Eden Book Club: The Dinosaur Artist Discussion
I first read The Dinosaur Artist many years ago. I remember quickly pulling through the pages, staying up all night to frantically find out how the story of Eric Prokopi ended. I kept reminding myself, this isn’t a story. This is real. This is nonfiction. But it was a tough argument. I hadn’t felt so immersed in, so lost in, so ravenous for a nonfiction story since reading Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone close to a decade earlier.
The Dinosaur Artist is the book that made me fall back in love with nonfiction (had Eden Travel Book Club existed when I first read The Dinosaur Artist, I would have immediately added it to our yearly book list). I’m so grateful that I finally get a chance to chat about this crazy, dinosaur-rooted romp with you.
Feel free to rant or rave away in the comments below! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Book Club Discussion Guidelines
Discussion posts (like this one) will have a series of questions as starting points. But honestly, you can talk about whatever you want regarding the books (or questions). You don’t have to answer all (or any) of the questions. I’d still love to hear your thoughts!
You can join in regardless of whether you’ve read, not read, or DNF’d the book! I understand that not everyone has the time to read or finish the book so I try to include a general discussion question as well to make the discussions more inclusive.
The Dinosaur Artist Discussion Questions
- How familiar were you with dinosaurs or paleontology before reading this book? How do you feel about your paleontology knowledge now?
- How do you feel about the structure and pacing and tone of The Dinosaur Artist?
- Does Paige Williams’ provide sufficient context for each of the major points in The Dinosaur Artist? How do you feel about the way she presented context?
- How do you feel about Paige Williams’ depiction of Eric Prokopi?
- If you had a chance to ask Eric Prokopi one question, what would it be?
- Did this book shape how you view museums in any way? What were your thoughts on museums before and after reading this book?
- How do you feel about Paige Williams’ writing style? Do you think it suited the book?
- How did you feel about The Dinosaur Artist’s descriptions of Mongolia?
- How did you feel about the direction of the T. bataar case? What direction did you expect the case to take?
- How do you feel about the practice of fossil hunting? Where would you draw the line between science and commerce?
December 2022 Book Club Pick
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Of course, these are just starter questions. There are no right or wrong answers. Feel 100% free to discuss anything regarding the book (or otherwise). I’ll be jumping in and responding as well!
Vyas NellutlaNovember 25, 2022 at 9:47 AM
> How familiar were you with dinosaurs or paleontology before reading this book?
Basically zero, I only remember what’s in Jurassic Park 😄
> How do you feel about your paleontology knowledge now?
Definitely better, but a lot of it went over my head. I liked the comparisons between the Tyrannosaurus and the Tarbosaurus, and how different places have fossils that define the area (such as shark teeth in Florida).
> Does Paige Williams’ provide sufficient context for each of the major points in The Dinosaur Artist? How do you feel about the way she presented context?
I liked how detailed her descriptions and dialogue were. It felt like I was reading about recent history in novel form. A lot of the political context also painted a much more detailed picture of how Mongolia was at different phases of time. And how influences of Communism and the US changed it each time. I also thought that the number of US politicians who were in contact with the Mongolian government was surprising. I wouldn’t have expected political parties to get involved in world politics. I thought that only official US representatives/ambassadors are in contact with politicians from other countries.
> Did this book shape how you view museums in any way? What were your thoughts on museums before and after reading this book?
I previously only considered the objects/displays in the museum as individual snapshots of world history. But now, I’m starting to wonder how these fossils, artifacts, bones, & skeletons were obtained. Was the surrounding earth cataloged and the excavation site marked? Were the people who discovered it paid well? Was it legal to move the fossil from where it was? How many people got rich off each of these fossils? Is it still being used in research studies? Is the fossil a fake?
This definitely got me thinking how many skeletons were piecemeal from many different species and Frankensteined together.
Kiera ForestNovember 27, 2022 at 10:31 PM
Lol, I’m in the same boat! I used to have a friend that could name every dinosaur in class, but none of it ever sunk in for me. This book gave me a much greater appreciation for paleontology and people that work on it.
However, I disagree and think that the context could’ve been trimmed down quite a bit. A lot of the political backstory of Mongolia and the US felt one-sided and could’ve been removed to stay on topic of the T-Batar case.
Anshula VarmaNovember 28, 2022 at 11:52 AM
Thank you for sharing your perspectives on how Williams’ presented the political backstory of Mongolia! I was definitely intrigued by the history and appreciated the amount of detail and research that went into crafting that portion of the book, but I also struggled a bit with the density. At times, it felt a little info-dumpy.
Which parts of the context and history do you think could have been removed to help the flow of the book?
Anshula VarmaNovember 28, 2022 at 11:48 AM
I love what you said about museums. I’m a museum lover through and through but The Dinosaur Artist definitely changed how I thought about objects and artifacts in museums (especially natural history museums). The questions you pose are definitely important considerations to make while viewing exhibits (they add more nuance and meaning and dimensions to our understanding of the displays).
Jett AlexanderNovember 25, 2022 at 10:00 AM
I liked reading the Dinosaur Artist and after reading until the end was able to appreciate each of the details that were included, but I wish there was a bit more switching between the perspectives. At times, I was wondering, “what does this have to do with the story?”
But in the end it all made sense, and I’m glad I got to read about so many aspects of paleontology history (especially the early fossil hunters in the English coastline). I wonder a bit more about the untold stories of people who risked a lot to uncover these fossils, only for the credit to be given to somebody else.