2017 Winners of the National Outdoor Book Awards have been Announced.

 Outdoor Literature

Fly Rod of Your OwnWinner.  A Fly Rod of Your Own.  By John Gierach.  Simon and Schuster, New York.
ISBN 9781451618341

There’s no better way to bring back memories of your own fishing trips than to read of some by John Gierach.  He has a warm, inviting quality to his writing that makes him such a pleasure to read.  In honoring this book, the judges also wanted to recognize Gierach’s body of work which now totals more than 20 previous books.  His themes are simple: a favorite stream near home, a missed cast just when everything is perfect, a culinary misadventure on a trip.  With a wave of his writer’s wand, simple stories become utterly absorbing, and you find yourself captured by his magic, reading well into the night.

On TrailsWinner.  On Trails: An Exploration.  By Robert Moor.  Simon and Schuster, New York.
ISBN 9781476739236

Author Robert Moor has a thing with trails.  It’s a fascination of sorts that began on a five-month, 2,200-mile hike of the Appalachian Trail.  Those miles and miles of trail passing beneath his feet gave him plenty of time to think, and upon finishing the hike Moor set off on another journey, this one of the intellectual kind, researching the concept of trails.  His investigations quickly move him beyond the realm of hiking to the use of trails by insects, mammals and ancient humans.  Through it all, Moor’s observations on trails are fresh, thought provoking, erudite, and full of delightful surprises.


No BarriersHonorable Mention.  No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon.  By Erik Weihenmayer and Buddy Levy.  Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press.  New York.
ISBN 9781250088789

Imagine paddling a kayak into the biggest rapid in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.  The sound is deafening.  Mammoth waves toss your kayak about like it’s a toy.  Then imagine paddling into those waves completely blind, not knowing when the next wave is coming or from where.  Born with a rare eye disease which left him blind at the age of 13, Erik Weihenmayer takes on the rapids of the Colorado—and other adventures—in this stirring and inspiring book.  It may be a cliché, but not for Weihenmayer.  He turns the notion of impossible upside down and reveals that all is possible.




Art of FreedomWinner. Art of Freedom: The Life and Climbs of Voytek Kurtyka.  By Bernadette McDonald.  Rocky Mountain Books, Vancouver, BC.
ISBN  9781771602129

In this masterpiece of a biography, Bernadette McDonald chronicles the life of Voytek Kurtyka who pushed the boundaries of mountaineering to its very limits.  He grew up in Poland and lived during a time of upheaval:  of communist domination and its eventual downfall.  Kurtyka is a reflection of those turbulent times, buying and selling on the black market to make a living, and scheming ways to outwit party bureaucrats to undertake climbing expeditions.  Known for his bold and lightning-fast ascents of big, unclimbed walls in the Himalaya, Kurtyka is a thoughtful and private individual and has largely shunned the limelight.  Fortunately, McDonald was able to conduct interviews with Kurtyka as well as undertake exhaustive research.  The result of her efforts is a work of outstanding artistry and a powerful and moving portrait of Kurtyka’s life.


 Natural History Literature

TidesWinner. Tides:  The Science and Spirit of the Ocean.  By Jonathan White.  Trinity University Press, San Antonio.  ISBN  9781595348050

The regular ebb and flow of the ocean’s tide is not easily explained—unless it is Jonathan White who’s doing the explaining.  In fact, White makes the science of tides an adventure. He takes you along as he travels the globe, seeking out the unusual and dangerous.  In Alaska’s Kalinin Bay, he struggles to save his 65-foot wooden schooner which the tides have left laying on its side in the mud.  With an Inuit hunter in northern Canada, he squeezes through a small hole into a cavity under the sea ice to gather mussels, nervously counting the minutes as the cavity begins filling with the incoming tide.  And in China, he sprints to high ground to avoid a 25-foot tidal bore barreling up a river.  White does what an excellent writer can do, lure you into an unfamiliar world, take you on adventures, change you with intriguing images and ideas.


 Nature and the Environment

Monarchs and MilkweedWinner. Monarchs and Milkweed.  By Anurag Agrawal.  Princeton University Press, Princeton.  ISBN 9780691166353

Who can’t admit being captivated by the monarch?  We are attracted by its beauty, of course, and by its amazing migration that can exceed 3,000 miles.  But there is something else that makes the monarch fascinating, and that is its perilous relationship with its main food source, the milkweed.  As it turns out, milkweed is toxic, and while monarchs have adapted to its toxicity, the plant is still able to marshall its defenses, killing off monarch larvae by various means.  In this colorfully illustrated work, Agrawal covers the scientific work behind this combative relationship, among which includes some of his own pioneering studies.  Monarchs and Milkweed is not only about a butterfly, but it also gives us a peek into the mind of an inventive scientist, one who clearly admires his subject and who guides us to a better understanding of this most remarkable creature.


Pipestone WolvesHonorable Mention.  The Pipestone Wolves:  The Rise and Fall of a Wolf Family.  By Günther Bloch.  Photography by John E. Marriott.  Rocky Mountain Books, Vancouver, BC.  ISBN  9781771601603

Some 20 years ago, a new wolf family moved into the Bow Valley of Banff National Park and ended up dominating the area for the next five years.  This book is about the investigations of two dedicated field researchers into that wolf family, and thanks to their efforts we know a great deal more about the dynamics of wolf packs and wolf families.  Later chapters deal with the eventual collapse of the Pipestone wolves and how human activity contributed to it.  Researcher and writer, Günther Bloch pulls no punches when he discusses the management of wolves and other wildlife in Banff.  It is the old dilemma of how to maintain a healthy environment for animals in the face of a growing human population.  It is hoped that, at the least, key aspects of his research will lead to management improvements.


