In her introduction, the book’s creator and editor writes that “each park has its own soul, one that has profoundly influenced the culture of its surroundings and the multitudes who enjoy it.” And this unique soul easily comes to life in the book’s beautiful pages. Personal essays by celebrated writers and public figures, coupled with Oberto Gili’s evocative photography, conjure up the essence and spirit of prominent city parks, whisking us away on a page-bound journey through public urban retreats.

Here, each author has their own story to tell, including Zadie Smith’s touching essay on visits to two Italian parks with her father, emphasizing the value of freedom such public spaces can convey, while Andrew Sean Greer paints a vivid portrait of first love in the Presidio. On a different note, André Aciman muses on time’s fleeting nature and the changing face of New York as viewed from the High Line, Pico Iyer explores hidden places and privacy in Kyoto, Jonathan Alter takes readers from the 1968 race riots to Obama’s 2008 victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park, Simon Winchester invites us along on his adventures in the Maidan, and Bill Clinton writes of his affection for Dumbarton Oaks.

No matter how personal these essays might be, they also tap into our collective consciousness and reflect the importance of city parks for local residents. Beautifully illustrated, City Parks illuminates both personal histories and public experiences. It will surely conjure up memories of the park that was or is most important to you. If so, we would love to hear about it!

Text: Lia Pack
All images, incl. the header image – The Maidan, Kolkata: Oberto Gili