100 Must-Read Books About the National Parks

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Ashley Bowen

Staff Writer

Ashley Bowen earned a PhD in American Studies and Public Humanities in December 2016. Her research focuses on the history of health, medicine, and social services in the period from the American Civil War to World War I. When she isn't feeling existential angst about finishing her dissertation, she works as a part-time bookseller and plans adventures as a field agent for Atlas Obscura. A Texas native now living in Washington, DC, she has been known to travel long distances for a proper breakfast taco and Dr. Pepper. Her writing appears on Book Riot, Atlas Obscura, museum blogs, and in various "serious" academic journals. Twitter: @aebowenPhD

National Park Service Ranger And Car early 20th century

On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary. This is a little sneaky, since technically the first national park, Yellowstone, dates back to 1872. The Park Service, in contrast, didn’t come around until 1916. No matter the date, I’m all for more celebration of America’s beautiful spaces, historic sites, seashores, and monuments. Ken Burns called the National Parks “America’s best idea” and, honestly, I agree with him.

That said, the National Parks aren’t the most diverse spaces in the nation. The good news is that the NPS knows this is an issue and is actively working on it. They’re creating more historic sites dedicated to LGBTQ history and preserving places associated with the experiences of people of color. They selected Sonia Sanchez, an African American poet, scholar, and activist, as the NPS centennial’s poet laureate. Still, the relative lack of diversity in the parks is reflected in this list. Even some of the books about the NPS’ problematic relationship with Native communities are written by white people.

These limitations aside, America’s national parks inspire awe and more than a little writing. This list includes children’s books, fiction, nonfiction, some poetry, and coloring books! It’s heavy on nonfiction, memoir, and biography but also has books from romance and mystery series. I included only one book per author and did not include any guidebooks, though. There are well over 400 sites in the National Park System (spanning 84 million acres in all 50 states and some territories)! We could easily do a round up of just guidebooks to the National Parks.

