a blog than a textbook.
Locked in Time: Animal Behavior Unearthed in 50 Extraordinary Fossils
Locked in Time: Animal Behavior Unearthed in 50 Extraordinary Fossils is one of the lesser-known books presented here, yet it’s one any paleontology fan will enjoy. This book is more unique than some of the others on this list because it explores animal behavior. It’s important to view fossils not as rocks, but as once-living things preserved at a moment in time.
The book hooks the reader in a way that some others simply cannot match. You begin to imagine the scene described as a real event that happened millions of years ago. It’s captivating.
While much of what we know about fossils remains speculative, the book does a good job of putting clues together. Even readers who are not dinosaur fans may give this book a shot.
The one downside is that the photos are not in color and some have commented on the poor quality of the printing. I grew up reading the old World Book encyclopedia that my parents had, so this never bothered me.
Dinosaur Books for Niche Fans
These books are more evergreen than those in the reference category. They cover topics of interest for fans of specific fandoms. While these may become outdated in time as more content becomes available, they’ll likely always hold value.
Jurassic Park Collectibles
Jurassic Park Collectibles is the go-to book for fans of the Jurassic Park saga looking to learn more about collecting. The best part is that the author provides historical context for specific items, including the backstory of the Kenner Jurassic Park toy line.
Criticism of this book notes that it’s an amateur publication. While I agree, I must ask: how profitable this type of book would be perceived by a major publisher? If the book lacks the polish of some others, consider why this first. The target reader is a small subset of a fanbase.
Despite the occasional typos and poor formatting, I think the content itself is worthy. By no means is the text exhaustive for the hardcore collector. Most readers will find it enjoyable.
There are several great images included within that most have never seen. With new merchandise coming out for the franchise, I think we might see an updated edition sometime soon. It’s an essential book for the new collector or anyone that has nostalgia for classic merchandise.
Jurassic Park: The Ultimate Visual History
Jurassic Park: The Ultimate Visual History is my recommendation for anyone wanting to learn more about the Jurassic Park franchise. This book provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Jurassic Park franchise with exclusive images and interviews with the creators. Readers will also learn about additional content from the saga including toys, video games, and more.
If you are as big of a Jurassic Park fan as I am, this book needs to be on your shelf. Now, I will admit that I knew a lot of the bonus material already. Considering knowing this franchise through and through is my job, most people would likely get more out of it.
Some reviewers mentioned that the bonus content glued to the book is a poor design choice. While I agree that it could have been better executed, I don’t see it as a dealbreaker by any means. You can remove them and store them in a folder or drawer if necessary. Overall, it is one of the best books on the subject and comes highly recommended.
Saurian – A Field Guide to Hell Creek
Saurian – A Field Guide to Hell Creek is an incredible resource for those who play the game Saurian. That said, any dinosaur enthusiast will find it enjoyable. It showcases the environments used in the game with details highlighting the team’s focus on accuracy.
For those unfamiliar, some of the most famous dinosaurs hail from the Hell Creek formation, including Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. What makes this game truly one of a kind is the authenticity and commitment to an accurate portrayal of dinosaurs and the fauna around them.
This book highlights the artwork featured in the game and explains in vivid detail the world at the end of the Cretaceous. The habitats expand across the American West at the end of the dinosaur’s reign.
While I do love this book, I must admit my bias. Tom Parker has been a friend of mine since the founding days of this site. Despite this, I can honestly say that I’ve seen nothing but praise for this book and I believe it makes an excellent gift.
Tom Parker has even written one of the most popular articles on this site, covering each of the Jurassic Park dinosaurs using modern science. Check it out if you want to see some of his work. Then consider reading more from him in this book.
Fictional Dinosaur Books
These books are for the type of reader that wants a compelling story. While the plots involve dinosaurs, these are far from academic texts.
Dinosaurs are simply tools that drive the stories forward. These books offer something unique because they present dinosaurs in life rather than as relics of the past.
Jurassic Park is the ultimate work of dinosaur fiction. No one can recommend books about dinosaurs without this one. Michael Crichton’s book has been perhaps the most influential of all dinosaur books. It captivated the public interest and brought dinosaurs to the forefront of our culture.
