Parks Canada is arguably a major player in the image of accessible Canadian wilderness. In charge of over forty parks in the hundred years since its inception, the corporation certainly deserves a tribute. A Century of Parks Canada is aptly named, but at $35, is it worth the read?
First of all, let us be clear: it is an academic work, not another photo book or voyeuristic survey, and intended for the serious reader or researcher. You learn a lot about Canada’s parks and its history. At over 300 pages it is not really for the casual reader (particularly not the excellent endnotes intended for history buffs). Though anyone can enjoy the historic illustrations, photos, and scans.
What is included is beautiful. Campbell goes into a lot of detail on the parks which leads, of course, into explanations of city histories, treaties, prices, and negotiations, and other things that will acquaint the reader with some of the less often discussed details of Canada’s cultural and economic history. The book also features contributions from different writers, who generally hold to the same writing conventions: very dense, fact-ridden stuff, full of dates and references.
There are certainly occasions where a work calls for praise, yet not (as much) recommendation. A Century of Parks Canada is one such work: fascinating to intellectuals or those who take a heavy interest in the subject, but something to skim through for everyone else.