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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About National Parks

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August 19, 2009

Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About National Parks

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week, we’re taking a page from the Obama family's  and Ken Burns's books and turning our attention to national parks.

The National Parks: Our American Landscape
(by Ian Shive, $40, Palace Publishing, Aug. 2009): This book relates the beauty and wilderness of our national parks through pictures. It’s a good thing, because if we used the old 1 picture = 1000 words equation, this already large book would take on encyclopedic proportions. Flipping through the images, one wonders if words could do the trick as well. Shive’s photography captures the diversity and drama of the national landscape, from the curl of a tarantula’s forelegs in the Chihuahan Desert to epic sweep of the Grand Canyon.

Our Wilderness: America’s Common Ground
(by Doug Scott, $20, Fulcrum, May 2009): Author Doug Scott knows wilderness. For years, he’s been calling for the need to conserve it as policy director of the Campaign for America’s Wilderness. The book, self-described as a “photographic tribute to wilderness,” combines Scott’s reflections with naturalist’s quotes and pictures. It reads as a passionate argument for protecting our wildest places.

Yosemite and the Southern Sierra Nevada (by David T. Page, $19, Countryman Press, Aug. 2009): One of the reasons we like this guidebook is that it begins with an anecdote about that most famous of Yosemite adventurers, John Muir. The author acknowledges that the book won’t lead you to the area’s wildest places – you must create your own adventure to do that. But it gets you to the wild’s edge, weaving logistics with natural and cultural history to get you as well-acquainted with the region as possible.

Wilderness in National Parks: Playground or Preserve (by John C. Miles, $35, University of Washington Press, Aug. 2009): Playground or preserve? The National Park Service has struggled with this paradox since its creation. The parks were in large part preserved so that we can enjoy them – but overuse and development often denigrate the wildness we show up in to experience.  As the acres of untrammeled wilderness dwindle, Miles, an environmental studies professor, takes on the issue. He chronicles the nation’s changing conception of wilderness and asks how we can most responsibly conserve and enjoy these public lands.

--Jamie Hansen

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