Paleontology & Geology

A Sea without Fish: Life in the Ordovician Sea of the Cincinnati Region

by Richard Arnold Davis with David L. Meyer
Bloomington (IN): Indiana University Press, 2009. 368 pages.

From the publisher: "The Cincinnati area has yielded some of the world's most abundant and best-preserved fossils of invertebrate animals such as trilobites, bryozoans, brachiopods, molluscs, echinoderms, and graptolites. So famous are the Ordovician fossils and rocks of the Cincinnati region that geologists use the term 'Cincinnatian' for strata of the same age all over North America. This book synthesizes more than 150 years of research on this fossil treasure-trove, describing and illustrating the fossils, the life habits of the animals represented, their communities, and living relatives, as well as the nature of the rock strata in which they are found and the environmental conditions of the ancient sea."

After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals

by Donald R. Prothero
Bloomington (IN): Indiana University Press, 2006. 384 pages.

Donald R. Prothero offers a comprehensive look at the diversification of the mammals throughout the Cenozoic Era, suitable for the specialist and the general reader alike. Reviewing After the Dinosaurs for RNCSE, Kevin Padian wrote, "this book is unusually good in showing how a great many lines of evidence — from chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, botany, and climatology — contribute to a unified picture of the history of life that accompanies the fossils in the rock record." Author also of Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, Prothero is Professor of Geology at Occidental College and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology.

An Introduction to Grand Canyon Geology

by L. Greer Price
Grand Canyon, AZ: Grand Canyon Association, 1999. 63 pages.

Geologist L. Greer Price worked for the National Park Service for ten years, mainly in Grand Canyon National Park, and his experience in explaining the geology of the canyon to the parks visitors is evident on every page of his brief (64-page) introduction, enlivened with dozens of photographs. Basic geological principles, including plate tectonics, structural features and their significance, and the role of erosion, are introduced and emphasized throughout; a glossary and a full index enhance the book's usefulness. Proceeds from the sale of the book benefit the educational programs of Grand Canyon National Park.

Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies: The Age of Earth and Its Cosmic Surroundings

by G. Brent Dalrymple
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004. 247 pages.

Whereas The Age of the Earth was aimed at the general scientific public, Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies is aimed at the common reader, and it succeeds magnificently in clearly explaining the methods and results used by scientists in ascertaining the age of the earth and of the universe. Writing in RNCSE (2005 Jan–Apr; 25 [1–2]: 45–46), Timothy Heaton described Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies as "a much-needed contribution to scientific education ... [that] takes a pivotal and complex topic and makes it very easy to understand by non-scientists. ... This book deserves a place in every school and public library."

Annals of the Former World

by John A McPhee
New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2000. 696 pages.

Assembled together in Annals of the Former World are no fewer than four of John McPhee's acclaimed popular books about North American geology — Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrain, Rising from the Plains, Assembling California — as well as the previously unpublished Crossing the Craton. Writing in The New York Review of Books, Stephen Jay Gould praised McPhee's "ability to capture the essence of a complex issue ... in a well-turned phrase." McPhee, a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1965, won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction for Annals of the Former World.

Atlas of the Prehistoric World

by Douglas Palmer
New York: Random House, 1999. 224 pages.

As its title suggests, Atlas of the Prehistoric World contains a collection of dazzlingly detailed paleogeographic maps, tracking shifts in land masses and climates from the Vendian Period to the present. In addition, Douglas Palmer, who teaches Earth and Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, narrates the story of life's evolution over the course of the last four billion years and provides a sparkling history of and guide to earth science. Accompanied by over 250 full-color photographs and illustrations, Atlas of the Prehistoric World is a wonderful reference for the student, the teacher, and the enthusiast alike.

Beasts of Eden: Walking Whales, Dawn Horses, and Other Enigmas of Mammal Evolution

by David Rains Wallace
Berkeley (CA): University of California Press, 2005. 368 pages.

From the publisher: "In this literate and entertaining book, eminent naturalist David Rains Wallace brings the saga of ancient mammals to a general audience for the first time. Using artist Rudolph Zallinger's majestic The Age of Mammals mural at the Peabody Museum as a frame for his narrative, Wallace deftly moves over varied terrain — drawing from history, science, evolutionary theory, and art history — to present a lively account of fossil discoveries and an overview of what those discoveries have revealed about early mammals and their evolution." "Beasts of Eden is a true delight," according to Donald Johanson.

Bursting the Limits of Time

by Martin J. S. Rudwick
Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2005. 732 pages.

