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The National Parks: America's Best Idea
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The National Parks: America's Best Idea

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  423 ratings  ·  80 reviews
The companion volume to the twelve-hour PBS series from the acclaimed filmmaker behind The Civil War, Baseball, and The War

America’s national parks spring from an idea as radical as the Declaration of Independence: that the nation’s most magnificent and sacred places should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone. In this evocative and lavishly illustra...more
Audio, 0 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Random House Audio (first published 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 908)
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Jason Koivu
The glories of nature versus the all mighty dollar, this is the story of America. This is story of The National Parks: America's Best Idea.

Having just read a book by John Muir, seen as the savior of Yosemite, and having an ingrained love of nature, I was naturally driven towards The National Parks. I've always wanted to see them for myself, but lately I've developed a desire to know their history. I was thrilled to find this book in audio format at my local library.

This is the book form of Ken...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This may appear to be just a "coffee table" book, but it's much more than that. This is a comprehensive history of our national parks, from the first molecule of an idea right up to the present.
I learned about many of the key figures here and there in my university degree program. This book pulled it all together for me chronologically, so I could appreciate each person's sacrifices and contributions within the context of the emerging national park system.

I've been a user and a lover of our na...more
Alison
There are two ways to read this book. The first would be a quick scan through, like a coffee table book to browse the beautiful photography and maybe read the short bios and interviews scattered throughout the book. Or, you can read the book in it's entirety and learn the history of how our national parks came to be, and who the pivotal people were who made it happen. Either way, I would give it a 5 star rating. I come from a family who has a great appreciation for the national parks. My grandpa...more
High Plains Library District
First off -- BEAUTIFUL photos (a mix of scenic and historical). This book explores the founding of our national parks. Fun and interesting details about the well-knowns, like Muir and Roosevelt, but the author also does a great job of highlighting the unsung heroes and stories no one's heard before.

Even if you just flip thru the book and look at a few photos and read a paragraph or two, I bet you'll want to jump in your car and scoot over to the nearest National Park!

(And I recommend the Ken B...more
Elizabeth
“For the first time in human history, land--great sections of our natural landscape--was set aside, not for kings or noblemen or the very rich, but for everyone, for all time.” -Ken Burns


At the risk of offending Ken Burns' fans, I found the PBS narrative to be a bit tedious (sorry, Ken Burns!), AND despite his wonderful intro (quoted above). However, this companion book to his documentary about our National Parks is a GEM. I liked the fact that I could take my time and choose the images and text...more
Matt
For all the American history I have read, nothing has taught me more about democracy, illustrated how American democracy operates, or personalized the values underlying our democracy more than a book about National Parks. No book on the Founding Fathers, no book about military engagements, no book on civil rights. National Parks. Go figure. This was an enlightening and as touching a book as I've ever read.
Victoria
First off -- BEAUTIFUL photos (a mix of scenic and historical). This book explores the founding of our national parks. Fun and interesting details about the well-knowns, like Muir and Roosevelt, but the author also does a great job of highlighting the unsung heroes and stories no one's heard before.

Even if you just flip thru the book and look at a few photos and read a paragraph or two, I bet you'll want to jump in your car and scoot over to the nearest National Park!

(And I recommend the Ken B...more
Kristen
I recommend the book, the audio book, and the DVD of this series to anyone who enjoys nature in any way. The book is a perfect bedtime story, something to read right before falling asleep. You can see pictures of the most beautiful places in the world and read about the battles that were won to protect them, and then you can dream about being there.

I recommend the audio book for listening to during a stressful commute to work. The material is read by an impressive cast of narrators as well as th...more
Valerie J K
This is the companion book to a documentary film (which I have not seen) and I was pleasantly surprised by thoughtful stories of those who discovered, protected, and visited the National Parks. I have fond memories of the Redwoods, the Grand Canyon, the red sandstone parks in Utah, Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, and the national forests near Mt St Helens. I think many Americans take for granted the wonders of nature set aside for all to enjoy, but that was not always the case and many parks faced fi...more
Cindi
I'm only in the preface and already loving it. I didn't see much of the PBS special, so I can't wait until my library gets it in. For now, I'm reading this.