 Classic Category

KingBird HighwayWinner.  Kingbird Highway:  The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder.  By Kenn Kaufman. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.  ISBN 9780618709403

In January of 1972, a month shy of his 18th birthday, Kenn Kaufman left his home in Kansas and hitched a ride to Texas.  He was a high school dropout with little money and few prospects for the future.  Nevertheless, driven and single-minded, Kaufman was embarking on a quest, a quest far removed from that of a typical 18-year old.  He was out to establish the record for the most birds identified in the US in one year.  This is the story of that year-long quest:  of living on pennies a day, of hitch hiking from one end of the country to the other, and of sleeping under bridges—and yet slowly, he filled his lists with birds.  And what of his uncertain future?  He didn’t do too badly.  Have you heard of the Kaufman guides, that popular series of bird, mammal and insect guides which have sold in the thousands?  Oh yes, that’s the same Kaufman.



 Design & Artistic Merit

Wild EncountersWinner. Wild Encounters: Iconic Photographs of the World’s Vanishing Animals and Cultures.   Photography and Commentary by David Yarrow.  Rizzoli, New York. 
ISBN 9780847858323

David Yarrow is one of the virtuosos of black and white wildlife photography.  His art has graced galleries from Europe to North America.  In this large format, portfolio-sized book, you’ll be treated to some of his finest work.  Arranged by the latitude of locale, his dramatic monochromatic photographs of wild and endangered animals appear to leap from the page.  Some of the most powerful images are tightly framed close-ups in which almost every hair of the animal can be seen.  The emphasis of the book is on wildlife, but he also features people who live in close proximity with the creatures he photographs, and included among those are stunning portrayals of the Inuit in northern Canada and the stately Dinka people of the South Sudan.  You won’t be disappointed.  This is truly the work of an artist at the height of his powers.


 Children’s Category

Pup the Sea OtterWinner.  Pup the Sea Otter.  By Jonathan London.  Illustrated by Sean London.  WestWinds Press/Graphic Arts Books, Portland.
ISBN 978194332887

This delightful book, the work of a father and son team, is about a ball of fur called Pup.  Jonathan London tells the story of a newly born sea otter, while his son Sean, a gifted illustrator, provides color and form to the story with his tender and eye-catching paintings.   Pup grows and learns how to forage for food, all under the watchful eye of his mom.  Children will love the dialog:  slurp, slurp, slurp; munch, crunch, munch.  There’s even some danger and excitement when a shark appears, but it all turns out fine when—you guessed it—mom comes to the rescue.  For ages 4-8.


TreecologyHonorable Mention.  Treecology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Trees and Forests.  By Monica Russo.  Photographs by Kevin Byron.  Chicago Review Press, Chicago.  ISBN 9871613733967 

This wonderful learning book about trees is for budding naturalists age seven and older.  Chapters typically start with a discussion of some aspect of tree biology which, in turn, is followed by one or more hands-on activities related to the discussion.  The activities are fun and designed to help children develop their own writing, drawing and literacy skills.  It is colorful, nicely designed, and perfect for a learning adventure in a nearby woods.



Long TrailsWinner. Backpacker Long Trails:  Mastering the Art of the Thru-hike.  By Liz Thomas.  Falcon Guides, Lanham, MD.  ISBN 9871493028726

Every so often a book comes along, finds broad acceptance, and becomes the bible of a sport.  This book is destined to rise to that position among long-trail hiking guides.  Authored by Liz Thomas who has hiked the big three—Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest—this comprehensive work is literally brimming full of practical advice for backpackers planning to spend weeks on the trail.  In addition to Thomas’s fine writing, sidebars written by other experienced hikers offer alternative ideas and strategies.  If you have a hankering to go on a long hike, there’s no question about it.  This is the one book that you’ll want to read before you go.


Big Walls, Swift WatersWinner.  Big Walls, Swift Waters:  Epic Stories from Yosemite Search and Rescue.  By Charles R. “Butch” Farabee.  Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite National Park, CA.  ISBN 9781930238749

Big Walls, Swift Waters is a little bit of everything.  It’s a history, a compilation of case studies, and an instructional guide about rescue equipment and techniques.  Well illustrated with photographs from past rescues, author Charles “Butch” Farabee documents many of the classic search and rescues that have occurred in Yosemite National Park.  It’s a fascinating, insider’s view of rescue, and you’ll find yourself rappelling out of helicopters, hanging on granite walls, and plunging into icy waters.



 Nature Guidebooks

Scout's Guide to Wild EdiblesWinner.  The Scout’s Guide to Wild Edibles.  By Mike Krebill.  St. Lynn’s Press, Pittsburg.
ISBN  9781943366064

Sometimes good guidebooks come in small packages.  The Scout’s Guide to Wild Edibles almost fits in a back pocket, and yet, for its relatively small size, it packs in a lot of information.  Author Mike Krebill knows his wild edibles, and he knows how to make a guidebook fun for young people.  A wild food expert and a Scout leader, he divides the book into two parts:  the first is the identification guide profiling 40 widely found edible wild plants and mushrooms.  The second half consists of recipes and ways of cooking wild foods.  In this last half boys and girls are pictured preparing and cooking plants that they have gathered on their outdoor forays.  It’s oriented to the younger set, of course, but adults just might want to sneak one along on the next outing.  They’ll find it pretty handy too.