Sadly, many people only know Jurassic Park from the movie, never reading the dramatically different novel. Michael Crichton spent a great deal of time trying to conceptualize what a world with dinosaurs would be like. While his descriptions of dinosaurs may not meet modern standards, the novel was revolutionary for its time.
Crichton’s approach to science fiction is superb. This is arguably his finest work. When I read it for the first time, I had already seen the film hundreds of times, yet I never knew what to expect.
Any fan of the movies needs to Crichton’s, Jurassic Park in its first form. While this book propelled him to a new level of fame, it also prompted him to write his first and only sequel: The Lost World.
The Lost World (Crichton)
The Lost World takes everything from Jurassic Park to the next level. If the movie Jurassic Park deviated from the novel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park was only loosely inspired by Crichton’s work. For better or worse, Spielberg’s version went in a different direction.
The Lost World introduces Site B with the remaining dinosaurs that survived extinction. Some contend that the film should have stayed more faithful to the book, despite the movie’s good reputation among most fans. Crichton’s novel does seem more grounded and plausible than the blockbuster film.
Crichton focuses mostly on the same troupe of chaos theory, though he introduces new concepts to the mix. Readers get to explore dinosaurs in the wild, separated from man by six years. Will the dinosaurs survive a second extinction?
While some overlook this book in favor of the first, it deserves far more recognition than it gets. Far from the typical thriller novel, all of the Crichton’s books that I have read have substance. This one contends for my favorite of them all. It’s even better than its namesake, the Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Lost World (Doyle)
The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle serves as a foundational work in the genre of dinosaur fiction. His novel has been adapted for film many times and the themes within have permeated into pop culture ever since its publication.
Doyle, best known for his Sherlock Holmes series, created many other intriguing characters in his stories. This journey follows explorers that venture into South America to evaluate claims of living dinosaurs.
The Lost World introduces Professor Challenger, a hotheaded, pretentious, know-it-all who finds a parallel in scientists even today. Interestingly, he’s based on Doyle’s friend, Percy Fawcett. You can learn more about this story on Wikipedia.
While this book remains a literary classic, it’s not without faults. Firstly, the depictions of the animals are grossly outdated. Not surprising given how much paleontology has progressed since its publication in 1912. Still, modern readers will not find the descriptions of dinosaurs as compelling as Doyle’s contemporaries.
More concerning, however, are the several racist sentiments presented in the text. I am not one for banning books, but I understand how readers may find it challenging to read some books from the past.
Doyle’s descriptions of indigenous people, the group’s black guide, and the newfound hominid species, dubbed ape-man, are disturbing. Its demeaning terminology is a relic of an older generation and must be acknowledged before reading the book.
While the book does not hold up very well today, it is an important work in this genre of science fiction. Without it, Jurassic Park and other dinosaur media may not exist. I think it’s a book that will interest fans of adventure novels and science fiction.
Raptor Red: A Novel is one of the most unique books on this list. Rather than tell a human story with dinosaurs in it, this book tells the story from the perspective of a Utahraptor.
Paleontologist Robert T. Bakker, best known for his scientific writings, took a crack at writing a fictional story told from the perspective of extinct animals. It has received mostly positive reviews over the years. While the plot may seem targeted at children, the book is better suited to an older audience.
There are several graphic descriptions of fights and some advanced jargon that lend this more to the adult reader. Even though this book was written at the height of the dinosaur revolution of the 1990s, it remains fairly accurate today. The animals featured alongside the Utahraptor have drawn some criticism. Most readers won’t be this pedantic.
Readers of this book tend to agree that it’s a fresh take on a dinosaur story. Bakker incorporates scientific understanding to portray the world of dinosaurs through their eyes. While much of this remains speculative, it’s the best that we can do. This style of storytelling served as a precursor to Walking with Dinosaurs and other subsequent documentaries.
If you would like to learn more about the dinosaur revolution of the 90s, check out our article on dinosaurs in media. If you’d like to help fund an actual Utahraptor excavation, you can learn more about the Utahraptor Project.
