11 Books that Feature Minneapolis Parks

March 18, 2020 by Madeleine Koski

In honor of National Reading Month (March), we connected with our friends Jenna Jacobs and Ted Hathaway at Hennepin County Library and asked for their help in creating a list of books that all either take place in, feature, or are connected to a Minneapolis park. This list is a broad combination of fiction and non-fiction with varying genres from historical to science-fiction.

As our community responds to the current health climate, and with so many of us planning to stay home these next few weeks, National Reading Month feels even more applicable. As we post this, Hennepin County Library’s physical buildings are closed until Monday, April 6. However, they have a vast online database. Some of the books in the list below are available via eBook, along with so many more.

Please check for the most current closures on the Hennepin County Library website before your visit.


#1. City of Parks: The Story of Minneapolis Parks by David C. Smith
City of Parks tells the stories of many people who helped create Minneapolis parks and manage the turning points in park history.

#2. Suggestions for A System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Minneapolis by Horace Cleveland
Cleveland’s original 1883 plan and dream for the Minneapolis Park system. Much of it came true. You can also download this book here courtesy of Minnesota Reflections.

#3. Architecture of Minneapolis Parks by Albert D. Wittman
Photos and building history from the parks.

#4. Wild and Rare by Adam Arvidson
A narrative account of Arvidson’s personal journey to connect with each of Minnesota’s endangered species. This work reads as a conversation with the natural world. Adam Arvidson is Director of Strategic Planning for Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

#5. Sailing Days and Wanderlust by Theodore Wirth
A travel memoir of Wirth’s trip around the world meeting with other park superintendents and exploring other parks.

#6. Minneapolis Park System, 1883-1944: Retrospective Glimpses Into the History of the Board of Park Commissioners of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the City’s Park, Parkway, and Playground System by Theodore Wirth
A history of the park system, written by its superintendent.

#7. Minnehaha Creek: Living Waters by Jane Hallberg
A history of the famous creek.


#8. War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
One of the first works in the sub-genre of urban fantasy. Although it involves supernatural characters, the setting is real-world Minneapolis, featuring Minnehaha Park.

#9. The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The poem that brought added fame to the Minnehaha Falls.

#10. The Bohemian Flats: A Novel by Mary Relindes Ellis
A story set in what was once a residential area but is now park land.

#11. Betsy-Tacy books
Author Maud Hart Lovelace once lived in what is now Mueller Park.

If you know other books featuring Minneapolis parks, please leave a comment below or on our social channels, and we’ll add it to the list!

2 Responses to 11 Books that Feature Minneapolis Parks

  1. Alan Tate says:

    Great City Parks (https://www.routledge.com/Great-City-Parks-2nd-Edition/Tate/p/book/9780415538022) has a long chapter on the Minneapolis park system

  2. A just-released book from the University of Arkansas Press, Twin Cities Sports, (https://www.uapress.com/product/twin-cities-sports/) edited by Sheldon Anderson, provides a history of sports in Minnesota, including chapters on the Minneapolis park board, as well as sports such as speed-skating and golf that developed in part on park property. The book should appeal not only to sports fans but to those interested in public policy on recreation and sport.

    Disclaimer: I wrote or co-wrote some chapters.

    Alan Tate’s book, Great City Parks, mentioned above, should be in the library of anyone interested in parks and urban open space. It’s a bit expensive (but beautiful), so if you can’t add it to your library, at least put it on your reading list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *