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Tyrannosaurus Sue: The Extraordinary Saga of Largest, Most Fought Over T. Rex Ever Found

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  397 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Over 65 million years ago in what is now South Dakota, a battle-scarred Tyrannosaurus rex matriarch—perhaps mortally wounded in a ferocious fight—fell into the riverbed and died. In 1990 her skeleton was found, virtually complete, in what many have called the most spectacular dinosaur fossil discovery to date.

And then another battle began - a "survival of the fittest"
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by W. H. Freeman (first published 2000)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paleontology
Discovered by Sue Hendrickson and Peter Larson (president of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research) in the wastelands of South Dakota, the largest T-Rex had survived millions of years, Sue’s last meal was some kind of platypus. She was also the subject of multiple lawsuits and a Sotherby’s auction. (She sold for millions and Larson could only participate from his house where remained under house arrest.) Larson wound up in prison, Sioux Indians claimed ownership, the government ...more
Aug 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2010
I have a hard time explaining my reaction to this book. I was very aware of the battle over Sue, because I was living in the Black Hills at the time, and now that I'm in Chicago I make a point of stopping to see her every time I'm at the Field. It's so strange to read about all these people and places I know. And even though I was dinosaur-crazy as a kid, with this book I was impatient every time the author talked about the history of paleontology or the science of dinosaurs. I just wanted to ...more
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books, science
I listened to this on cassette tapes when it was new, so it's been a good long time ago, but it's stuck with me all those years. I remember enjoying it very much, and my enjoyment was enhanced by having seen the skeleton in person in Chicago. It was a window into something I knew nothing about - amateur dinosaur hunting.
Sandra Strange
If you want a reason to be angry, this book will give you one. It chronicles the saga of the most fought over skeleton of T Rex ever found. In the hills of South Dakota, a small private institute spent resources and time of its founders and owners searching for fossils. Their primary aim was education, speaking, giving tours, hoping one day to establish a really nice museum in the town, and selling the fossils to museums all over the world. The institute didn't pay much to the founders and ...more
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: franklin-library
This started off so well. It was fun to read, because the author was so obviously enthusiastic about his subject, and he wants his readers to be too. He captures the common fascination we have with dinosaurs as kids and he shows that they really were worth every bit of it. Then the narrative gets twisted up in the legal bickering that followed the excavation and gets stuck there for the rest of book. This might not be the author's fault, but he fell hard and fast from "good" to "boring". I wish ...more
Kristine (fezabel)
Jun 26, 2008 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I have been wanting to read this book since it was published. I finally saw Sue at the Chicago Field Museum and decided it was time to read it. I am very diappointed in this work. The author is not an impartial journalist at all. He may have interviewed several people involved, but he didn't consider the other viewpoints. I expected an unbiased look at the fossil of Sue and the court drama that followed. Instead, I read a book that stars Peter Larson as the hero against the system. Very poor ...more
We read this book for our book club, and I’ll be honest, I struggled to get through it. The book was definitely well-written, and as a resident of southwest North Dakota, only a few hours from Hill City, SD, I enjoyed this relatively unbiased recounting of the events surrounding Sue.

However, it felt like a slog to get through. There was so much information and a lot of legal jargon that really didn’t hold my interest. I also really struggled with the author’s jumping from the Sue case to
Michelle Boyer-Kelly
This was an incredible true story about a t-rex named "Sue" who is excavated in South Dakota. But as soon as her bones are collected the question remains: Who does Sue belong to? Does she belong to the individual whose land she was found on, the Sioux tribe, the federal government, the scientists who removed her and were preparing her for exhibit? Should she remain in a public museum or a private one? How much is Sue worth?

This was a really interesting book because it discusses issues regarding
Marie Winger
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is fascinating true story of the discovery of, controversy surrounding and legal battle over the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever found. The book alternates between the high stakes auction of the fossil and the story of the discovery, ultimate seizure and final fate of the fossil. It a unique look into the world of professional fossil hunters and the antagonism toward them from academia. The parties involved in the story include the fossil hunters, academic departments, US Bureau ...more
I listened to this 8 hour unabridged audiobook on my one hour each way commute in early June 2006. I remembered bits and pieces about this story while some of it was happening, but not really enough, and so much of the book was also like a mystery to me, to find out who was awarded custody, how much she sold for, and so forth.

The narration was excellent, with the exception that men (I have yet to hear one male narrator NOT do this) make the women sound whiny instead of female when they try to
Aug 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to give this story a higher rating, the story of Sue is an incredible fascinating one to be sure. I grew up knowing about "Sue" but only recently learned of the controversy and politics surrounding her.
As fascinating as her story is, I would have enjoyed it more if it mostly stuck to her story, and her story alone. However it was intersected with a lot of history on paleontology that, while not uninteresting, messed with the over all flow of the book and seemed mostly irrelevant and
Corey Vilhauer
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"A book about a dinosaur fossil?" I didn't think it was going I was going to blaze through it either, but yet here I am: expertly weaving the history of fossil collection (both scientific and commercial) with the history of our relationship with the facts of dinosaur physiology - all layered on top of a four-party scramble to claim the largest and most complete T. rex ever discovered - Fiffer doesn't just make this interesting: he makes it rewarding. I've ready plenty of single-topic histories, ...more
Mark Fallon
An interesting telling of the story behind the famous dinosaur known as "Sue" and now on display at the Field Museum in Chicago. Along the way, Fiffer includes stories of some of the collectors and paleontologists that have made finds and mistakes throughout history.

