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Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America's National Parks

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  548 Ratings  ·  121 Reviews
"In this remarkable journey, Mark Woods captures the essence of our National Parks: their serenity and majesty, complexity and vitality--and their power to heal." --Ken Burns

Many childhood summers, Mark Woods piled into a station wagon with his parents and two sisters and headed to America's national parks. Mark’s most vivid childhood memories are set against a backdrop of
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Mark Woods Karissa, thanks for the question. Sorry it took me so long to answer. (Just saw it.) I guess I'd say that when I began working on the book, I…moreKarissa, thanks for the question. Sorry it took me so long to answer. (Just saw it.) I guess I'd say that when I began working on the book, I envisioned something that was a journalistic endeavor (and fairly traditional non-fiction). But the year (and book) turned into something that is much more personal -- using the national parks to deal with losing my mom, thinking about the future of the parks in ways that involve contemplating life and death, and my own past and future. My parents (and many other parents of their generation) passed along a love of the national parks. Am I doing the same with my daughter? It's sort of my version of a mid-life crisis -- no sports car involved, just a lot of outdoor gear.(less)
Ranger Confidential by Andrea LankfordLassoing the Sun by Mark   WoodsBear in the Back Seat I by Carolyn JourdanHigh Country by Nevada BarrDestroyer Angel by Nevada Barr
Oh, Ranger!
73 books — 15 voters
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. JacobsThe Happiness Project by Gretchen RubinAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara KingsolverEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth GilbertJulie and Julia by Julie Powell
A Year in the Life
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book via Goodreads giveaway. I really enjoyed reading this book. I was originally interested in winning this book because I wanted to read about some of the National Parks, this year being the Centennial. But after just the Prologue, I was hooked at reading about how healing nature can be for so many. It was a wonderful read about a mans journey through some of our nations greatest parks while navigating the road of losing a parent.
Apr 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a Goodreads win review. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. When Mark was a child he and his parents and sisters set out to go to the National Parks. He had very fond memories of those times. When he turned 50 and was burned out on his hectic life he decided to take his mother and daughter to a park not yet seen. But then his mother got cancer and the focus of the book changed. I just loved it.
Tessa Duvall
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Mark is a colleague of mine at The Florida Times-Union. I have always enjoyed his thoughtful columns, and when I heard he had a book coming out, I was eager to grab a copy to show support. Because the book is about the National Parks, I wasn't sure at first how much I would get out of it since I'm not particularly an outdoorsy person. However, my concerns were misplaced. "Lassoing the Sun" is so much more than a book about parks; Mark does a beautiful job weaving in tales about his family, the e ...more
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
Some people might think this is gimmicky (twelve national parks in twelve months, then write a book about it!), and others might find it dramatic (this wasn't the get-outdoors book the author expected; instead, it became a coping-with-losing-a-parent-to-cancer book) (I seem to read a lot of those books lately??). Still -- I found myself really enjoying this memoir.

I loved the feeling of bittersweet nostalgia that permeated the book. I found a lot of his grief relatable, and loved that he found h
Samantha Kurtz
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Lassoing the Sun follows journalist Mark Woods and his love of national parks. As a kid his parents would take him and his siblings to national parks. On the eve of his fiftieth birthday he decides to take a yearlong trip through national parks, one a month, inviting his mom and family to some of the stops. A few months into the year Woods finds out his mother has been diagnosed with cancer and only has months to live. Ultimately, it’s a story of love, loss and how nature can help heal people. T ...more
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've been lucky enough to read Mark Wood's columns in the Florida Times Union for years. His sabbatical intrigued me and I followed his columns along with the parallel story of his Mom's illness and death.

After attending his post year, Black Creek Outfitters talk, (and no, Mark, we came for the talk first, beer second,) my son and I were excited to hear a book was in the works.