From the publisher: "Highlighting a discovery that radically altered existing perceptions of a human's place in the universe as much as the theories of Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud did, Bursting the Limits of Time is a herculean effort by one of the world's foremost experts on the history of geology and paleontology to sketch this historicization of the natural world in the age of revolution. Addressing this intellectual revolution for the first time, Rudwick examines the ideas and practices of earth scientists throughout the Western world to show how the story of what we now call 'deep time' was pieced together."

Cradle of Life: The Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils

by J. William Schopf
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001. 392 pages.

"This book chronicles an amazing breakthrough in biologic and geologic science," Schopf writes, "the discovery of a vast, ancient, missing fossil record that extends life's roots to the most remote reaches of the geologic past. At long last, after a century of unrewarded search, the earliest 85% of the history of life on Earth has been uncovered to forever change our understanding of how evolution works." Writes the reviewer for Scientific American, "Schopf ... has a good deal to say about scientists and the way science is done. It all makes for a book that bears out his assertion that 'science is enormously good fun!'"

Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway

by Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll
Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2007. 204 pages.

From the publisher: "Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway follows the zany travels of a paleontologist and an artist as they drive across the American West in search of fossils. Throughout their journey, they encounter 'paleonerds' like themselves, men and women dedicated to finding everything from suburban T. rexes to killer Eocene pigs to ancient fossilized forests. Much of their travels are spent in remote places few people visit, where they discover small-town museums packed with paleontological treasures, rock quarries that have yielded hundreds of fossilized bones, and the remains of ancient seashores tracked with the footprints of dinosaurs. What soon becomes evident is that fossils are everywhere; it only takes knowing what to look for to find them — even at 65 miles per hour."

Darwin's Lost World: The Hidden History of Animal Life

by Martin Brasier
New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 288 pages.

To the question of where Precambrian fossils were, Darwin lamented, "I can give no satisfactory answer." Darwin's Lost World, as the reviewer for Library Journal comments, provides "[a] rollicking account of [Brasier's] adventures seeking an answer to a question that vexed Charles Darwin." At once a travelogue, ranging from China, Mongolia, and Siberia to Oman, Newfoundland, and Scotland, and a review of what is now known about the emergence of complex multicellular life, Darwin's Lost World is a spirited introduction to the biota of the late Precambrian and early Cambrian. Brasier is Professor of Paleobiology at Oxford University.

Digging Dinosaurs

by John R. Horner and James Gorman
New York: Harper Perennial, 1990. 208 pages.

Jack Horner is well known as the model for the iconoclastic Jurassic Park paleontologist, but the real story of his discovery of the stupendous 10,000-specimen Maiosaur site, complete with nests, eggs, and hatchlings, is even more impressive than the movie. His collaborator, science writer James Gorman, keeps the prose moving in a conversational style. Well-illustrated.

Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History

by Xiaoming Wang and Richard H. Tedford
New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. 232 pages.

Wang and Tedford present a detailed portrait of the evolution of canids over the past 40 million years, with chapters on methods of study and the place of dogs in nature, the origin of canids and other doglike carnivorous mammals, diversity: who is who in the dog family, anatomy and function: how the parts work, hunting and social activity, changing environments and canid evolution, going places: braving new worlds, and domestic dogs. John J. Flynn of the American Museum of Natural History praises Dogs as "[a] breezy and highly engaging romp through the rich history of the Canidae ... a compelling picture of this fascinating group of carnivores."

Earthsteps: A Rock's Journey Through Time

by Diane Nelson Spickert, illustrated by Marianne D Wallace
Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2010. 32 pages.

Is the 250-million-year career of a rock a suitable subject for a picture book aimed at kindergarteners through third-graders? Yes! Writes the reviewer for The Children's Bookwatch, "Marianne Wallace's artwork is nothing short of spectacular. Diane Spickert's narrative text is absolutely faithful to the geology and paleontology of the Earth's record as recorded by fossils. Earthsteps is a 'must' for personal, school and community library children's science books and non-fiction picturebook collections." Complemented with a geological time scale (from the Permian to the Holocene) and a glossary of geological terms. Now available in paperback!

Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs

edited by Philip J. Currie and Kevin Padian
San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1997. 869 pages.