The 3-star rating is due to the author's over-sympathetic portrayal of the Larsons. While I agree that the government abused their prosecutorial powers in this case; the Larsons' behavior, especially towards landowners, is very
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Super, thought-provoking, well-written book about the most complete T-Rex specimen unearthed to date. It details the work of historic paleontologists engagingly, and tells the story of the litigation surrounding Sue in such a way that you’re on the edge of your seat to see how it turned out, even though you already kinda know. Makes you wonder what other finds may be out there that aren’t being discovered because of greed, and the arrogance of both the government and the academy. Great book!
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engaging and accessible look at the unearthing of "Sue" the T-rex, and the ensuing (no pun intended) legal battles over her ownership. I only wish more time had been spent on the legal and ethical ramifications - particularly around Indigenous rights to fossils - and less on the stories of historical fossil collectors, some of which felt only tangentially related.
Kirk Dobihal
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Excellent back story of Sue, the T. rex found today in Chicago. Unbelievable, the legislative battles that surround this amazing find. It is a good thing that it found its way into a museum for the people and not someones trophy room or another country.
Courtney Mosier Warren
This was a fascinating look into the modern history of Sue. It really leaned heavily on the courtroom fights over Sue and the drama that surrounded that. I found it to be generally a very informative book, but it was a bit slow at times.
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who knew a book about an old dead lizard would keep me up all night?
Did not finish. I got about halfway through and lost interest. I am more interested in learning about Sue as a dinosaur, than in the legal minutiae about who owns her bones.
Mar 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The idea is a good one, and the book had promise. And yet - the promise was largely unfulfilled. The culprit is poor editting. This book could have been cut almost in half without losing much. Sentences and whole paragraphs plodded along, sometimes repeating an idea two and three times or excessively drawing out an explanation or argument. Ultimately, the author does tell the story of Sue - one of the greatest dinosaur finds - but the drama is lost and reading became a chore. Our family had ...more
Julie H.
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Written by a journalist who also happens to be an attorney, Tyrannosaurus Sue: The Extraordinary Saga of the Largest, Most Fought Over. T. Rex Ever Found does an outstanding job of setting the scene for exploring the complex parallels between for-profit fossil collection outfits and the universities that cannot possibly pay property owners the collecting fees they increasingly demand and my home discipline of archaeology where private collectors are frequently pitted against professional ...more
Tyrannosaurus Sue does have its problems. First of all, Steve Fiffer is quite pun oriented. This is funny the first few times, but then it just gets kind of annoying. Secondly, the author jumps around to different people, places, times, and events, and this can get a little bit disorienting. One minute I'm reading a paragraph about Tyrannosaurus Sue and the Larsons, and the very next paragraph is about a fossil hunter from 1869! Quite often I felt like I had whiplash due to all that jumping ...more
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
In 1990, Sue Hendrickson and the Black Hills Institute made an amazing discovery. A Tyrannosaurs Rex fossil. Not just any T. Rex fossil, but the largest, most well-preserved and the most complete example of one ever found, which is still true today in 26 years later. It's a holy grail for paleontologists, so much could be learned from such an amazing specimen.

And then the United States government ruined it. Just as the Black Hills Institute was performing the delicate process of preserving her,
Corielle Hayley
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
My father recently completed his two-year term as president of the Dallas Paleontology Society. He discovered fossil hunting maybe ten years ago and has been hooked ever since. We live in north Texas, so the majority of fossils in our area are sea creatures — mostly ammonites — but through his work with DPS he’s helped excavate mosasaurs and even a mammoth. I have heard first-hand from him the difficulties of securing the rights to fossils. He’s done everything from navigate the complexities of ...more
I have seen Sue at Chicago's Field Museum on a number of occasions, but was completely unaware of the fossil's unbelievable back story. The chapters detailing the discovery and eventual sale of Sue were most interesting to me. The middle of the book reads like a legal textbook, with lengthy discussions and excerpts from the civil and criminal trials, which even as a lawyer I found a bit tedious, hence the three-star rating. The author also mixes in a lot of paleontological history which some ...more
Oct 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd recommend this book only to those who are really interested in this very unusual story of an amazing dinosaur. If you're a bit of an armchair paleontologist then, like me, you'll probably be entertained by the people side of Sue's story. It's a bizarre one for sure. I had heard of Sue and had some inkling of her unusual past and when I was lucky enough to actually meet her I had to pick up this book from the Field Museum to learn more.
Jul 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
a great story over the ownership of the fossil TRex, Sue. already knowing the outcome (I saw Sue at the Field Museum this summer), I teared up reading how the eventual auction ended ("…in her new home on the shores of Lake Michigan."). however, I wasn't crazy about Fiffer's writing style. I would have much preferred to have read this same story but written by Laura Hillenbrand (Unbroken and Seabuscuit), or, Erik Larson.
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
A great that combines an archeological adventure with a legal battle that crosses several courts. The true story of the discovery, contentious legal fight and ultimately the auction that brought the world's most complete T. Rex skeleton to the Field Museum in Chicago. A pretty balanced review of the drama that unfolded after the discovery of "Sue".
Dec 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really interesting and readable story! It described in a simple manner the process of finding fossils and other topics in paleontology. It also told of the dramatic legal battle over Sue, the T-Rex fossil. I would recommend it.
Charles Isom
A very entertaining read. Especially interesting how the book both eviscerates the government's efforts in this case without letting any of the other players off the hook. A great read for those who feel academia sometimes becomes a little too full of itself.
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