President Theodore Roosevelt is oft-remembered as the president who most celebrated and adored the great outdoors. A prolific hunter, adventurer, and naturalist, Roosevelt’s curiosity in the wilderness sparked a new tradition of conservativism through the protection of lands like Yellowstone and curation of species in natural museums. Many of the ways we learn about nature today can be attributed to him, from the creation of the National Parks System to the collections in the Smithsonian and American Museum of Natural History. Author Darrin Lunde is a supervisory museum specialist at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and this tour de force reads like a tip of his hat to one of the fathers of museum naturalism.
Jordan Fisher Smith
After a 25-year-old man was killed by a bear in Yellowstone Park in 1972, the resulting civil trial opened a Pandora’s box of questions about how to regulate nature. Should the Park Service have done more to keep bears away from human visitors to the park, or is it fruitless to try and exercise control over wildlife? Jordan Fisher Smith, himself a park ranger for over twenty years, delves deeply into the inherent struggle between man and nature, as well as the policy and laws surrounding them, ultimately asking “is a natural environment that is modified by humans still natural?”
Wild (Movie Tie-in Edition)
Cheryl Strayed is a mere 22-years-old when she finds herself grappling with her mother’s death, a divorce and a subsequent addiction to heroin. Four years later, she does the only thing she can think of to get on a path towards recovery: put one foot in front of the other. Though she’s not an experienced hiker, Strayed sets out from the Mojave Desert and hikes north on the Pacific Crest Trail through California and Oregon, encountering bears, creepy through-hikers and oozing blisters on her journey of self-discovery. Strayed’s funny and self-deprecating voice will make you feel like you’re hitting the trail right alongside her.
A Walk in the Woods
The Appalachian Trail stretches along the eastern edge of the United States from Georgia to Maine and covers 2,200 miles of breathtaking terrain. Short of hiking the whole thing yourself, author Bill Bryson’s side-splittingly funny account is the next best thing. Like Cheryl Strayed, Bryson is unequipped for his 1998 journey and, along with his sidekick Stephen Katz, they skip several chunks, though, to their credit, only 25% of through-hikers manage to do the whole thing. Peppered into the narrative of their journey is the history of the creation of the A.T. and the changing ecology and sociology surrounding the trail.
The National Park Service is celebrating its centennial, beginning on August 25, 2016. What began in 1916 at the urging of conservationists John Muir, President Theodore Roosevelt, and Stephen T. Mather has now morphed into a collection of over 400 parks, monuments and preserved and protected landscapes that are considered to be the crown jewels of this country. So many great works of nonfiction celebrate the creation of our National Parks—from those that chart our nation’s history from nascent colony to achieving the continental expansion decreed by the theory of Manifest Destiny and the slaughter of the native peoples in the American West to memoirs that revolve around the meditative act of hiking and being in nature—it’s clear our nation’s vast and varied landscape has affected the American psyche and influenced authors for years. These are seven incredible books that teach us just how important our National Parks are to future generations of Americans. We suggest you find the national park closest to you, grab one or two of these wild reads and go be one with the great outdoors.
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