Compiled by two of the world's foremost dinosaur experts, with almost 900 pages by 275 authors and 35 color plates, Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs was hailed as the most valuable and up-to-date reference work on dinosaurs when it was published in 1997. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott applauded, "I know I'm going to get a lot of use out of this book, and so would any teacher or parent with a dinosaur-nutty kid." Editor (and contributor) Kevin Padian, a paleontologist at the University of California, Berkeley, is president of NCSE's board of directors; he also testified in Kitzmiller v. Dover.

Feathered Dinosaurs

by Christopher Sloan
New York: National Geographic Children's Books, 2000. 64 pages.

Aimed at readers in middle school, Feathered Dinosaurs offers a scientifically accurate and lavishly illustrated introduction to the evidence for the dinosaurian ancestry of birds. The reviewer for Booklist writes, "Sloan puts all the facts together in a way that is engaging, accessible, and intriguing enough to get readers hooked on nonfiction." "The feathered and nearly feathered dinosaurs are among the most exciting animals to be discovered in the fossil record for decades," Kevin Padian proclaims. "In this book Christopher Sloan gives you a first look at them and tells you why they provide even more evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs."

Fossil Horses: Systematics, Paleobiology, and Evolution of the Family Equidae

by Bruce J. MacFadden
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 384 pages.

From the publisher: "The family Equidae have an extensive fossil record spanning the last 58 million years, and the evolution of the horse has frequently been used as a classic example of long-term evolution. In recent years, however, there have been many important discoveries of fossil horses, and these, in conjunction with such new methods as cladistics, and techniques like precise geochronology, have allowed us to achieve a much greater understanding of the evolution and biology of this important group. This book synthesizes the large body of data and research relevant to an understanding of fossil horses from several disciplines including biology, geology and palaeontology."

Fossil Invertebrates

by Paul D. Taylor and David N. Lewis
Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 2007. 208 pages.

"Our aim in this book," the authors explain, "is to introduce examples of the more common fossil invertebrates from around the world, as well as some rarer but scientifically significant fossils. We have set out to highlight the appreciation of fossils as the remains of once living animals, not merely as oddly shaped stones." The reviewer for Library Journal comments, "The authors provide a comprehensive compendium of information regarding every aspect relating to invertebrate fossils: history, general descriptions, and specifics related to all types of shells and fossils discovered. Numerous plates augment the text and provide visual reference points for readers."

Genesis and Geology

by Charles Coulston Gillispie
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996. 351 pages.

Subtitled "A study in the relations of scientific thought, natural theology, and social opinion in Great Britain, 1790–1850," Genesis and Geology "proposed to give an account of the immediate background of the pattern of scientific disagreement which culminated in disputes about Darwin's book and to attempt to analyze the causes of that disagreement." Originally published in 1951, Genesis and Geology was reprinted by Harvard University Press in 1996, with a new introduction by the historian of geology Nicolaas Rupke reevaluating the book in light of the subsequent forty-five years of historical scholarship.

Glorified Dinosaurs: The Origin and Early Evolution of Birds

by Luis Chiappe
Hoboken (NJ): John Wiley & Sons, 2007. 192 pages.

Glorified Dinosaurs presents a comprehensive summary of the exciting paleontological discoveries that provide evidence for the dinosaurian ancestry of birds. The reviewer for Natural History wrote, "In this handsome book, whose brilliant illustrations and magisterial breadth beg comparison with Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson's classic monograph, The Ants, Chiappe lays out the evidence and presents the case with a flourish ... a book that dinosaur lovers and bird fanciers alike will want to make part of their permanent collections." The author is the director of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Grand Canyon Geology, second edition

edited by Stanley S. Beus and Michael Morales
New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. 448 pages.

From the publisher: "This second edition of the leading book on Grand Canyon geology contains the most recent discoveries and interpretations of the origin and history of the canyon. It includes two entirely new chapters: one on debris flow in the Canyon and one on Holocene deposits in the canyon. All chapters have been updated where necessary and all photographs have been replaced or re-screened for better resolution. Written by acknowledged experts in stratigraphy, paleontology, structural geology, geomorphology, volcanism, and seismology, this book offers a wealth of information for students, geologists, and general readers interested in acquiring an understanding of the geological history of this great natural wonder."

Grand Canyon: Solving Earth's Grandest Puzzle

by James Lawrence Powell
New York: Plume Books, 2006. 309 pages.

From the publisher: "Vast and majestic, the Grand Canyon represents one of science's most challenging puzzles: How did this massive canyon come to be? This is the story of the search for the answers, and the first account of the consensus geologists have reached in the last few years. A scientific detective tale packed with colorful characters, Grand Canyon follows the explorers, adventurers, and geologists whose efforts led to the understanding of the canyon's mysteries. ... An eloquent, breathtaking narrative, Grand Canyon is a fascinating true story that is as epic as its subject." Powell is also the author of The Mysteries of Terra Firma: Exploring the Age and Evolution of the World.

