The National Parks: America's Best Idea

The National Parks: America's Best Idea

by Dayton Duncan, Ken Burns


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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 illustrated narrative, Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan delve into the history of the park idea, from the first sighting by white men in 1851 of the valley that would become Yosemite and the creation of the world’s first national park at Yellowstone in 1872, through the most recent additions to a system that now encompasses nearly four hundred sites and 84 million acres.

The authors recount the adventures, mythmaking, and intense political battles behind the evolution of the park system, and the enduring ideals that fostered its growth. They capture the importance and splendors of the individual parks: from Haleakala in Hawaii to Acadia in Maine, from Denali in Alaska to the Everglades in Florida, from Glacier in Montana to Big Bend in Texas. And they introduce us to a diverse cast of compelling characters—both unsung heroes and famous figures such as John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ansel Adams—who have been transformed by these special places and committed themselves to saving them from destruction so that the rest of us could be transformed as well.

The National Parks is a glorious celebration of an essential expression of American democracy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307268969
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/08/2009
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 160,739
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 11.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Dayton Duncan, writer and producer of The National Parks, is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker. His nine other books include, with Ken Burns, Horatio’s Drive and Lewis & Clark. He has collaborated on all of Ken Burns’s films for twenty years as a writer, producer, and consultant. He lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.

Ken Burns, director and producer of The National Parks, founded his own documentary company, Florentine Films, in 1976. His films include The War, Jazz, Baseball, and The Civil War, which was the highest-rated series in the history of American public television. His work has won numerous prizes, including the Emmy and Peabody Awards, and has received two Academy Award nominations. He received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award in 2008. He lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.

Table of Contents

A Treasure House of Nature's Superlatives
Chapter One
Homeland: An Interview with Gerard Baker
Chapter Two
Transcendence: An Interview with Shelton Johnson
Chapter Three
Stories of Discovery: An Interview with Nevada Barr
Chapter Four
Redefining Beauty: An Interview with Paul Schullery
Chapter Five
Democracy at Its Best: An Interview with Juanita Greene
Chapter Six
This Is What We Loved: An Interview with Terry Tempest Williams
Selected Bibliography
Illustration Credits
Film Credits