Butterflies of PennsylvaniaWinner.  Butterflies of Pennsylvania:  A Field Guide.  By James L. Monroe and David M. Wright.  University of Pittsburg Press, Pittsburg. 
ISBN 9780822964551

Butterflies of Pennsylvania is one of those guidebooks that sets out with a purpose and ends up doing it well.  What appealed to the judges is that all of the information on a butterfly species is covered on a single page or a two-page spread.  There’s no need to look elsewhere for maps and other information.  The photos are crisp.  The text is clear, and the maps and charts easy to use.  If you live in Pennsylvania or in surrounding states, this fine guidebook is a must-have.



 Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks

Outdoor Adventures Acadia National ParkWinner.  Outdoor Adventures, Acadia National Park: Your Guide to the Best Hiking, Biking and Paddling.  By Jerry and Marcy Monkman.  Appalachian Mountain Club, Boston. 
ISBN 9781628420579

Situated along the rugged coastline of Maine, Acadia National Park is truly a Northeast treasure.  It’s the oldest designated national park area east of the Mississippi River and has a little of everything:  125 miles of hiking trails, 45 miles of historic carriage roads, rocky mountains, ponds, islands and dense evergreen forests.  One of the best ways to enjoy it is with this guidebook by Jerry and Marcy Monkman.  The Monkman’s are accomplished Eastern writers and photographers, and in this guide, they have detailed 50 choice hiking, biking and paddling trips.  There’s even a two-sided 20” x 25” full color map which can be removed from the back cover and which shows all of the routes covered in the book.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 National Outdoor book Awards



Outdoor Literature



Winner. Fast Into the Night:  A Woman, Her Dogs, and Their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail.  By Debbie Clarke Moderow.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.  ISBN 978054448412

In this beautifully written and moving account, Debbie Moderow whisks you away on a dogsled across Alaska.  Her interest in dogs began quite innocently when a friend gave their family a “retired” sled dog by the name of Salt.  Salt came just at a perfect time, helping Moderow recover from the depression following a second miscarriage.  The family took in more dogs, and in a roundabout way, Moderow ended up entering Alaska’s famous Iditarod race.  There’s adventure, of course, and plenty of it on the thousand-mile Iditarod trail, but what makes this book so appealing is the connection between Moderow and her dogs.  We come to learn their names, their personality quirks, and the warmth and love that she shares with each of them. 



Honorable Mention.  Portage: A Family, a Canoe and the Search for the Good Life. By Sue Leaf.  University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.  ISBN 9780816698547

Sue Leaf knows her way around a canoe, but what’s even better from our standpoint is that she is a gifted story teller.  In this collection of writings spanning 35 years, Leaf takes ordinary canoe trips and brings them alive.  Weaving the stories around family life, and natural and cultural history, her trips range from her home state of Minnesota to Canada to the bayous of Louisiana.  Yes, it is all about the good life, and one that Leaf has captured so well.




Natural History Literature



Winner. A Sea of Glass:  Searching for the Blaschkas’ Fragile Legacy in an Ocean at Risk.  By Drew Harvell.  University of California Press, Oakland, CA.  ISBN 9780520285682

They were very old, created in the mid 1800’s, but they were absolutely exquisite.  Stored away in a Cornell University warehouse for years, they were glass replicas of marine invertebrates, the spineless creatures of the sea.  They had been created by the great glass flower artists Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka of central Europe.  The delicate replicas were so life-like that upon first seeing them author Drew Harvell was mesmerized by their beauty.  As a professor of evolutionary biology, Harvell was well acquainted with the invertebrates, and she began to wonder if man’s activities in connection with the ocean have had any effect on the populations of animals represented by Blaschkas’ replicas.  That sets Harvell off on a journey of discovery, one in which you become an eyewitness, as she dives into the mysterious depths of the seas.






Winner. The Ghosts of K2: The Epic Saga of the First Ascent.  By Mick Conefrey.  Oneworld Publications, London.  ISBN 9781780745954

Of all the highest mountains in the world, K2 ranks among the most difficult and dangerous.  It’s not only the peak’s rarified air and exposed flanks that are responsible for its reputation, but violent storms can suddenly materialize, trapping climbers for days on end.  Using newly available source materials and interviews with surviving team members of past expeditions, author Mick Conefrey skillfully re-constructs a vivid and gripping history of the mountain.




Honorable Mention.  Continental Divide: A History of American Mountaineering.  By Maurice Isserman.  W. W. Norton, New York.  ISBN 9780393068504

There are several comprehensive historic works on American mountaineering and climbing, but Maurice Isserman ups the ante with this book.  Part of the book’s appeal is the way he approaches the subject, deftly blending notable achievements in the climbing world with social and cultural history.  Works such as this can easily drag after the first couple of chapters, but not this one.  Isserman has a lively and engaging writing style which holds one’s attention and keeps the pages turning.



Honorable Mention.  Valley Walls: A Memoir of Climbing & Living in Yosemite.  By Glen Denny.  Yosemite Conservancy. Yosemite National Park.  ISBN 9781930238633

They were an unkempt bunch.  Some of them went days on end without bathing.  They were the denizens of that notorious campground in Yosemite called Camp 4 who pioneered the techniques and equipment of modern day big wall climbing.  In the 1960’s, author Glen Denny was there, taking many of the era’s iconic photographs and making some of his own notable first ascents.  Valley Walls is his engrossing and memorable story of those raucous days.



