Inspiring: Hour of Land, A Personal Topography of America's National Parks

Oil pad between the North and Elkhorn Units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Photo credit: Chris Boyer.

A timely publication given the National Park Service centennial last year, Terry Tempest Williams' latest book The Hour of Land explores twelve national parks, lesser known for the most part but personal, using vivid storytelling that makes them unforgettable. Rich language - "I find it hard not to dissipate into the heat wave riding through the badlands, melting grasses into gold" - woven together with personal accounts serve as a balm that makes delving into the politics and history behind our picturesque national parks more palatable.

Williams surely has selected the twelve parks with purpose, perhaps not so much to remind us of the magnificence of our public lands, although she does that, but to ensure we close the book with some understanding of the significance of these places and how and why they are changing. From fracking (Theodore Roosevelt National Park) to climate change (Glacier National Park), Williams addresses some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time while transporting the reader across the country from Alaska to Maine.

Yet The Hour of Land is as much about our relationship to land as it is to each other. Included in the twelve parks are cultural landscapes like Gettysburg National Military Park and Effigy Mounds National Monument. Writes Williams, "By definition, our national parks in all their particularity and peculiarity show us as much about ourselves as the landscapes they honor and protect. They can be seen as holograms of an America born of shadow and light; dimensional; full of contradictions and complexities."

This is a book of individuals' stories; taken collectively, a plea to consider the value of wilderness and open space, both to the reader, and to America.


Terry Tempest Williams discussing The Hour of Land

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Slate review of The Hour of Land

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