The National Parks by Dayton Duncan
America's Best Idea

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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.

About Dayton Duncan

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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.
Published September 8, 2009 by Alfred A. Knopf. 432 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, History, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The National Parks

Los Angeles Times

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The companion book to the PBS series pays homage to America's crown jewels, and the people who fought to save them.

Sep 25 2009 | Read Full Review of The National Parks: America's...

USA Today

America’s national parks and the figures who lobbied for their preservation are celebrated in this companion to the PBS series.

Oct 08 2009 | Read Full Review of The National Parks: America's...


But to see what God has wrought, come to America.” While the Old World has its palaces and cathedrals, Americans have Yosemite, Yellowstone and the nearly 60 other national parks that comprise our “empire of grandeur.” A sumptuous new book, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, recounts the hi...

Jun 04 2014 | Read Full Review of The National Parks: America's...

Based on Burns's film series, which traces the history of national park

Aug 01 2014 | Read Full Review of The National Parks: America's...

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