Nonfiction Books About Dinosaurs
Books listed in this last category cover dinosaurs in a less encyclopedic format. These books take a more story-driven approach to cover true stories involving the pursuits of paleontologists. These types of books may appeal more to a general interest reader rather than specifically to a dinosaur enthusiast.
The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt
The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt covers the story of Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach in his journey across Egypt. Originally looking for early mammals, he instead stumbles across Cretaceous dinosaur fossils.
What makes this book so interesting is that it is more of an adventure story than scientific text. It is very accessible to a general audience and reads like a documentary film. This story was part of a documentary featured on A&E Network in the United States.
One of Stromer’s most iconic discoveries was the legendary Spinosaurus. Sadly, a World War II bombing in Germany destroyed many fossil remains, including this giant theropod dinosaur. The book picks up with a modern team searching for these so-called lost dinosaurs in the same location Stromer walked a hundred years prior.
While not the type of book for everyone, those interested in history and biographies will be hooked. This book covers an influential scientist whose life’s work was destroyed. It makes an exceptionally good book for an aspiring paleontologist seeking inspiration.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of Their Lost World
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of Their Lost World is by my estimation, the hottest dinosaur book around these days. While it is the mainstream choice, I think it’s a great purchase.
Steve Brusatte is a well-acclaimed paleontologist that knows how to break down the complexity of the field. I think this may be one of the reasons why the book is so successful, Anyone can pick up and find value no matter what level of knowledge they have on the subject.
The book is a Goodreads Choice Award winner and has received praise from big-name institutions such as the New York Times and the Smithsonian. So why should you read it?
The writing style is very engaging. Brusatte is a skilled storyteller and it’s easy to keep reading once you get started. I particularly enjoyed his discussion of Pangea, which has been oddly scant in other books I’ve read.
The most common issue readers have with this book is Brusatte’s tone. I agree, the conversational tone of the book is not what I prefer when picking up a dinosaur book.
He does come across as egotistical in several parts of the book. While I can overlook this, you might want to read a few pages before committing. Ultimately, it’s a case of reader preference. The overwhelming majority of glowing reviews are well-deserved.
Rex Appeal: The Amazing Story of Sue, the Dinosaur That Changed Science, the Law, and My Life
The Amazing Story of Sue, the Dinosaur That Changed Science, the Law, and My Life has to win an award for the greatest name on this list. This book covers the dramatic true story of Sue, the most famous Tyrannosaurs.
For those unfamiliar with the story, explorer Sue Hendrickson stumbled upon one of the largest and most complete T. rex specimens in the summer of 1990. Unfortunately for science, ownership of the fossil would take this dinosaur to court.
The book plays out like a crime thriller, featuring the intense legal battle for ownership that involved the FBI. Everyone, including private collectors, wanted control of this unique dinosaur. While it looked grim for Sue’s future, she was luckily auctioned off for 8.3 million dollars to her new home at the Field Museum of Chicago.
While the book appeals to a certain reader, those looking for more dinosaur education might look elsewhere. It can be dull at times reading through the finer details of the legal case presented. It’s not my area of interest either.
I think everyone needs to learn the story to understand the complicated battle to preserve fossils for scientists, not collectors. The issues presented in the book are from the past, but they remain relevant today,
The Best Dinosaur Books for Adults
Hopefully, this article provides some interesting reference material in your book search. While not an exhaustive list, the books mentioned here provide something for everyone. If you found it helpful, please share it with someone you know who loves dinosaurs.
If you think we missed a book, leave us a comment to let us know which one. If you’ve read any of these, you can leave your review below.
Thank you for sharing this list. I was searching for books to read about dinosaurs but was overwhelmed by the amount of materials available and the lack of certainty regarding accuracy and current knowledge. This is very helpful and appreciated 🙂
Thanks for your comment and you are most welcome! If you find other books that could benefit others then feel free to suggest them here.
Sic books bro, can’t wait to get my copy of rex appeal in the mail, you should def come out with a second list
Hope that you enjoy that book!