A Thinking Person's Guide to America's National Parks

Edited by Robert Manning, Rolf Diamant, Nora Mitchell, and David Harmon

A Thinking Person’s Guide to America's National Parks is a guidebook like no other. In twenty-three essays, richly illustrated with more than 350 color photographs, authors with personal and professional connections to the national parks share their deep and invaluable knowledge. This book illuminates the astonishing diversity of America’s more than 400 national parks, bound together into a single national park system that expresses and preserves the nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage. From the iconic western national parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon; to urban parks such as Golden Gate and Gateway national recreation areas; to landmark historical sites, including Lowell National Historical Park and Gettysburg National Military Park; and to important cultural sites like Mesa Verde National Park and New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, to name just a few, the reader will experience the national park system as never before.


Paperback with flaps, 304 pages, $29.95 (Can $39.95)
ISBN: 978-0-8076-0019-1
11 x 8 x 1 inches


TEACHING WITH A Thinking Person's Guide to America's National Parks

Are you an educator looking to introduce students to the exciting discoveries that await them in America's national park system? 

The editors of A Thinking Person's Guide have created a detailed model syllabus for an introductory course titled "Introduction to America's National Park System: Managing the Natural and Cultural Heritage of a Changing Nation."  

To help you create an engaging course for your students, we offer the following free of charge:

  • A syllabus, including course objectives, class structure, research questions, and lesson-by-lesson readings. An extensive Sources list is included, full of ideas for supplemental readings and other sources of information.  The syllabus is written for an undergraduate course, but can be easily customized for other levels of learners
  • A set of 24 PowerPoint presentations, one for each chapter in the book, with embedded captions
  • A Word document with all the embedded captions, ready to be customized.
  • Over forty sample exam questions covering all the major topics in the book.


PRAISE FOR A Thinking Person’s Guide to America's National Parks



“This centenary year of the National Park Service is the perfect moment for A Thinking Person’s Guide to America’s National Parks.... the essays and often breathtaking photographs in this volume expertly examine the more than 400 sites of natural beauty and historic importance that make up the national park system.” The Wall Street Journal

“[A] seductively illustrated anthology… Soar[s] with thought-provoking content.” –Publishers Weekly

“…provides considerable historical detail and a look at the parks as treasure of the American spirit.” –Library Journal (Starred Review)

“A coherent narrative arc spans a wealth of contributors and chapters... exhorting the reader to both learn and take action, and inspiring the urge to get outside right now and visit a national park... The emphasis on the richness and complexity of the national park system is invaluable... A welcome, insightful, and richly varied contribution to the literature on national parks” Leighton Quarles, Environmental History

“An engaging mix of history and personal reflection... as appropriate in the home of a thoughtful person who wants to ‘help conserve these special places’ as in the dorm room of the history, environmental education, or national resource management student... [An] important jumping-off point for a number of significant inquiries into the nature, meaning, and future of national parks.” James G. Lewis, Forest History Today

“Every chapter offers good insights and would reward coming back to in order to refresh a reader's thinking... To build a twenty-first century [national park] system... this book shows the way.” Patrick Nunnally, Open Rivers

“A beautiful road map to inspiring the next generation of park stewards.” Frank Dean, President & CEO, Yosemite Conservancy.

“An inspiring testament to one of the things that Makes America wonderful.  These places, and their history, belong to all of us equally.  And as this volume shows, they can inspire us to renew this country, both physically and culturally.” Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy.

 “America’s national parks are full of untold stories and hidden treasures.  This book will make your understanding of our national parks so much deeper and your visit to these extraordinary places much richer and more enjoyable.” Greg Moore, President & CEO, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

 “…captures the diversity of places that comprise the entire national park system while weaving together a mosaic of nature, history, science, social justice and the people it serves and represents.” Brett A. Wright, Ph.D., Chairman, Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University.

Robert E. Manning, Ph.D., is Steven Rubenstein Professor of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont.
Rolf Diamant is a former national park superintendent and is now adjunct associate professor at the University of Vermont.
Nora J. Mitchell, Ph.D. is former Director, National Park Service Stewardship Institute and is now adjunct associate professor at the University of Vermont.
David Harmon is executive director of the George Wright Society.