Donald R Prothero
Columbia University Press, £24.00
Donald Prothero does a brilliant job of telling an exciting 3.5 billion year palaeontological story. He focuses not only on the fossils themselves, but on how they were discovered, interpreted and often later re-interpreted.
The book begins with the search for the origins of life and ends with the hunt for the earliest human ancestor. Along the way, Prothero discusses some of the most well-known extinct animals such as one of the first birds, Archaeopteryx, and possibly the most famous dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus rex.
However, he also covers many lesser known but equally important genera such as Proganochelys, the oldest land turtle, and Ambulocetus, a primitive whale. It makes a refreshing change to read about such a wide variety of species, although at times this can lead to confusion as the book gets caught up in using the correct genera and species names.
A nice addition to each chapter is suggestions to the readers of where to go to see the fossils. It's more comprehensive for readers in the US, although it does include the Natural History Museum in London.
The book is easy to follow and flows well, bringing to life the story behind the fossils. I would recommend it to any enthusiastic fossil hunters, budding palaeontologists and professionals.