I enjoyed Lassoing the Sun for many reasons. I love being outdoors and try to spend some time outside every day. I also
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was expecting a travelogue; I got a riveting adventure story. I was expecting the straightforward, rather dry prose of a newspaperman; I got the deft touch of a novelist. Five-star reviews are reserved for classics in a genre, and Woods has created a classic (though to pigeonhole Lassoing the Sun into a genre would be a disservice).
This book is a tear-jerker, a life lesson, an entertaining read and, perhaps most important, a kick in the rear to us all to get outdoors and enjoy all that nature
I started this book with the impression that it was about National Parks. Well, it is, but it definitely IS A memoir first. Once I realized (and accepted) that I found myself enjoying it more. I love NP, and I appreciated Mark's journey. Solid 4 stars.
Kelly K
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
4.5 stars.

This was such an interesting read. As someone who has been to over 40 NPS sites, none of which were in this book, I was excited to read about someones experience within the park system. Woods spoke of the struggles he was facing in his personal life as well as the encounters with the people he came across on his travels. Besides visiting all 50 states before I turn 50 years old, one of my main goals in life is to visit as many NPS sites as possible. This book reminded me that if you se
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting read. In 2012, author travels to sites throughout National Park Service to reflect on future of park system. But his year changes dramatically when his mother is diagnosed with cancer & given only months to live. I'm not a fan of camping, but I do want to travel to many of these national park sites - and I do want to show them to Jake. (Own)
Susan Walker
Jun 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. The intermingled story of the Author's visits to many National Parks and the death of his Mother was very moving. Once you start this book you will have a hard time putting it down.
John Findlay
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book resonated with me for several reasons. Mark Woods spoke at our Newcomers Club luncheon on Amelia Island, and provided some stories and background. My family and I had just visited Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks for a hiking trip. And my sister died last year of bile duct cancer, just as Mark's mother did in the book. If you are a lover of the National Parks, you will love this book. If you haven't visited the parks, this book may inspire you to visit a few of them. At a minimum, ...more
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Such a great book! I've already had a desire to travel to the national parks, but this made it even stronger and gave me great ideas. Mark is a gifted writer and storyteller. The fact that he's a local writer is even cooler.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I feel like I connected with this book and it made me feel as if I was in those parks. I learned a lot about parks that I didn’t know or would appreciate having never been there. I just wish this book has a little more focus on the parks than his personal life.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
An excellent book. The only reason I didn't go five stars is because I save that for the books I instantly know I'll read again and again. This one, however, certainly could merit repeat reads.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Many of our family vacations growing up were to national parks and sights, often camping at them (Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Tetons, Mesa Verde) and I have such fond memories of those trips. This was a delightful read about the author's year of visiting a different park each month, while also dealing with some heavy family issues. Definitely worth a read if you have an interest in the National Park system or even just traveling in general.
Jenny GB
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaway
I received a copy of this book through Goodreads Giveaways.

In Lassoing the Sun, Mark Woods entwines the story of his mother's sickness and death with the story of his yearlong sabbatical to visit national parks and write about where they will be in the next one hundred years.

