Mullane Literary Associates

Skeleton Keys by Brian Switek

Skeleton Keys Brian Switek

Praise for Brian Switek’s Skeleton Keys

A provocative and entertaining magical mineral tour through the life and afterlife of bone.

Wall Street Journal

Informative, contemplative, and even lyrical, Switek’s work is popular-science writing at its best.


Smart, lively, and hugely informative, Skeleton Keys is the ideal guide to the bones around us and in us.”

Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction

“A thoughtful, engaging meditation on the origins of the human skeleton, how it functions (or malfunctions) and how we come to terms with our essential but unsettling osseous framework.”


Brian Switek writes with remarkable grace about the natural world. In Skeleton Keys, he looks inward, making us keenly aware of the marvels of the bones that give us the scaffolding we need to survive. Every chapter has some surprise, told in elegant tales, that you will repeat to your friends.”

Carl Zimmer, author of
She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity

“I sit here now crossing my extraordinary kneecaps... I can see them better thanks to Switek’s keys.”

Rose Geroge, The New York Times Book Review

Compellingly evokes the sheer wonder and complexity of the supporting framework inside you—and the murky human responses it arouses.”


A cheerful popular-science romp through the matter that makes up our skeleton....leaves the beaten path to deliver a fun explanation of the history, function, and cultural meaning of bone.

Kirkus Reviews

“From touring the famed Mutter Museum and London ossuaries, to ferreting out what really happened to Richard III, Skeleton Keys is a lyrical love letter to the 206 or so bones in the human skeleton and the colorful figures who have studied them over the centuries.

Jennifer Ouellette, author of Me, Myself, and Why and The Calculus Diaries

An absorbing tour through the world of bones and the bones of the world. Considering in turn dinosaurs, saints, kings, and our own possible future, it is an assured and revelatory book.”

Maryn McKenna, author of Big Chicken and Superbug

About the Author

Writing as Brian Switek, Riley Black has been heralded as “one of our premier gifted young science writers” and is the critically-acclaimed author of xSkeleton Keys (2019), My Beloved Brontosaurus (FSG, 2013), Written in Stone (Bellevue Literary Press, 2010), and When Dinosaurs Ruled (National Geographic, 2014). An online columnist for Scientific American whose work has appeared in Slate, Science, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Nature, Smithsonian, and other publications, Riley has become a widely-recognized expert on paleontology and has appeared on programs such as Science Friday, HuffingtonPost Live, RadioWest, and NPR’s All Things Considered. Riley has also written on nerdy pop culture for websites like Slate, io9, Nerdist, Tor, and the Guardian.

Called one of the top 40 “science social media wizards” by Business Insider and one of “Twitter’s 8 coolest geeks” by HLN, Riley has a broad and enthusiastic social media presence, including over 25,000 followers on their verified Twitter account and more than 8,000 on Instagram. They were the host of the paleo-focused video series Dinologue and writer for the PBS Digital Program EONS, with many of their enthusiastic talks on fossil history available on YouTube. Riley has also delivered public talks on everything from the science of Jurassic Park’s raptors to the mechanics of dinosaur sex at a wide variety of venues including Yale University, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the University of Southern California, London’s Natural History Museum, the Decatur Book Festival, Vroman’s Bookstore, the King’s English, Politics and Prose, the Natural History Museum of Utah, the Royal Ontario Museum, and elsewhere.