Favorite quote so far:

"This is still," John Muir wrote assuredly, "the morning of creation."

This resonates with me and what I feel when I partake of the wild country of America.

Update:Wow! I wasn't able to watch much of this series on tv. I was initially dissatisfied that it was about the history of parks because I wanted to see amazing film...more
Christopher
This is an excellent book on our National Parks. Not only does it expound the natural beauties of America, it is also a history of both the national park system and, indirectly, American conservation, which is deeply rooted in our citizens' awe with the land they saw when they expanded westward. Nearly all the the well-known (i.e. John Muir) and lesser-known figures (i.e. Lancelot Jones) in the history of our nation's parks make an appearance. And, like all of Ken Burns' works, it is imbued with...more
Patrick
Awesome pictures, interesting stories. Just read about Yosemite and Yellowstone so far.

Fabulous book! Wonderful pictures, wonderful stories. I gather that it is repetitive for those who have already watched the mini-series, but that wasn't a problem for me.

The most eye-opening aspect of the book is the documentation of the constant, CONSTANT attempts by citizens, corporations, and politicians to destroy the parks in order to make money off of them. Some of the stories are heart breaking as the...more
Kirk
Have you seen the PBS documentary series of the same name? You have? OK, then don't bother with the book. Unless you want to read what is essentially the transcript of the narration and interviews from the series, with a few "deleted scenes" of extra stories/extended interviews, this book is a giant repeat of the last twelve hours of documentary-watching. Maybe there are a couple more pictures here and there (and hundreds of the same pictures in the show), but when you're reading what is often w...more
Ray
National Parks preserve some of the most breathtaking landscapes in our Country. But if most people are like me, we don't often wonder about the people and processes which created them. Following the financial crisis of 2008, and the huge government bailout and spending programs initiated as a result, there's been a clamor for smaller government across the board, and certainly for less government spending and taxing. However , the author makes a good case for the establishment of the National Pa...more
Amy
An excellent companion book to the PBS documentary about our national parks!

I really like how well it matches up with what was said it the documentary. I could almost hear the people speaking as I read the words printed in the book.

I loved reading the interviews; especially with Gerard Baker and Shelton Johnson. Shelton Johnson was very impressive in the documentary and he is equally impressive in the book. His voice was very lyrical in the documentary. I could listen to him (documentary) foreve...more
Heila
I listened to this as a book on tape, and liked the main reader's voice and style quite a lot (one of the author's), and then there were guest readers representing people from the past - with accents, or who were women - nice touch! It's a fascinating history of how the national parks came to be, the people involved in their establishment and the process. Quite dramatic, really. A bumpy history of what I see now with new eyes as treasures of our country.
Bryce Holt
It's hard to have your breath taken away when you are listening to an audio book, but the way that Muir's words summarize the glory of nature (mostly in the first half of the audio book) and the National Parks described by those working in and around them, it is breathtaking. The story gets too mired down in the historical minutiae, but for most of it, it's a fairly touching ode to those most grandest of places and the people who helped put them aside for the world to enjoy. It certainly further...more
Nancy
Have to confess that I didn't read this book cover-to-cover (yet), but it is a terrific companion to the PBS series by the same name. This beautiful book will appeal to vacationers, nature lovers, and history buffs alike. The National Parks: America's Best Idea is a comprehensive history of the park system and the people who had a passion to preserve these fantastic places for current and future Americans, brought to life with words, interviews, quotes and stunning photography. You certainly don...more
Wendy Hill
I loved reading the history of the National Parks. It got me homesick for the West as I remembered camping on most of these National Parks growing up, and what do you know, we moved West! This book is based on the PBS mini series by Ken Burns. The parks are written about in the order the National Park was formed. The history on making Yellowstone a National Park was most interesting, and I learned a lot about Pres. Teddy Roosevelt's role in helping establish these national treasures. I'm even (t...more
Jen
Incredibly unique and special book. From the description, it's hard to convey how riveting this kind of story is; since there's no unifying storyline, and since a history of the national parks needs to ramble a bit, it's hard to do the book justice. Like doing justice to visiting a national park, I suppose, you really just have to go there to appreciate it. Besides focusing on fascinating people and places, it's also easily the most patriotic book I've ever read: celebrating the fact that the na...more
Gil
I listened to this audiobook while I traipsed around the U.S. from one national park to the next with my little boy. Some people have reviewed this book and said that it's essentially the same as the Ken Burns' documentaries of the same name. Wrong. This book is much more in-depth (in fact, too in-depth for someone like me who probably could have done it with some light reading while driving down the windy roads of Rocky Mountain National Park or out of the canyons of Yosemite).