Design and Artistic Merit



Winner. The Living Bird: 100 Years of Listening to Nature.  Photography by Gerrit Vyn.  Design by Jane Jeszeck. Essays by Scott Weidensaul, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, John W. Fitzpatrick, and Jared Diamond.  Mountaineers Books (Seattle) in conjunction with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (New York).  ISBN 9781594859656

From one of the leading ornithology labs comes a book with extraordinary design and breathtaking imagery.  Within the pages of this elegant book, master photographer Gerrit Vyn and leading naturalists, explore the fascinating world of birds.   It’s not just Vyn’s accomplished photography — though the book could stand alone on Vyn’s art alone — it is also filled with up-to-date facts, and insightful and satisfying writing.  This is a superior production in every respect.  If you have just one book on birds in your library, you can’t make a better choice than this one.



Winner.  Yosemite in the Fifties: The Iron Age.  Design by Tom Adler and Evan Backes.  Photo Editing by Dean Fidelman.  Edited by John Long.  Patagonia Books, Ventura, CA.  ISBN 9781938340482

Two words come to mind in describing this handsomely done, large format book: visual celebration.  What it celebrates are the highly inventive years of the 1950’s when climbers in Yosemite pushed the boundaries of what was possible, all the while experimenting and creating new tools of the trade.  The photos are drawn from a wide variety of original sources and fit comfortably into the book’s crisp graphic design.  Enhancing the overall appeal of the book is the inclusion of classic writings authored by climbers of the time period.  All in all, it’s a striking work which captivates from the first page all the way to the last thought-provoking photograph on the back cover. 



Honorable Mention.  Todd and Brad Reed’s Michigan: Wednesdays in the Mitten.  Photography by Todd & Brad Reed.  Design by Todd & Brad Reed, Sarah Genson and Rachel Gaudette.  Cover by Misty Reed.  Todd & Brad Reed Photography, LCC., Ludington, MI.  ISBN 9781495152139.

Page through this book and you’ll be immediately impressed:  both with its beauty and its size.  It is large, larger than typical large format books.  That’s because the father and son team of Todd and Brad Reed deserve an expansive canvas on which to display their art.  Within the book’s covers are a series of stunning photographs that were taken on every Wednesday throughout a one year period.  This is photographic virtuosity of the highest order and a compelling tribute to the state of Michigan




Nature and the Environment



Winner. Victory Gardens for Bees: A DIY Guide to Saving the Bees. By Lori Weidenhammer.  Douglas & McIntyre, Madeira Park, BC.  ISBN 9781771620536

During World War I and II, many people planted “victory gardens.”  It was way in which individuals could help the war effort by supplementing their country’s food supply.  In this splendidly designed and photographed book, Lori Weidenhammer suggests that victory gardens are again necessary, but for a different reason: to help resolve the shortage of forage and shelter faced by bees.  The book serves as an instructional guide — text, graphics and photographs perfectly meshing together — describing how anyone, even with limited space, can create their own sanctuary for bees. 



Children’s Category



Winner. Chasing at the Surface:  A Novel.  By Sharon Mentyka.  WestWinds Press/Graphic Arts Books, Portland.  ISBN 9781943328604

In this 220-page novel for young adults, 12-year old Marisa’s world is thrown into confusion when her mom leaves on a mysterious trip.  A school science project monitoring a pod of whales helps take her mind off her worries.  As Marisa learns more about whales, she begins to understand the delicate life-and-death balance facing these creatures of the deep.  Her interest and passion for the whales grows, but events take a turn for the worse when the whales become trapped because of human activity.  The story comes to a climax as Marisa plays a role in helping the whales escape back into the wild, and her mother returns and reveals a long held secret.



Honorable Mention.  Wake Up, Island.  By Mary Casanova.  Woodcuts by Nick Wroblewski.  University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.  ISBN 9780816689354

If you’re looking for the perfect book to read aloud to young children, look no further.  The story is about the natural world coming awake in the early morning: the sun peeking above the horizon, pine trees stretching,and deer rising from their grassy beds.  Wake Up, Island is a joy to read with its fun word play and animal
sounds — like:  squirrels chattering chitter-chee and chickadees calling dee dee dee.  Nick Wroblewski’s gorgeous woodcuts are the icing on the cake and will have children wide-eyed and eager to point out their favorite creatures.






Winner. Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon. By Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers.  Puma Press, Flagstaff, AZ.  ISBN 9780984785803

Originally published in 2001, Over the Edge has since sold well over a quarter million copies.  Meticulously researched, it categorizes fatalities and near misses into several groupings including falls, flash floods, river running accidents, and freak mishaps such as lightning and rock falls.  Yes, it is fascinating reading — if somewhat chilling, especially if you happen to be hiking or boating in the Grand Canyon area while reading it.  But its true value lies in the authors’ thoughtful analysis of accidents and their causes — most of which, we learn, are preventable and occur again and again.  There’s no such thing as perfect safety in the desert and canyon environment, but by learning from exceptional works as this one, we can certainly tip the odds in our favor. 



Nature Guidebooks



Winner. Mushrooms of the Northeast: A Simple Guide to Common Mushrooms.  By Teresa Marrone and Walt Sturgeon.  Adventure Publications, Cambridge, MN.  ISBN 9781591935919

There’s a lot to like about this small guide, starting with its size — it will fit easily in the pocket of a pack for use in the field.  The book is nicely organized into sections by the mushroom’s shape for ease of identification.  Safety is front and center throughout, and that’s underscored with the two most important categories leading off the identification chapters:  edible and toxic mushrooms.  Moreover, from start to finish the authors are careful to point out when an edible mushroom might be confused with a toxic one.  Written in a straightforward, no-nonsense style, this is the right book for aspiring mushroomers.