Great Geological Controversies

by Antony Hallam
New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. 256 pages.

From the publisher: "a widely acclaimed account of the most celebrated controversies in the history of geology — a book that covers many of the most important ideas that have emerged since the birth of the science. Among the great debates described here are those involving catastrophe theory, uniformitarianism, the discovery of the Ice Age, speculation concerning the age of the earth, and the advent of new ideas on plate tectonics and continental drift. In presenting these key topics, the author opens the fascinating history of geology to a wide audience. Frequently citing original sources, the author gives readers a sense of the colorful and at times immensely entertaining language of scientific discourse."

Hiking the Grand Canyon's Geology

by Lon Abbott and Terri Cook
Seattle, WA: Mountaineers Books, 2004. 301 pages.

For the Hiking Geology series of The Mountaineers Books, Lon Abbott and Terri Cook have produced a hiker's guide to the Grand Canyon that explains the geology in loving expert detail, literally step by step. Eighteen excursions are detailed, ranging — as the publisher writes — "from the most popular rim-to-river trails (Havasu Canyon Trail) to gentle, half-day rim walks (Red Butte Trail) to rugged and remote multi-day backpack trips (Lava Falls Route)" and including useful information on permits, lodging and camping, and mule rides. The authors both teach at Prescott College, where they lead hiking trips to study geology in the field.

How the Canyon Became Grand: A Short History

by Stephen J. Pyne
New York: Penguin Books, 1999. 240 pages.

From the publisher: "Exploring more than four hundred years of human contact with the Grand Canyon, Stephen J. Pyne chronicles the creation of one of Americas greatest icons. The Canyon was discovered in 1540 by Spanish explorers, but dismissed as worthless and immediately forgotten; three centuries passed before it came to be recognized by Westerners for the natural wonder that it is. Merging environmental, social, intellectual, and political history, Pyne takes us on a wondrous journey of discovery. He recounts the achievements of explorers, geologists, artists, and writers, from John Wesley Powell to Wallace Stenger, who transformed the Canyon from a natural phenomenon into a symbol of America."

In Search of Deep Time: Beyond the Fossil Record to a New History of Life

by Henry Gee
New York: Free Press, 1999. 272 pages.

In In Search of Deep TIme, Henry Gee, Chief Science Writer at Nature, presents a painless and compelling introduction to cladistics, the approach to analyzing evolutionary relationships that revolutionized systematic biology. NCSE President Kevin Padian says, "This is a subversive book. Read it only if you want to know how scientists actually do their work, as opposed to the mythology of textbooks and documentaries. In it, you will discovery how and why the beloved Linnean system of taxonomy — the one that gave us classes and orders and families, oh my! — is being replaced by a wholly evolutionary way of looking at nature."

In the Presence of Dinosaurs

by John Colagrande
Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 2000. 189 pages.

Ranging from the Triassic to the Cretaceous, Colagrande presents a veritable menagerie of Dinosauria. With one hundred full-color plates by the acclaimed illustrator Larry Felder, In the Presence of Dinosaurs is a lively and well-researched exploration of the habitat and behavior of these magnificent creatures, drawing both on the fossil record and on the living descendants of the dinosaurs. Jack Horner, author of numerous dinosaur books and Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, contributes the foreword.

Life on a Young Planet

by Andrew H. Knoll
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004. 304 pages.

From the origin of life to the Cambrian explosion, Knoll draws not only on paleontology but also on the latest insights from molecular biology, ecology, and the earth sciences to produce a broad understanding of the emergence of biological diversity. Sean Carroll (the author of Endless Forms Most Beautiful) writes, "This is a truly great book. It is a remarkably readable synthesis of many diverse ideas selected from a breathaking array of disciplines. The narrative is engaging and entertaining — a travelogue through time that incorporates amusing and informative anecdotes from Knoll's travels to many far-off places." Knoll is Fisher Professor of Natural History at Harvard University.

Mammoths, Sabertooths, and Hominids: 65 Million Years of Mammalian Evolution in Europe

by Jordi Agustí and Mauricio Antón
New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. 328 pages.