  1. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
  2. Yellowstone Has Teeth by Marjane Ambler
  3. Altitude Adjustment: A Quest For Love, Home, And Meaning In The Tetons by Mary Beth Baptiste
  4. Track of the Cat (Anna Pigeon Mysteries) by Nevada Barr
  5. Endangered (A Sam Westin Mystery) by Pamela Beason
  6. Death Canyon (A Jake Trent Novel) by David Riley Bertsch
  7. The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston
  8. Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone by George Black
  9. The Last Season by Eric Blehm
  10. Mapping Yellowstone: A History of the Mapping of Yellowstone National Park by Bruce H. Blevins
  11. Back of Beyond by C. J. Box
  12. When the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle
  13. Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by Douglas Brinkley
  14. Mule Train Mail by Craig Brown
  15. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
  16. Hey Ranger! True Tales of Humor & Misadventure from America’s National Parks by Jim Burnett
  17. Our Great Big Backyard by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush Hager
  18. So Far from God by Ana Castillo
  19. Waltzing In Ragtime by Eileen Charbonneau
  20. Redwoods by Jason Chin
  21. National Parks Coloring Book illustrated by Peter F. Copeland
  22. The Wild Inside: A Novel of Suspense by Christine Carbo
  23. America’s National Parks: A Pop-Up Book by Don Compton, illustrated by Dave Ember and Bruce Foster
  24. Love is a Monument (A Walk in the Park Book) by Annalisa Daughety
  25. Yellowstone Summers: Touring with the Wylie Camping Company in America’s First National Park by Jane Galloway Demaray
  26. Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell’s 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon by Edward Dolnick
  27. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass
  28. Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict between Global Conservation and Native Peoples by Mark Dowie
  29. Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry edited by Camille T. Dungy
  30. The Black & Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places: African Americans Making Nature and the Environment a Part of Their Everyday Lives by Dudley Edmondson
  31. Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers
  32. In the Summer of 1903: Colonel Charles Young and the Buffalo Soldiers in Sequoia National Park by Ward Eldredge
  33. Temple Grove by Scott Elliott
  34. The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko
  35. The Carry Home by Gary Ferguson
  36. Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney
  37. Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage by Dianne D. Glave
  38. Good Night Yellowstone by Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper
  39. All The Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West by David Gessner
  40. Canyon Sacrifice (National Park Mystery Series) by Scott Graham
  41. Among Wolves: Gordon Haber’s Insights into Alaska’s Most Misunderstood Animal by Gordon Haber and Marybeth Holleman
  42. Denali’s Howl: The Deadliest Climbing Disaster on America’s Wildest Peak by Andy Hall
  43. Crazy Brave: A Memoir by Joy Harjo
  44. The Year Yellowstone Burned: A Twenty-Five-Year Perspective by Jeff Henry
  45. Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James Houston
  46. The Ways of My Grandmothers by Beverly Hungry Wolf
  47. Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation by Karl Jacoby
  48. Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a Life in Nature by Cindy Jenson-Elliott
  49. Bear in the Back Seat: Adventures of a Wildlife Ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Kim DeLozier and Carolyn Jourdan
  50. Gloryland by Shelton Johnson
  51. Out on a Limb: A Smoky Mountain Mystery by Carolyn Jourdan
  52. Old Faithful Murder  (Yellowstone Mystery Series) by Raymond Kieft
  53. Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr
  54. Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier by Tom Kizzia
  55. All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life by Winona LaDuke
  56. In the Temple of Wolves: A Winter’s Immersion in Wild Yellowstone by Rick Lamplugh
  57. The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature by J. Drew Lanham
  58. Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks by Andrea Lankford
  59. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery
  60. Talking to the Dead: Religion, Music, and Lived Memory among Gullah/Geechee Women by LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant
  61. A Trail Of Love by Bess McBride
  62. National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments and Landmarks by Erin McHugh
  63. The Killing of Wolf Number Ten: The True Story by Thomas McNamee
  64. All Aboard! National Parks: A Wildlife Primer by Haily Meyers and Kevin Meyers
  65. The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors by James E. Mills
  66. In the Bear’s House by N. Scott Momaday
  67. The Yosemite by John Muir
  68. Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas
  69. American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America by Michelle Obama
  70. No-No Boy by John Okada
  71. Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens by Steve Olson
  72. from Sand Creek by Simon J. Ortiz
  73. A Weird and Wild Beauty: The Story of Yellowstone, the World’s First National Park by Erin Peabody
  74. Legacy on the Land: A Black Couple Discovers Our National Inheritance and Tells Why Every American Should Care by Audrey Peterman
  75. Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
  76. Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr
  77. Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail by Suzanne Roberts
  78. Who Pooped in the Park? Acadia National Park: Scat and Tracks for Kids by Gary D. Robson
  79. The Camping Trip that Changed America by Barb Rosenstock
  80. Homegirls and Handgrenades by Sonia Sanchez
  81. Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape by Kirk Savage
  82. Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy
  83. Engineering Eden: The True Story of a Violent Death, a Trial, and the Fight over Controlling Nature by Jordan Fisher Smith
  84. Nature Noir: A Park Ranger’s Patrol in the Sierra by Jordan Fisher Smith
  85. Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks by Mark David Spence
  86. Ansel Adams in the National Parks: Photographs from America’s Wild Places edited by Andrea G. Stillman
  87. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  88. Ecology II: Throat Song from the Everglades by Anne McCrary Sullivan
  89. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
  90. Bachelor Father by Vicki Lewis Thompson
  91. The National Parks Coloring Book by Sophie Tivona
  92. Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class by Larry Tye
  93. Poaching Daisies (Yellowstone Mystery) by Carole Thayne Warburton
  94. Women in Wonderland: Lives, Legends, and Legacies of Yellowstone National Park by Elizabeth A Watry
  95. In Velvet by Burt Weissbourd
  96. Under the Stars: How America Fell in Love with Camping by Dan White
  97. The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks by Terry Tempest Williams
  98. The Chief Ranger by Rebecca Winters
  99. Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks
    by Mark Woods
  100. Flames by Ginny L. Yttrup

If these aren’t enough for your TBR pile, check out our list of 100 must-read books about nature.

What are your favorite books that celebrate America’s wild spaces? What did you read to prepare for a vacation at an NPS site? Let us know in the comments.