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The National Parks: America's Best Idea 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 103 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truly a book that will keep you reading and will spark your interest in visting our country's Parks. It is an excellent companion to the DVD set. Informative, revealing, and educational. Great gift idea for anyone not just Park visitors.
MarthasLibrary More than 1 year ago
"THE NATIONAL PARKS, America's Best Idea" is more about the people that started the America's national park system, rather than the natural history of the land in the parks. It has beautiful photography and information about whats in the parks. But, it about the political process of getting congress to set the lands aside for national parks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I agree that there was an opportunity to have the pictures pop for us readers - keep in mind that the authors are environmentalists... glossy pictures would not be environmental friendly... If you want to see the wonderful parks - buy the DVD and support PBS when they have it for sale during fund raising events... And if you truly want to see these parks - go visit them in person. This was the intent of the book/DVD - to have people want to visit these parks in person, to motivate enviromental concerns to not lose these natural wonders.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you pick up this book in hopes of great visuals, like those in both editions of Great Lodges of the National Parks (also broadcast on PBS as well as published in book form), be prepared for a severe disappointment. The authors and publisher have chosen to print this book on flimsy, uncoated paper. As a consequence, none of the photography "pops" off the page they way you'd expect. This is a tragedy, given the inherently visual nature of the subject matter. To get an idea of what this book could have been like, look at the dust jacket, which is printed on substantial, coated paper that makes the photography look wonderful. Given the premium price we're asked to pay for this book, it is a shame it hasn't been printed on premium paper (which, by the way, is readily recyclable).
lowpockets More than 1 year ago
Beautifully created. If you wonder how and when each National Park was enacted and the people who stood up for the the land. This book will give you a greater appreciation for OUR National Parks. It is the best idea!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I also agree the book is printed on pretty cheap paper and the reproduction of images used to illustrate the book don't come close to showing the beauty of our National Parks. Very sad. This could have been a great book visually.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a gift and the recipient is very satisfied.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The photography is beautiful--a breathtaking look at our national parks. Grateful for the wisdom and perseverance of those who fought to protect them for future generations...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a lovely gift on its own, or a stunning accompaniment to the DVD series by Ken Burns. The pictures themselves tell the story of our national parks, a resource as Americans we are fortunate to have.
PeggyBrooks More than 1 year ago
I do not believe this book could be surpassed in excellence. The only way of enhancing this book would be to view the companion DVD's as you are reading the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The National Parks, written by Dayton Duncan and co-written by Ken Burns is based on the excellent PBS mini-series now on DVD (directed by Burns). It is not a tourist guide in that each national park is not in- dividually described and does not have its own chapter; rather, this book is a history of how the National Park System came into being and then describes each park in the context of the chapter being discussed. Also, there is a listing at the beginning of the book with the name of each park and the year of its establishment. In the course of reading this large volume one finds out about every- one people responsible for the Park System and the individual parks, many of whom would be unfamiliar (at least to me). Of course John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt are omnipresent throughout and deservedly so for their well-known conservation efforts but they are part of a huge,va- ried canvas that makes for thrilling and enlightening reading. We are also presented with a rich background of our country at the time - its people and politics, some of which you may not agree with but it is all there for you to witness. To top it all off, the pictures are absolutely magnificent and show the dedication that was taken in this regard and to the project in general. The pictures of Yosemite and Denali National Parks were especially br- eathtaking, all the more so since I had visited both recently! I don't see how the pictures or the text could be improved upon. This project was at least ten years in the making and it shows. In closing,this book is highly recommended - don't let the historical narrative dissuade you from purchasing it. It is very illuminating and insightful and has information you wouldn't readily find in another volume of this type. Even if you have another book on the parks, the present volume will be a worhwhile complement. And I almost guarantee that you will be hooked into buying the DVD's as well, which pretty much follow the text in the book (with a few abridgements and modifications). Enjoy!
KyLady More than 1 year ago
I found the National Parks by Dayton Duncan an excellent read for those who enjoy reading about and visiting our greatest treasure "our" national parks! It follows very closely (since they worked together) the PBS video series by Ken Burns. The excellent photography and art, both current and from the beginning of the parks development, accompanies individual stories and the real struggles that so many people (not all US citizens) sacrificed to found each park. I remain humbled by those sacrifices for people like me who they would never meet. I find myself thinking that perhaps a gift of money to keep the parks alive for centuries to come might be an appropriate thank you from each of us who reads this awesome book. I found myself with tear-stained eyes many times as I discovered that many other people love the national parks as much as me!
ASpencer More than 1 year ago
Picked up a copy of this book a few weeks ago when I saw it at my local book store. I had been looking forward to the TV series on PBS but did not know that there would also be a book. So far I have watched the first three episodes in the TV series and it appears that the book covers the same ground, but I enjoy being able to linger over the photos and I think reading the text makes a more lasting impression. This is an excellent coffee table book, most anyone will enjoy paging through it and looking at the fascinating photos. Both the book and the TV series examine and illustrate how the radical idea of persevering great tracts of America's most spectacular wild lands came to fruition. The United States was the first country in the world to have national parks. Through this book you meet the famous and not so famous folks who were committed to preserving wild places; people like John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, and Stephen Mather. I also recommend the excellent Across The High Lonesome, much of which takes place in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National parks!
WI_Photographer More than 1 year ago
I'm surprised by the number of people who are downplaying the experience of this book just because of the pictures. I guess there are lots of people who don't want to take the time to actually read the text of this book instead of just looking at the pictures. Yes, the pictures are part of the experience, but if you would just read the text you'd find that the book has SO MUCH MORE to offer. There are many tidbits of interesting information that supplement the documentary which this book is a companion on. For example, a photograph was taken that is not shown in the video documentary of James M. Hutchings and his wife on a wagon in Yosemite N.P. that was captured minutes before his untimely death resulting from one of the startled horses bolting, throwing him and his wife from the wagon. Hutchings died from a head wound while his wife survived. Again, READ this book, and you will find lots of interesting information in here to make you appreciate your national parks that much more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book, like the documentaries that inspired it, is filled with images that are awe-inspiring and the many stories and history related to our national parks. I've given twice as a gift to the delight of those who received it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The history of how our National Parks came to be is very enlightening. It is scary to think with out some very tencaious individuals we would not have preserved our greatest treasures. For those of us who love our National Parks this is very inspirational and reminds us to pay attention and protect our national heritage.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book makes an ideal gift or coffee table presentation. The text is an EXACT duplication of the television narration, the quantity far better suited for a book than for television. Because of that, owning the DVD and this companion book is an overkill, a duplication. If considering a purchase of The National Parks, I'd recommend the DVD over this book.
greggchadwick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ken Burns is a National Treasure Along with our National Parks In 1872 the United States Government created the first National Park on the globe: Yellowstone National Park. "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" tells the history of our National Parks system that sprung out of the collection of "artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and tourists" that found beauty and worth in the stunning natural world. John Muir was inspired by the majesty of the American landscape and became the voice for the preservation of our spectacular wilderness. Ken Burns' series on the National Parks is ever so timely as cynicism seems to be our new national voice. I highly recommend this book and Burns' documentaries and am convinced that those who pay attention to Burns' ideas will come away changed and inspired.Ken Burns is an American treasure. My son and I were fortunate to meet him and thank him for the amazing work he has done to bring history to the forefront of public consciousness. We are lucky to have him and his art.
kmulvihill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 the writers. While listening to the serenity of their voices, you can hear about the stories of Yosemite, Yellowstone, or any number of places that are still there today. And you can listen to all 13 compact discs on your way there this summer.I recommend the DVD set, to be seen in increments every other week, with the family or with friencs, when you're ready to sit back and enjoy watching another great Ken Burns production. Each story told takes you a little bit closer to another place where someone was changed forever by the nature of our country. This series highlights that universal experience -- coming closer to nature and wanting to do it again and again. While appreciating, through this series, the places to go, you can also appreciate the process that made their preservation possible.
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