From the publisher: "Mammoths, Sabertooths, and Hominids takes us on a journey through 65 million years, from the aftermath of the extinction of the dinosaurs to the glacial climax of the Pleistocene epoch; from the rain forests of the Paleocene and the Eocene, with their lemur-like primates, to the harsh landscape of the Pleistocene Steppes, home to the woolly mammoth. ... Finally, it is a journey through the complexity of mammalian evolution, a review of the changes and adaptations that have allowed mammals to flourish and become the dominant land vertebrates on Earth."

Missing Links: Evolutionary Concepts & Transitions Through Time

by Robert A. Martin
Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2004. 304 pages.

Reviewing Martin's Missing Links for Reports of the NCSE, Kenneth D. Angielczyk described it as "an easy-to-read introduction to the science of paleontology ... Martin's examples span many scales of evolutionary transition, from subtle tooth morphology in voles to the origins of birds, mammals, and tetrapods ... any attentive reader will come away from the book with questions and wanting to learn more about evolution."

Nature’s Clocks: How Scientists Measure the Age of Almost Everything

by Doug Macdougall
Berkeley (CA): University of California Press, 2008. 288 pages.

“In Nature’s Clocks,” writes reviewer John W Geissman, “Doug Macdougall provides an exceptionally well-written and engaging description ... of how we know what we know about absolute age determinations and thus about our attempts to unravel the uncertainties of deep time. This book is very suitable for a general audience interested in the history of our planet, including the details of how geoscientists, based on absolute age determinations, infer the ages of specific geologic events ... and the durations of specific processes.”

Noah's Flood: The Genesis Story in Western Thought

by Norman Cohn
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999. 168 pages.

With the aid of 75 illustrations, including 20 color plates, the distinguished medieval historian Norman Cohn explores the origins, development, and variety of interpretations of the familiar tale of the Noachian deluge. Writing in Nature, the historian of geology Martin Rudwick described Noah's Flood as "[a]n attractive brief survey of the fortunes and uses of the Flood story, ranging from ancient Mesopotamia to the equally alien territory of twentieth-century American creationism ..." and commended it to "anyone with an interest in the historical roots of modern scientific study of the Earth." The author is the Astor-Wolfson Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Sussex.

Pioneers of Geology: Discovering Earth's Secrets

by Margaret W. Carruthers and Susan Clinton
New York: Franklin Watts, 2001. 144 pages.

Suitable for budding geologists in fifth through ninth grades, Pioneers of Geology engagingly presents the history of geology by concentrating on the life and works of six important geologists: James Hutton, Charles Lyell, G. K. Gilbert, Alfred Wegener, Harry Hess, and Gene Shoemaker (who not only discovered the comet Shoemaker–Levy 9, but also is widely considered the father of planetary geology). With black-and-white illustrations and photographs; a geological time scale and a diagram of the age and structure of the earth appear in appendices, along with a helpful glossary and a bibliography including references to internet resources.

Plate Tectonics: An Insider's History of the Modern Theory of the Earth

edited by Naomi Oreskes
Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2001. 448 pages.

In The Rejection of Continental Drift: Theory and Method in American Earth Science, Naomi Oreskes traced the reception of continental drift in American geology from its initial rejection to its eventual acceptance. Now, in Plate Tectonics, she compiled the definitive history of the theory, told by the very scientists who developed and assembled evidence for it. Sections include The Historical Background, The Early Work: From Paleomagnetism to Sea Floor Spreading, Heat Flow and Seismology, The Plate Models, From the Oceans to the Continents, and Continents Really Do Move. Oreskes is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego.

Terrible Lizard: The First Dinosaur Hunters and the Birth of a New Science

by Deborah Cadbury
New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2001. 374 pages.

An exciting recounting of the 19th-century discovery of the dinosaurs, featuring such characters as Mary Anning, William Buckland, Georges Cuvier, Richard Owen, Gideon Mantell, and Charles Lyell. Carl Zimmer writes, "Cadbury ... turns what could have been just a string of anecdotes into high drama. Much of her success comes from her depth of research: she has scoured diaries, letters and newspaper archives and can tell her story in the words of the people who lived it."

The Age of the Earth

by Brent Dalrymple
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994. 492 pages.

The Age of the Earth begins with a plain answer: "Four and one-half billion years." But keep reading! Dalrymple's comprehensive, authoritative, and altogether magisterial account of the methods used to determine the age of the earth is, according to the reviewer for The Quarterly Review of Biology, "an enormously important book written by an expert for the general scientific public. It is must reading for all interested in the antiquity of nature." Dalrymple, a Supporter of NCSE and a recipient of the National Medal for Science, is Professor Emeritus in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University.