Honorable Mention.  Pacific Seaweeds:  A Guide to the Common Seaweeds of the West Coast.  By Louis D. Druehl and Bridgette E. Clarkston.  Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, BC.  ISBN 9781550177374

If you’ve ever wondered about the names of seaweeds that have washed up on shore, this is the guide to reach for.  Of the several methods employed by the authors to aid your identification efforts, one of the most clever is the way seaweeds are photographed.  The book often portrays a seaweed held in a hand or draped over a finger.  That not only helps provide size perspective but it also personalizes the process of identifying it.  It’s what you would see when holding a specimen in your own hand.  What plainly comes through in this book is that the authors are enthusiastic and passionate about these plants of the sea.  They’ve even included an extra treat for your culinary pleasure: a series of sea vegetable recipes.  Bon appétit!




Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks



Winner. Hiking Acadia National Park: A Guide to the Park’s Greatest Hiking Adventures.  By Dolores Kong and Dan Ring.  Falcon Guides, Guilford, CT.  ISBN 9781493016617

There’s nothing like Maine’s Acadia National Park.  From its shoreside walks to the commanding view from the highest mountain on the Atlantic seaboard, it’s a place that inspires and regenerates the soul.  One nice feature to Dolores Kong and Dan Ring’s guidebook is the way they have organized hikes according to interest: best hikes for great views, or hikes for children, or dogs, history buffs, peak baggers, or ocean lovers.  It’s all there in one compact package with thoughtful design, clear maps, and straightforward trail descriptions.






Honorable Mention. Winter in the Wilderness:  A Field Guide to Primitive Survival Skills.  By Dave Hall with Jon Ulrich.  Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.  ISBN 9780801479953

There’s nothing fancy here.  No frills.  No colorful graphics.  How best to describe it?  It’s is like having a conversation with Northeastern survival expert Dave Hall.  You ask a question and Hall responds with his thoughts.  He might explain the finer points of building a fire (which he demonstrates using what he calls a “fire burrito”).  Or he might offer his opinion on the pros and cons of different snow shelters.  It’s informal, unaffected, and plain good advice.



Official NOBA reviews prepared by Ron Watters.  Reviews are based on comments and insights provided by members of the judging panels.  A special thanks to Katherine Daly for her editorial work. 



Crystal Atamian, Spokane Valley, WA
 Editor, writer and wildlife educator.  Creator and author of Duck Duck Moose, a blog about nature and family.  Former Assistant Book Review Editor for ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment.   Former writer for Reno News & Review. Master of Arts in Literature and Environment.

Natalie Bartley, Boise, ID
Freelance outdoor writer/photographer/editor and certified Nordic ski instructor. Active member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association. Doctorate in Recreation and Leisure Services from University of Utah. Author of Best Easy Day Hikes Boise and Best Rail Trails Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon, and Idaho and Boise’s Best Outdoor Adventures mobile app travel guide.

Virginia Barlow, Corinth, VT
Consulting forester and founder of Redstart Forestry. Co-founder, writer and editor of Northern Woodlands Magazine (20 years). Currently active in land conservation work and all things natural. Author of The Nature of the Islands about the flora, fauna and sea life of the Caribbean.

Jeff Cramer, Lincoln, MA
 Curator of Collections at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods.  Editor of Thoreau on Freedom: Attending to the Man, Selected Writings of Henry David Thoreau, and an annotated edition of Walden.

Val Cunningham, St. Paul, MN
 Naturalist, freelance writer and editor, leads local bird hikes and conducts bird surveys for Audubon. Author of The Gardener’s Hummingbird Book. Regular columnist for Outdoor News and Minneapolis StarTribune. Writes for local, regional and national nature and bird-oriented publications.

Jim & Sara Fullerton, St. Petersburg, FL

 Past president of the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.  Doctorate in Human Sciences from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.   Assistant Professor for management and leadership development at the College of Coastal Georgia.  Twenty years experience as an outdoor adventure leader.  His wife Sara who assists with judging the children’s category is an elementary school teacher and has worked in a children’s bookstore.

Dale Harrington, Boone, NC
 Biology instructor at Caldwell Community College.  Naturalist.  Former trip leader for Appalachian State University. Avid mountaineer and hiker.

Rob Jones, Salt Lake City, UT
 Director of the University of Utah Outdoor Recreation Program.  Former president Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.  Certified Utah river guide and Leave No Trace Master Educator.

Rodney Ley, Fort Collins, CO
 Director for Outdoor Programs at Colorado State University.  Former outdoor columnist for Gannett newspapers.  Founder of a backcountry ski yurt system.  Former board member, Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.

Kate Mapp, Heber City, UT
 Head Librarian, Summit Country Library, Kama Branch.  Former Lead Wilderness Ranger for the US Forest Service (5 years).   Level III ski patroller and former president of the Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association.  Reviewer for “Women Writing in the West” Book Awards.

John Miles, El Prado, NM
 Former Dean and Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies, Huxley College, Western Washington University.  Author of six books, most recently Wilderness in National Parks: Playground or Preserve.  Currently researching books on national parks and the history of the youth conservation movement.

Jill Morgan, Cynthiana, KY
 Publisher of Purple House Press specializing in classic children’s books.  Supervises book layout, design and production.  Lives on an old dairy farm with her husband, three children, and an assortment of dogs and cats.  Past president of the local Humane Society.

Susanne Dubrouillet Morais, Raleigh, NC
 Assistant Professor, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University.  Formerly, program director and instructor at Penn State University working with recreation majors and overseeing Penn State’s Wilderness Orientation Program.  Past program director with Clemson University’s Clemson Expeditions.  Masters of Education in Outdoor Education.