I absolutely loved this book. Woods writes about the parks with such passion that I'm longing to go visit the places he saw. Reading about his childhood trips was a wonderful visit down my own memories of childhood journeys
Joanna Schneider
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is full of adventures. It will make you want to pack your bags and jump into a caravan and explore the US!
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: top-ten
If you enjoy National Parks and adventures in nature this is a book for you. I read from cover to cover and found the book to read like a novel. It is a life journey travelogue and more. I like the heart of this book. Its about nature, family, friends, adventure, and our National Parks here in the US. The parks preserve these special places we can share with family and friends generation after generation. This book brought to mind, memories of time with my family exploring the wildlife, sights, ...more
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a great book. The author takes us on a journey over one year through many national parks. The book is both a love letter to his recently departed mother, and to the national parks they both enjoyed and loved. A real surprise as a local New Yorker was the inclusion of Gateway National Recreation area, a park I myself have recently 'discovered'. This book will inspire you to explore the national parks, especially with family and loved ones. A great read!
Lori Micho
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
I was interested in this book because, as my friends and family know, I am passionate about the parks and well on my way to having visited them all. But, the book is more than just a discussion about the future of the parks. At its core, it's a memoir about Mark Woods' relationship with his mother and his love for the parks which was instilled upon him by her. There was so much beauty and inspiration in the book... and not just in the descriptions of the parks themselves.
Patricia Swenson
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
As someone who has enjoyed many visits to different national parks over my lifetime, this seemed like a book I couldn't pass up. The author gives the reader a fresh perspective on the parks he visited, oftentimes tying his thoughts to previous memories he had made with his mother who had recently passed away.
Jul 30, 2016 rated it liked it
I am a sucker for the National Parks. This is a personal memoir including the expected (Yosemite) and not-so-expected (Gateway NRA in NYC) parks in their centennial year. The personal is because the author's mother, also a park devotee, died during the year.
Aug 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! I did not want the adventure to end. I would happily read another Mark Woods book! So Take us on another adventure, Mark Woods!
Timothy Darling
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
As I said, I picked this book up in the Grand Canyon, and it was a good purchase. Woods talks about the National Parks while taking a year to visit one per month (or so). He begins with New Years at the top of Mount Cadillac in Acadia and ends in the crater of a volcano in Hawaii. Along the way he meets many people: park rangers, other campers, even the sister of a 9/11 victim. Well, to be fair, he already knew her, but they did spend time together at the Flight 93 monument in PA.

His purpose is
Dec 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
“We save rivers and canyons and mountains, and they save us.”

The author relates his childhood memories of visiting the national parks with his parents as he retraces his steps as an adult with the intent to learn the future of the parks. Interwoven with this is the story of his dying mother. I found his description of his experience with his mother quite moving. In his visits of one featured park each month, he talks about conversations with park employees and visitors.

In relating the unique va
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A travelogue of national park adventures completed over the course of one year. Woods was awarded the opportunity to explore some of America's greatest national parks as well as some lesser known national lands when granted a fellowship that allowed him to immerse himself in a topic of choice for the period of 1 year. His goal was to chronicle the greatest challenges faced by many of our national parks, but shortly after the adventure began the author learned his mother was dying of cancer. The ...more
Jun 29, 2017 rated it liked it
I was really excited to read this book, but it was kind of a gloomy read. When Mark Woods won a writing grant he decided to write a book about National Parks and visit a different one every month for a year. His family often visited National Parks when he was growing up and he had many fond memories of those trips. Right before his National Parks year starts he finds out that his mother is dying and that kind of took over the book. While I understand why his mother's death, family, and National ...more
Breanne Tuttle
Sep 27, 2017 rated it liked it
So his book ended up being a little different than I thought. Part of the title is "A Year in America's National Parks", which is appealing because in my dreams I'd take a year off work and visit all the parks. However, this author just spends a week or so each month in a national park. So more like 12 discrete journeys than 1 continuous trip. I get why he did that, family and whatnot, but it wasn't what I was expecting.
This book was fine. Good. Not excellent. I enjoyed the parts where he talks
Steve Comstock
Pretty interesting memoir of a journalist's sort of gimmicky year spent visiting National Parks, which is intersected by the unfortunate death of his mother. His mother's death and the events leading up to it make him more introspective and probably lends more depth to what would otherwise be a gimmicky "year-in-the-life" book.

I thought there were a lot of touchstones he could have hit a little more spot on; specifically conservation and climate change. He touched on them, but I would have expe
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“It’s pretty here all right, so pretty that you can get stupid looking at it and forget to pay attention to Death, who walks up wearing Yosemite as if it were a fine suit of clothes, and while you’re admiring the cloth and color, there’s Death standing in front of you and smiling, considering all the ways he’s got to kill you. Yeah, death hides in beauty. *   *   *” 4 likes
“When darkness is at its darkest, that is the beginning of all light.” 0 likes
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