Library column: Travel books to inspire a trip to one of our National Parks

By Antonio Backman
Contributing Writer

May is the perfect time to shake off springtime rain and enjoy our first proper month of summer! To me there is nothing that better represents summer than packing up the kids and heading out to one of our beautiful national parks. It’s practically tradition for families to see some our country’s natural wonders and experience the joy of being stuck in a car with kids for hours as you all play your fiftieth game of ‘I Spy’. For over a hundred years our National Park Service has existed and in that time, numerous books about the parks have emerged as well as books that were inspired to use the parks in their stories. Perhaps instead of another game of ‘I Spy’ you’ll want to read one of these books as you travel to Yellowstone or the Badlands. For more materials on national parks, visit the library website at

“The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America” by Timothy Egan – In 1910 the largest wildfire in U.S. history burned almost 3 million acres of land turning an area the size of Connecticut into ash. Egan narrates the harrowing story of the forest rangers and the almost ten thousand volunteers who combated the flames. Egan also relays the story of President Roosevelt’s choice of using the heroism of the men involved to change public opinion to ensure that public land was owned and preserved for everybody and not robber barons. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, c2009

“Bear Bait” by Pamela Beason – Summer “Sam” Westin is acting as a volunteer fire watcher at Olympic National Park when things start going up in smoke. When the fire is finally beaten, a woman is discovered just barely alive. As Sam tries to get to the bottom of what happened and starts asking questions, it becomes obvious that someone wants her gone before she finds any answers. Berkley Publishing Group, c2012

“Engineering Eden: The True Story of a Violent Death, a Trial, and the Fight over Controlling Nature” by Jordan Smith – After a man is tragically killed by a bear in Yellowstone National Park, a civil trial unleashes a maelstrom of questions and opinions on how the American wilderness should be managed. Former park ranger and nature writer Jordan Smith incorporates the death and the trial into a larger non-fiction story about human’s attempts to remake the wilderness. After they are done, readers will ask themselves how ‘wild’ should the wilderness be? Should we be its protectors or should we let nature run its course? Crown, c2016

“Winter Study” by Nevada Barr – Anna Pigeon joins the famed wolf study research team of Isle Royale National Park to find out why the wolves are acting so strangely. Barr vividly describes the bleak yet beautiful Isle Royale as Anna returns to the Lake Superior island in the middle of winter. Unfortunately, the freezing January temperatures aren’t the only thing Anna is worried about as a member of her research team is seemingly killed by a wolf – or maybe not. Crack open the book or pop in the audiobook narrated by the incredible Barbara Rosenblatt and listen to this chilling mystery. G.P. Putnam’s Son, c2008

“National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide U.S.A.: The Most Amazing Sights, Scenes, and Cool Activities from Coast to Coast” – Recommended for children ages 8 and up, this book is chock full of cool pictures, maps, animal facts and tips on how to explore America’s national parks. All the national parks are covered in this book plus other must see wilderness places ranging from national monuments to the national preserves. Divided by American regions, each section is clear to understand and fun to read. National Geographic Society, c2012

Antonio Backman is a librarian at Anoka County Library’s Rum River branch.