James Moss, Littleton, CO
 Outdoor industry attorney, risk management consultant, author and speaker.  Chair, American Alpine Club Library Committee.  Board of directors of the Galapagos Preservation Society, and Colorado Alliance of Environmental Education.  Teaches ski area risk assessment, liability and safety at Colorado Mountain College.  Author of Outdoor Recreation Risk Management, Insurance and Law.

Tom Mullin, Unity ME
 Fellow of the National Association for Interpretation.  Associate Professor of Parks and Forest Resources at Unity College.  Consultant for a series of twenty Time-Life nature books.  1987 Thru-hiker of the 2,100+ mile Appalachian Trail.

Tammie L. Stenger-Ramsey, Bowling Green, KY
 Associate Professor, Recreation Administration and Outdoor Leadership at Western Kentucky University.  Leave No Trace Master Educator.  American Canoe Association Canoe Instructor.  Student Literary Award Coordinator for the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.

Ron Watters, Pocatello, ID
Chairman, National Outdoor Book Awards.  Author of eight outdoor books (Never Turn Back, Ski Camping, The Whitewater Book, etc.)  Formerly, Director of the Idaho State University Outdoor Program (25 years).

Ingrid Wicken, Norco, CA
 Founder and Director of the California Ski Library.  Author of works on the history of skiing (Lost Ski Areas, Pray for Snow: The History of Skiing in Southern California, etc.).  Professor of Kinesiology at Moreno Valley College.

Melanie Wulf, St. Charles, IL
 Former director of the Outdoor Program at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.  Masters in Outdoor Education from Northern Illinois University.  Certified Elementary and Middle School Teacher.



National Outdoor Book Award judging starts this week.

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2015 National Outdoor Book Award Winners have been Announced

See who garnered national attention because of great writing, editing and photography.

See who won at the National Outdoor Book Awards website.


















2013 National Outdoor Book Award Winners

Some of the best books in decades.

Congratulations to the authors, photographers, editors and publishers of this years winners. To see the winners and read more about them go to:2013 National Outdoor Book Award Winners.

Continental Divide: Wildlife, People and the Border WallEverest: The West Ridge

The California Wildlife Habitat Garden:  How to Attract Bees, Butterflies, Birds and Other Animals

Telling Our Way to the Sea:  A Voyage of Discovery in the Sea of Cortez

The Incidental Steward: Reflections on Citizen Science

Wolves in the Land of Salmon

I Promise Not to Suffer:  A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail

Closer to the Ground: An Outdoor Family’s Year on the Water, in the Woods and at the Table

Everest: The West Ridge.

The Emerald Mile:  The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand CanyonEmerald Mile

The Appalachian Trail: Celebrating America’s Hiking Trail

A World in One Cubic Foot: Portraits of Biodiversity

Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Botswana

The Kid’s Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up

Your Guide to the National Parks: The Complete Guide to All 58 National Parks

Snow Travel: Skills for Climbing, Hiking, and Moving Across Snow

Butterflies of Indiana:  A Field Guide

The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors

The Field Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

A great year of books!

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2012 National Outdoor Book Award Winners

Great Reading!

Outdoor Literature


Winner.  Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail.  By Suzanne Roberts.  University of Nebraska PressISBN 9780803240124.

In the summer of 1993, author Suzanne Roberts and two other women set out on a month-long backpack trip in California’s Sierra Mountains.  Almost Somewhere is Robert’s introspective and no-holds-barred account of that journey and the interactions between the three women.  What emerges is a revealing and insightful coming-of-age portrait of women of the post baby boom generation.  Roberts obsesses with her weight, competes openly with other women for men, and grapples with conflicted views of sex and relationships.  One of the other women struggles with bulimia.  This is life in an outdoor setting from a feminine perspective:  anxiety over strange men met along the way and the challenges of long days on the trail—can Robert’s weakening knees and the health of her bulimic friend hold up to the end?  The dialog, the imagery, and the story are so well done and so absorbing that men and women of all generations will find it a satisfying and fulfilling literary treat.


Winner.  The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount Rainier.  By Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughan.  Ballantine Books.
ISBN 9780345523198.

The Ledge is story telling at its finest.  Jim Davidson is descending from a climb of Mount Rainier when he plunges into a crevasse, pulling his partner in with him.  Davidson survives the fall, but unknown to him at the time, his pack has stopped him, wedging between two walls of ice.  Below him is an abyss.  Shortly after he stops, a small avalanche of snow covers him completely.  Then his partner hurtles down and lands on top.  Somehow Davidson must dig himself out of the snow, provide aid to his critically injured partner, and plan a way to climb out—all the while, delicately balanced on his pack.  His is a struggle that involves all of his faculties and which alternates between hope, despair, and terror.  From start to finish, this is a story that will hold you spellbound.


Honorable Mention.  Before They’re Gone:  A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks.  By Michael Lanza.  Beacon Press.  ISBN 9780807001196.

Michael Lanza is a skilled wordsmith and his finely fashioned handiwork is on full display in Before They’re Gone.  Lanza takes his wife and two young children to some of the country’s most famous National Parks.  They hike, sea kayak, climb, canoe and cross-country ski.  It’s a heartwarming narrative of a family and their explorations of wild places.  It’s also a cautionary story of what might happen, and is happening, to those spectacular places that they visit as the earth continues to warm.