Great book. Cavea...more
Megan
There are many great pictures in this book--not enough for me, really! I loved in particular looking at all the old pictures of tourists hiking and camping in suits and bowler hats, corsets and ankle skirts. There's also a great deal of information about the parks movement and park service in America. There is more here than just, "let's talk about the history of the national parks." The subtitle of "America's Best Idea" is definitely the thesis on which they are expounding, showing why they bel...more
Frances
Based upon my glance at other reviews and their reference to this as a coffee table-like book, it seems as though listening to it may have denied me half of the pleasure of the photos of our fabulous national parks. I shall have to watch the documentary, even if it sounds like it would reprise much of what I just heard.

Coming from a National Park family, I loved the opportunity to hear the history of our wonderful parks. Although I have read portions of the history before, especially of some of...more
Aaronb
Loved the parts about damming the Hetch Hetchy for San Francisco.
Sherri
This is a great book - I highly recommend it if you're interested in the history of the National Parks - it's also a great coffee-table book for park pictures. The reason it's under the "not finished" category is b/c I had to return it to the library (someone else requested it) - I got about half way through in a month -- it is coffee table book size, so reading takes some time.
I also recommend the documentary this accompanies, though I've only watched a very small part of it thus far.
Brooke
The book version of Ken Burns documentary. It was soooooo good, I had no idea that the history of our national parks could have so many interesting stories and that I would meet such amazing people!!! Living in Europe till I was 20, I've been so excited to "see America first" (a campaign slogan the railroads used) before we travel abroad, what we lack in cathedrals and castles we make up for in canyons and waterfalls . . . and SEQUOIA'S! Oh my goodness, they're marvelous and unparalleled!
Marianne Bucci
Lavishly illustrated with full color and b/w photos, this companion to the PBS special does not disappoint those who are interested in the formation, conservation, and upkeep of our US National Parks. A great coffee table book which will spark endless conversation about the majesty and wonder of our National Park System and the need for public lands. Heavy and oversized but a visual delight. Only drawback is that it could have had more color photos. Clear, readable text. Do try it!
Mark
I still want to see the TV series/documentary... but reading the book gave me a pretty good sense of the history & heart behind the National Park system. As is typical for PBS books AND Ken Burns-project-related books, it gets a little verbose & overly poetic in the text, but that can be overlooked as these folks are working hard to tell the stories of people we barely know who made a major dent on how we view the natural world & natural wonders.

Recommended.
Marjorie Elwood
The most fascinating book I've read recently, this is a history of the parks and the people associated with them. It's chock-full of stunning photographs, both aesthetically and historically, and of stories of transcendent experiences due to the parks. The lengths to which individual Americans have gone to create and preserve these parks sent chills down my spine.

I guarantee you'll want to head off to the nearest National Park after reading this.
Jenny
This is better than the mini- series. The mini series could not hold my attention, but this book did. The forward on its own is a piece of literature. Once you get into the book you learn the history of the national parks system, and the individual histories of several parks. Great read for anyone interested in American history, government, or conservation. I listened to the audio book, it was well performed, and hard to walk away from.
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