Even though this book was a biography of Frederick Law Olmstead, I found it as interesting as any work of fiction I've read in a long time. Olmstead, whose most famous projects include Central Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the park system in Buffalo, Mount Royal in Montreal, the grounds of the Chicago World's Fair, and the grounds at the Biltmore Estate, was a fascinating man.
He didn't start designing parks and public spaces until he was in his 30s. Prior to that he owned several farms and studied "scientific farming," travelled throughout the south and sent back articles on the south and slavery, and during the Civil War served as head of the pre-cursor to the Red Cross. He was also ran the Mariposa Gold Mine out in California and sat on the board that went on to form Yosemite National Park. In addition to all of this, he was a publisher and successful author. He was involved in so many projects, big and small, that the book couldn't detail all of them.
It is hard to believe that one man could do so much, and yet he did. His landscape design firm, headed up by his son after Olmstead died, went on to become one of the top firms in the country. Olmstead's influence is seen in parks and colleges and cities around the world.