The National Parks: America's Best Idea

Overview

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 ...
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Overview

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This spectacular full-color pictorial is the companion volume to Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan's much-anticipated 12-hour PBS documentary. In the book, as in the TV show, Duncan and Burns track "America's best idea" from its first inklings to the 1871 creation of Yellowstone, the world's first national park, to the truly wondrous proliferation of these natural sites to a total of 84 million acres.
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Duncan and Burns, who last teamed on Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip, rejoin in this visually stunning guide to the unforgettable landscapes and fascinating history of America's national parks. A companion to the documentary miniseries, this book provides not only an armchair tour of the parks but lessons in American history and biography, as Duncan and Burns attempt to answer the question, "Who are we?" through the foundation and legacy of American conservation. From Yellowstone, the first national park, to Acadia to the Everglades, readers will learn the origins of many of the parks, monuments, and historic areas across the U.S., illustrated with more than a century's worth of photographs. A recurring theme throughout history has been the value and purpose of conservation and beauty, versus utility and tourism, and the story of the parks brings it into brilliant focus; readers will meet characters like John Muir, Horace Albright, Stephen Mather, Adolph Murie, and others who helped create the existing park system (with no shortage of attention paid to Theodore Roosevelt). Likely to inspire adventure-seekers of all generations, this broad, deep, evocative survey is just the kind of volume readers have come to expect from filmmaker and cultural historian Burns.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Publisher
Praise for the PBS series:

“Stunning and restorative, like the parks themselves.” —Timothy Egan, The New York Times

“A masterful historic document, a vivid portrait of the land set against the stories of those who worked to acquire it and then protect it against those who still would dismantle or compromise it.” —David Hinckley, New York Daily News

“Beautiful and erudite . . . Underneath its wonder, The National Parks is really about how Americans learned (or failed to learn) proper stewardship of nature.” —Hank Stuever, The Washington Post

Library Journal
08/01/2014
Based on Burns's film series, which traces the history of national parks in the United States. Different voices are used for longer quotations; despite the missing visuals, the production gets the job done admirably.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739366325
  • Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/8/2009
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 5.94 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Ken Burns

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 two Academy Award nominations. He received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award in 2008. He lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.

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Table of Contents

Preface
OUR BEST SELVES
A Treasure House of Nature's Superlatives
 
Chapter One
THE SCRIPTURE OF NATURE
Homeland: An Interview with Gerard Baker
 
Chapter Two
FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PEOPLE
Transcendence: An Interview with Shelton Johnson
 
Chapter Three
EMPIRE OF GRANDEUR
Stories of Discovery: An Interview with Nevada Barr
 
Chapter Four
GOING HOME
Redefining Beauty: An Interview with Paul Schullery
 
Chapter Five
GREAT NATURE
Democracy at Its Best: An Interview with Juanita Greene
 
Chapter Six
THE MORNING OF CREATION
This Is What We Loved: An Interview with Terry Tempest Williams
 
Afterword
THE BEST DAY
 
Acknowledgments
Selected Bibliography
Index
Illustration Credits
Film Credits
 
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing History

    This was purchased after I watched the entire PBS series on TV. It was a gift for a person who is blind. The images invoked in even the words alone makes this a worthwhile set, particularly for someone unable to see the views shown on the special.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2009

    The National Parks: America's Best Idea

    I got this book at my local library in hardcover and the pictures are amazing. The text is very informative and tells you a lot about the history of our national parks. I've been to some of the parks in the book and the pictures look exactly like the real thing.

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