The Beginning of the Age of Mammals

by Kenneth D. Rose
Baltimore (MD): The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. 448 pages.

The Beginning of the Age of Mammals provides a magisterial (and marvelously illustrated) survey of the evolution of mammals, beginning with their origin in the Mesozoic and continuing through the early Cenozoic. "The first comprehensive synthesis of mammal evolution in more than 20 years," writes the reviewer for the Quarterly Review of Biology: "It is arguably the most significant contribution to the field since George Simpson's classic work Principles of Classification and a Classification of Mammals." Rose is a professor at the Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The Bone Museum: Travels in the Lost Worlds of Dinosaurs and Birds

by Wayne Grady
New York: Basic Books, 2003. 304 pages.

In The Bone Museum, science journalist Wayne Grady wittily and insightfully chronicles his travels around the world with the paleontologist Philip J. Currie as he continues to investigate the evolutionary connections between dinosaurs and birds. "Pluck the feathers off a bird," Currie tells Grady, "and you've got a dinosaur." Wrote the reviewer for Publishers Weekly, "Whether he's musing over the migratory patterns of birds or where to buy winter gloves in Patagonia, Grady's intelligent, seasoned, witty writing makes for a pleasurable and thought-provoking read." Grady is also the author of The Dinosaur Project: The Story of the Greatest Dinosaur Expedition Ever Mounted.

The Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang, China: The Flowering of Early Animal Life

by Hou Xian-Guang, Richard J. Aldridge, Jan Bergström, David J. Siveter, Derek J. Siveter, and Feng Xiang-Hong
Malden (MA): Blackwell Science, 2004. 248 pages.

The first book in the English language on the Chengjiang biota, The Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang, China succeeds in doing justice to both their scientific importance and -- with scores of color plates -- their wondrous beauty. Reviewing the book for New Scientist, Douglas Palmer writes, "Mainly intended for professional palaeontologists, this spotter's guide details the amazing fossils, 525 million years old, that have been shaking the tree of life for the past 10 years. Chengjiang's hundred species, from algae to chordates, challenge North America's Burgess Shale fauna for the quality and amount of new information they provide."

The Chronologers' Quest: The Search for the Age of the Earth

by Patrick Wyse Jackson
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 291 pages.

In The Chronologers' Quest, Patrick Wyse Jackson recounts the fascinating story of attempts to ascertain the age of the earth, starting with prescientific mythology and sacred chronology, continuing through the rise of scientific geology in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, and culminating with the advent of radioisotope dating methods, which show that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old. The reviewer for Sky and Telescope comments, "Jackson lays out the information clearly and chronologically, making it an excellent resource for researchers"; a useful annotated bibliography is included. Jackson is a lecturer in geology and curator of the Geological Museum in Trinity College, Dublin.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dinosaurs

by Jay Stevenson and George R McGhee
New York: Alpha, 1998. 326 pages.

NCSE President Kevin Padian promises on the cover, "If you're feeling inferior because your kids are geniuses about dinosaurs, then this book is for you." Full color illustrations and up-to-date, non-technical descriptions of dinosaurs' physical characteristics and behavior as well as likely reasons for their disappearance.

The Crucible of Creation: The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals

by Simon Conway Morris
New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 276 pages.

"Located in the west of Canada, the Burgess Shale contains a unique collection of fossil remains, and has become an icon for those studying the history of life," writes the publisher. "This remarkable book takes us on a fresh journey back in time through the Burgess Shale and its astonishing collection of Cambrian creatures. Simon Conway Morris paints a vivid picture of the critical period which saw the diversification of all the major animal groups, and takes a controversial stance on current evolutionary theories." Conway Morris is Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University.

The Dating Game: One Man's Search for the Age of the Earth

by Cherry Lewis
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 272 pages.

"It is perhaps a little indelicate to ask of our mother Earth her age, but Science acknowledges no shame." So quipped Arthur Holmes, one of the major figures in the history of attempts to determine the age of the earth, and the subject of Cherry Lewis's lively biography, The Dating Game. The reviewer for Earth Sciences History writes, "it is always a pleasure — and alas, not a common pleasure — to read a really well-written geological biography. Cherry Lewis is to be congratulated not only in producing one such biography, but also in setting forth with commendable lucidity the evolving scientific concepts by which the Earth's dating was achieved."

The Map that Changed the World

by Simon Winchester
New York: Harper Perennial, 2002. 352 pages.

