James Farlow has been part of IPFW’s Department of Geosciences since 1982. He earned his graduate and doctorate degrees at Yale University, and conducts paleontology research in northeastern Indiana and around the world. His many publications include journal articles and a few children’s books, but most substantial is The Complete Dinosaur (1998), coedited with M. K. Brett-Surman of the Smithsonian Institution. The recently published second edition is a much more complete work, due not only to the additional years of scientific knowledge evident in its scholarship but also to its coeditor’s expertise—Farlow and Brett-Surman recruited Thomas R. Holtz Jr. from the University of Maryland to assist in developing the book’s chapters and topics.
Farlow summarizes the book’s various aims as “the history of the study of dinosaurs, how one goes about studying dinosaurs, the features that characterize the various groups of dinosaurs, and then a variety of topical discussions about aspects of what dinosaurs were like as living animals and what may have contributed to their extinction.” Though it is, as Farlow terms it, a “monster” and “as big as the dinosaurs themselves” at 1000+ pages, The Complete Dinosaur is meant to be read from beginning to end. It deftly opens with “fairly elementary” concepts about dinosaurs but develops as the reader progresses through the book’s chapters to advanced, “full-fledged, professional material.” In this way, the book appeals to nonacademics who might have a burgeoning interest in dinosaurs as well as expert paleontologists in the field looking for a locus of scientific topics and research. While the content is not light reading and novices might need to put forth some effort to understand some sections, according to Farlow, it is best read comfortably set in a lap, “maybe with a nice cup of coffee on a winter’s day.”