Natural History Literature


Winner.  The Forest Unseen:  A Year’s Watch in Nature. By David George Haskell.  Viking.  ISBN 9780670023370.

One square meter.  That’s what Forest Unseen is about: one square meter of a Tennessee forest.  But in George Haskell’s able hands, that’s all that is needed to reveal a world of wonder and magic.  An engaging and poetic writer, Haskell takes us on a journey through the seasons, documenting the changes in an old growth forest and describing the many ecological processes occurring there.  Through Haskell’s words, the forest comes alive and seeps gently and unobtrusively into our conscience.  Haskell has done it masterfully—writing with a quiet humility and a deceptive simplicity that mirrors the life in his small patch of the natural world.




Winner.  Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day.  By Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan.  W. W. Norton.  ISBN 9780393079883.

Buried in the Sky is a significant departure for mountaineer literature.  In a reversal of perspective, the book chronicles the story of climbing K2 from the Sherpas’ point of view.  What happened on K2 in 2008 shocked the mountaineering world.  Eleven climbers died and three others were seriously injured.  It’s through the eyes of Sherpas that Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan tell the story of those fateful hours on the mountain.  Impeccably researched, the two authors travelled to Nepal and Pakistan where they conducted interviews with Sherpa climbers, their families, relatives and friends.  They deal with the worries of Sherpa wives and the yearly tragedies weathered by their close-knit families.  It’s a book that finally humanizes the unsung heroes of the mountaineering world and their hopes and dreams for a better life.


Winner.  Anything Worth Doing: A True Story of Friendship and Tragedy on the Last of the West’s Great Rivers. By Jo Deurbrouck.  Sundog Book Publishing.  ISBN 9780985257804.

Jo Deurbrouck brings to life the story of two men who launch a small wooden dory in the roiling waters of Idaho’s Salmon River.  Their plan was to float all night and all the next day in an attempt to set a 24-hour speed record.  In this highly creative and exceptionally well written account, Deurbrouck traces the lives of these two men: one an aging, bear of a man, a Viet Nam era veteran and sometimes recluse river guide whose past includes boxing and ballet dancing;  and the other a fit, young man, a rising star among river runners, full of ideas and ambitions.  They put on the river in peak flood and are flung downstream, maneuvering their small boat through churning rapids, dodging boiling holes, and fending off massive logs caught in the current with them. You’ll find yourself glued to the pages as Deurbrouch deftly steers the narrative to a building climax.  This is an impressive piece of work and a welcomed addition to river literature and lore.


Design and Artistic Merit


Winner. Design and Artistic Merit.  Winner.  Beneath the Cold Seas: The Underwater Wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. By David Hall.  University of Washington Press and Greystone Books.  ISBN 978022295991160.

This book is a work of art from every possible angle—from the exquisite photographs, to the book’s design, to its flawless printing and production process.  There’s no other way to describe it:  David Hall has created a masterpiece.  It’s not something that came easy.  His underwater photographic technique had been painstakingly developed and refined over years of work.  And what a difficult environment in which to work:  diving in bitter cold waters, working in a neutrally buoyant state without a tripod, not having the ability to use telephoto lenses (because of the turbidity of the water), and dealing with a limited amount of time (due to air and nitrogen concerns).  Hall has everything right in this book.  There is nothing extraneous, and nothing missing.  This is a complete and moving immersion in the breathtaking underwater world of the Pacific Northwest.


 Children’s Category


Winner. For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson. By Peggy Thomas.  Illustrated by Laura Jacques.  Calkins Creek.  ISBN 9781590787649.

For the Birds is a delightful biography for children from 7 to 11 years of age.  Who is it about?
Why . . . none other than “Professor Nuts Peterson.”  Professor Nuts, who might carry a snake in his pocket or a bird’s egg in his hat, is the American artist and passionate bird lover who created the Peterson Field Guides.  His guides weren’t designed for scientists and specialists.  Rather, they were for everyone, making it easier for adults—and kids of all stripes and ages—to identifying birds, animals and plants.  Author Peggy Thomas quite handedly describes Peterson’s life from his childhood, to his success as an illustrator, and to his work as a conservationist. Fitting winningly with the text are bright and cheery illustrations by Laura Jacques.


 Nature and the Environment


Winner. The Melting Edge:  Alaska at the Frontier of Climate Change. By Michael Collier.  Alaska Geographic Association.  ISBN 9780982576519.

There is no better place in the United States to observe the effects of climate change than Alaska:  Glaciers are retreating, permafrost is thawing, and coastal areas are eroding.  While much has been written about the subject, author Michael Collier takes things a step further and shows us the consequences of global warming by the use of colorful and instructive photographs.  It’s a complex subject, but Collier provides concrete examples and boils it down to the essentials.  In the process, he takes us to the far corners of Alaska to learn from the scientists studying the effects of a changing climate and from the people living it day to day.


Honorable Mention.  Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast:  A Natural History.  By Carol Gracie.  Princeton University Press.  ISBN 9780691144665.

Spring Wildflowers is as elegant as the flowers found within its pages.  That’s due to the multi-talented Carol Gracie who is a writer, a botanist and a photographer.  In the book, she describes a host of Northeastern plants, but she doesn’t stop at the usual botanical boundaries.  Unique among plant guides, she goes on to include what species pollinate each plant.  She further firmly places each plant into the context of its habitat, what animals consume it, how it has been used as a medicinal plant.  Gracie’s book is a noteworthy achievement and quite effectively broadens our thinking about plants to include their many-sided relationship with all aspects of the ecosystem.