In The Map that Changed the World, Simon Winchester tells the practically Dickensian story of William Smith and his struggle to create what was arguably the first true geological map. Winchester writes, "Geology, it seems almost redundant to say, underlies and underpins everything: the site of every city, every gold mine, every field, every island is determined purely by geology — and humanity's condition is more directly influenced by geology than by any other aspect of the natural world. But until William Smith we could only surmise what that geology was, and what it would and could be elsewhere. We had no map."

The Mistaken Extinction

by Lowell Dingus and Timothy Rowe
New York: W.H. Freeman & Company, 1997. 384 pages.

Perhaps the most up-to-date and comprehensive treatment of dinosaur evolution currently available, The Mistaken Extinction discusses both the origin of birds and the supposed extinction of the dinosaurs in detail, offering a very accessible discussion of modern taxonomy and cladistics en route. Writing in The New York Times Book Review, John Noble Wilford comments, "If their richly illustrated book is perhaps too comprehensive for cover-to-cover reading, it is well organized to be used for years as a reference work on all kinds of dinosaur and bird lore."

The Mysteries of Terra Firma: Exploring the Age and Evolution of the World

by James Lawrence Powell
New York: Free Press, 2001. 272 pages.

In The Mysteries of Terra Firma, Powell — the author of Night Comes to the Cretaceous and Grand Canyon: Solving Earth's Grandest Puzzle, as well as the former president and director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History — describes the development of our understanding of the history of the earth by focusing on three themes: Time, Drift, and Chance. For a lucid explanation of the dating techniques used to establish the age of the earth, the revolution wrought by Wegener's theory of continental drift, and the role played by chance asteroid impacts in the history of the earth, look no further. "An accessible, lively account of the biggest questions in earth history," writes the reviewer for Booklist.

The Origin and Early Evolution of Life

by Tom Fenchel
Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003. 192 pages.

"This book," Tom Fenchel explains, "is about the development of life from its origin and until multicellular plants, fungi, and animals arose — corresponding approximately to the time period from 4 to 0.6 billion years ago." The reviewer for BioEssays writes, "The classical, recurrent themes are treated in a clear and interesting style of writing. The scope of the book is broad enough to be useful to advanced undergraduate or graduate students as well as to any reader possessing a college scientific background." A glossary and suggestions for further reading are included.

The Origin and Evolution of Mammals

by T. S. Kemp
New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 342 pages.

"These are exciting times to be a palaeomammalogist!" T. S. Kemp exclaims in his introduction to his textbook, which updates and extends his Mammal-like Reptiles and the Origin of Mammals (1982). The reviewer for the Journal of Mammalian Evolution comments, "The readership targeted consists mostly of university students and paleontologists, but some of the broader topics will be of interest to evolutionary biologists and most scientists with a natural history background. The amateur or layperson attempting to tackle this book will face a steep learning curve, but if successfully completed much will be learned, and it will have proven the doggedness of his/her interest."

The Rise of Animals: Evolution and Diversification of the Kingdom Animalia

by Mikhail A. Fedonkin, James G. Gehling, Kathleen Grey, Guy M. Narbonne, and Patricia Vickers-Rich
Baltimore (MD): The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. 344 pages.

"The main aim of this book is to highlight one part of the immense sweep of time called the Precambrian -- the Proterozoic -- and, in fact, only a part of that Eon -- the time when the first animals appeared -- in a wide variety of places on Earth," the authors explains. "The first animals will always be of profound interest to scientist and layperson alike." With a foreword by the late Arthur C. Clarke. The reviewer for Science writes, "The Rise of Animals offers a much-needed avenue to communicate to the general public the past decade's exciting discoveries of Ediacaran fossils."

The Rise of Placental Mammals: Origins and Relationships of the Major Extant Clades

by Kenneth D. Rose and J. David Archibald
Baltimore (MD): The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. 280 pages.

Rose and Archibald preside over a detailed summary of both the consensus and significant minority viewpoints on the initial radiation and ordinal relationships of placental mammals. In their preface, the editors explain that they asked the contributors "to summarize objectively the current state of knowledge and views about the origin and relationships of placental clades," and add, "Although we are certainly not unbiased ourselves, we feel that the authors have admirably fulfilled our request." The reviewer for Science wrote, "The volume should be welcome bedside reading for all mammal systematicists and anyone interested in the evolution of mammals."

The Seashell on the Mountaintop

by Alan Cutler
New York: Dutton Adult, 2003. 240 pages.

