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Ten Books You Should Have In Your National Park Library


National Park Week seems like an appropriate time to check your personal library to ensure it's up to snuff when it comes to the national parks. Here, in no particular order, are 10 books you definitely should have in your library:

The Birth of the National Park Service: The Founding Years, 1913-33

This is a book I wish I had read many years ago. Told by Horace M. Albright not long before his death, it’s a recounting of the establishment years of the National Park Service from one of the two men who literally created it and rightfully became legends in its history.

Ed: This book explains the whole "National Park" idea from the get-go.

My First Summer in the Sierra

A century after John Muir published My First Summer in the Sierra, a 100th anniversary edition of the book has been released, one with striking photography.

Ed: Can't have a national park library without at least one book by John Muir.

Uncertain Path: A Search For The Future of National Parks

The challenges facing the National Park Service and its collections of parks are daunting, perhaps more so than ever before due to the implications of climate change. William Tweed examines those challenges in a new book, Uncertain Path: A Search for the Future of National Parks.

Ed: With the current state of affairs, it's wise to look into the future.

10 Best of Everything, National Parks

In a catchall bid to categorize the national parks, the staff at National Geographic has a book for you just in time for National Park Week. 10 Best Everything, National Parks, is a book of lists, with the parks as a backdrop for those lists.

Ed: Who doesn't love books of list? And this is a great one for national parks!

Ansel Adams In The National Parks

Long after his death we continue to celebrate the brilliance of Ansel Adams, who arguably defined landscape photography, often while working in national parks to capture the magnificence of nature.

Ed: Just as you need a Muir in your library, you need an Adams.

Ranger Confidential, Living, Working, and Dying In the National Parks

Television shows love to portray park rangers as fit and polite, beaming dazzling smiles, displaying knowledge that knows no bounds, nerves of steel, and with dashing personalities. And then there are the realities, as Andrea Lankford describes in her book, Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks.

Ed: A sometimes disconcerting story from inside the system that you should hear.

Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History

A decade after it first appeared on bookshelves, Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History is reappearing in an updated version, one that follows the course of the national parks and the National Park Service up through the Bush administration and into the early days of the Obama administration.

Ed: An important read to understand natural resource management in the parks.

The Complete Guide To The National Park Lodges

David and Kay Scott are still traveling the country to stay in as many lodges in the National Park System as possible. The latest edition of their book -- number seven if you're counting -- is ready to take its place in your home library.

Ed: To visit the parks, you need to know where you want to stay! And the latest edition, No. 7, features color photos.

The Soul Of Yosemite: Finding, Defending, And Saving The Valley's Sacred Wild Nature

A new book questions whether the National Park Service has lost its way in protecting and preserving the national park ideal.

Ed: An equally disconcerting companion to Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks.

No. 10: We'll leave this one up to you, the reader, to add....


Great post! Thank you so much for this. I've read several of these already but am pleased to add others to my list.
My proposal for number 10? While originally issued as a video documentary, The National Parks: America's Best Idea (Ken Burns, Dayton Duncan) is a great resource to have in print as well.

My choice for a tenth book on the National Parks is Wilderness by Design: Landscape Architecture & the National Park Service by Ethan Carr (University of Nebraska Press, 1998). This is a good history of the design and development of National Parks during the 1920s and 30s and the creation of the rustic look of park architecture and the picturesque design of the landscapes and man-made features. A must have for anyone interested in the CCC, WPA and other New Deal influence in the parks as well.

Chris, you're absolutely right about the Duncan book. It's been on my personal wishlist for sometime. Might have to just bite the bullet and buy it myself...although, Father's Day isn't too far off....;-)

Rob, great suggestion. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Carr a few years back, but the topic was Mission 66. Love to read his thoughts on parkitecture.

The Maine Woods by Thoreau. (Okay, so more of a pretext for a North Woods National Park.)

Great books all!
Also on my shelf are,
National Parks: The American Experience by Alfred Runte
National Parks and the Woman's Voice: A History by Polly Kaufman

My nominee would be Mountains Without Handrails by Joseph Sax. Though originally published in 1980, it still seems relevant to modern National Park issues. This slim volume of essays on wilderness "luxuries" and creeping wilderness development in the name of safety anticipated some of today's controversies such as commercial outfitters and the Half Dome cables.

The modern NPS, hellbent on expansion of budgets, programs and infrastructure, if not actual units, might take note:

"The parks are an object lesson for a world of limited resources. In the national parks the vistor learns that satisfaction is not correlated to the rate at which he expends resources, but that just the opposite is true. The parks promote intensive experience, rather than intensive use. The more one knows, searches, and understands, the greater the interest and satisfaction of the park experience."

Although I love My First Summer in the Sierra another for my list would have to be The Mountains of California, an expertly detailed account of the plants, animals and surroundings of the Sierra by John Muir

Mountains Without Handrails by Joseph Sax, National Parks: The American Experience, by Alfred Runte, and American Indians and National Parks, by Keller and Turek, should all be on the list, without question.

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