A new book about Niels Stensen (1638-86) — Nicolaus Stenonius in Latin, or Steno for short — the Danish anatomist-turned-geologist who was arguably the founder of the science of geology. Writing in The New York Times, NCSE President Kevin Padian praised Cutler "for making one think about what qualifies as an explanation, and for exploring the endless debates that mix strands of partial knowledge with the need to reconcile religious testaments."

The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs & Prehistoric Creatures : A Visual Who's Who of Prehistoric Life

by Douglas Palmer, Barry Cox, R. J. G. Savage, Brian Gardiner, and Douglas Dixon
New York: Simon & Schuster Books, 1999. 312 pages.

An unmatched reference work distinguished by its erudition and beauty, The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Creatures is an illustrated who's who of prehistoric life, a Baedeker of more than 500 million years of evolution on Earth.

Time's Arrow/Time's Cycle

by Stephen Jay Gould
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987. 240 pages.

In Time's Arrow/Time's Cycle, Stephen Jay Gould reconsiders the discovery of deep time by focusing on "the three cardinal actors on the British geological stage — the primary villain and the two standard heroes", that is, Thomas Burnet, James Hutton, and Charles Lyell. Challenging textbook orthodoxies and Whiggish triumphalism in the history of geology, Time's Arrow/Time's Cycle was praised by the reviewer for the Times Higher Education Supplement as carrying "an enthusiasm, intelligence and sense of purpose that render it a worthy follower to Gould's earlier work." Gould was a supporter of NCSE until his death in 2002.

Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution

by Richard Fortey
New York: Vintage, 2001. 320 pages

Reviewing Trilobite! for RNCSE, Kevin Padian wrote, "Fortey has a lot to teach about trilobite structure, diversity, and evolution, but his book is far less pedestrian and far more engaging than a more text-like treatment would have been. Rather, he has used trilobites as a vehicle to explain a great many aspects of evolution, geologic history, and how we know what we know about these ancient animals and the problems that they illuminate. Besides, his prose is genial and knowledgeable ... We in the field of evolution are lucky to have a great many fine writers, and Richard Fortey is one of the best."

When the Great Abyss Opened

by J. David Pleins
New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. 242 pages.

In his lively, ambitious, and engaging study, Pleins — Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University — investigates the cultural significance of the story of Noah's flood, discussing the connections and conflicts among geology, archeology, myth, literature, the Bible, and popular culture. (A chapter is devoted to "Fundamentalist literalism and 'creation science'.") Michael Ruse writes, "This fascinating book opens up a completely new light on a topic about which we all think we know something and about which we learn we knew very little. One of the great myths of Western culture is seen in a completely fresh light, thanks to the labors of J. David Pleins."

Wildlife of Gondwana

by Patricia Vickers-Rich and Thomas Hewitt Rich
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000. 276 pages.

Lavishly illustrated, Wildlife of Gondwana describes the past diversity of life on Gondwana, the supercontinent that later dispersed into Antarctica, India, Australia, Africa, and South America. As Patricia Vickers-Rich writes on its page, "Tom and I very much enjoyed writing this book over a period of eight years originally — then spent another two years revising [it]. We were able to see and record infomation about so many new Gondwana fossils, and it led us into many new research projects and introduced us to many new people we never knew before. It was a fantastic journey for us — across Gondwana today and in the past."

Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

by Stephen Jay Gould
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1990. 352 pages.

In Wonderful Life, Gould tells the story of the reinterpretation of the unusual fossils of the Burgess Shale: "a grand and wonderful story of the highest intellectual merit — with no one killed, no one even injured or scratched, but a new world revealed." Reviewing Wonderful Life for Nature, Richard A. Fortey wrote, "There is no question about the historical importance of the Burgess Shale, and Gould is right when he says that it deserves a place in the public consciousness along with big bangs and black holes .... A compelling story, told with characteristic verve."

Written in Stone

by Brian Switek
New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2010. 320 pages.

Reviewer Pat Shipman regards the individual chapters of Written in Stone as good, particularly the opening chapter on the overselling of Darwinius masillae: “For a student wanting to brush up quickly on, say, human or horse evolution, this book will be a treasure trove.” But she laments the lack of any overarching structure or theme to unify them. “The result is a choppy book, good in parts, but without any overall insight into our ideas of missing links and our treatment of fossils. Those hoping to learn about exciting discoveries and advances in paleontological techniques will, I fear, need to look elsewhere.”