Honorable Mention.  Polar Bears: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior.  By Andrew E. Derocher.  Photographs by Wayne Lynch.  The John Hopkins University Press.  ISBN  9781421403052.

There’s a certain attraction to polar bears, and Andrew Derocher’s book adds to that attraction by deepening our understanding of these animals and the impact that human activity is having upon them.  Derocher lays out for us a comprehensive review of work done on these great mammals including their biology, ecology and behavior.  The text is supplemented by stunning photographs by Wayne Lynch who has spent decades following the bears.   It all works excellently together—photos and text—and the reader comes away with a renewed appreciation for one of nature’s most charismatic carnivores.


 Instructional Category


Winner. AMC Guide to Outdoor Digital Photography: Creating Great Nature and Adventure Photos. By Jerry Monkman.  Appalachian Mountain Club.  ISBN 9781934028506.

If you’ve been prospecting for just the right book on outdoor digital photography, look no further.  You’ll strike pay dirt with this new Appalachian Mountain Club guide.  Accomplished photographer Jerry Monkman who has worked for a variety of national outdoor and wildlife magazines, nicely elaborates on the subject in one easily readable and visually instructive book.  The book covers equipment, lenses, lighting, composition, exposure, and processing software.  The text is supplemented with case studies and expert advice.  This is outdoor photography after all, and Monkman doesn’t leave out suggestions on taking photos in adverse weather.  You’ll find plenty to be mined from this fine reference, and you won’t even need a pick and shovel.


Winner.  Backpacker Magazine’s Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair: Step by Step Techniques to Maximize Performance and Save Money.  By Kristin Hostetter.  Falcon Guides.  ISBN 9780762778317.

If you were to search the outdoor world for someone to write about repairing gear, you wouldn’t find anyone better suited for the job than Kristin Hostetter.  Hostetter has been Backpacker Magazine’s gear editor since 1994, and she knows a thing or two about the subject.  In the Complete Guide, Hostetter has consolidated her wide ranging knowledge into one comprehensive volume covering the repair of all sorts of equipment:  boots, packs, sleeping bags, clothing, stoves—and oh, how could we forget? —she also includes a special chapter on what can be done with a roll of duct tape.  The information from her book is particularly useful when you’re out in the field.  Stuff happens out there, and with Hostetter’s clear and helpful instructions you’ll be back on the trail in no time.  Add it all up, throw in the book’s classy and intelligent design, and this guide scores right at the top of its class.


Outdoor Adventure Guidebook Category


Winner.  Grand Canyoneering:  Exploring the Rugged Gorges and Secret Slots of the Grand Canyon.  By Todd Martin.  Todd’s Desert Hiking Guide.  ISBN 9780978961435.

If you’re into canyoneeering, Grand Canyoneering is a must-have.  Handsomely illustrated with color photographs throughout, this outstanding guide includes thorough explanations of over 100 different trips into the tributary drainages and ravines of the Grand Canyon.  Trip descriptions are supplemented with topographic maps, key GPS coordinates, and information on water sources, specialized equipment and natural history.  Todd Martin writes in a comfortable, conversational style which makes the guide a pleasure to read; yet, at the same time, he is exacting when it comes to describing canyon routes.  The sheer volume of material alone is impressive, and combined with the photos, maps, and text, it’s decidedly a tour de force of outdoor guidebooks.


 Nature Guidebook Category


Winner. A Field Guide to the Southeast Coast & Gulf of Mexico. By Noble S. Proctor and Patrick J. Lynch.  Yale University Press.  ISBN 9780300113280.

Tired of hauling around a library of guidebooks?  Here’s the alternative:  A Field Guide to the Southeast Coast.  It’s not just a guidebook.  It is several guidebooks rolled into one.  It is a bird guide.  It is a plant guide.  It is a fish guide.  It is a marine mammal guide.  This comprehensive work by Noble Proctor and Patrick Lynch includes over 600 species of flora and fauna of the Southeastern coastal regions and Gulf of Mexico.  All of this is in one compact and easy-to-navigate guide, perfect for beach goers, hikers, boaters, birders, fishers, snorkelers—and anyone who wants to leave the library at home.


Official NOBA reviews prepared by Ron Watters.  Reviews are based on comments and insights provided by members of the judging panels.  A special thanks to Katherine Daly for her editorial work.


Natalie Bartley, Boise, ID
Freelance outdoor columnist for the Idaho Statesman, certified Nordic ski instructor, and active member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Doctorate in Recreation and Leisure Services from University of Utah. Author of two outdoor guidebooks Best Easy Day Hikes Boise and Best Rail Trails Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, and the mobile app travel guide Boise’s Best Outdoor Adventures.

Val Cunningham, St. Paul, MN
Naturalist, freelance writer and editor, leads local bird hikes and conducts bird surveys for Audubon. Author of The Gardener’s Hummingbird Book. Regular columnist for Outdoor News and Minneapolis StarTribune.  Writes for local, regional and national nature and bird-oriented publications.

Dave Devoe, Walhalla, SC
Vice President and co-founder of emapstore.com specializing in maps and outdoor and travel books. Licensed South Carolina and Georgia geologist. Former environmental geology consultant.

Laura Erickson, Duluth, MN
Ornithologist (1,400 birds on her life list), contributing writer for Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Country Today. Author of five books.  Winner of the 1997 National Outdoor Book Award for her work Sharing the Wonder of Birds with Kids—and Dave Barry’s bird and tapeworm advisor.

Liam Guilar, Queensland, Australia
Writer, poet, musician and whitewater kayaker.  Made one of the first kayaking forays into what was Soviet Central Asia and then spent years exploring white water in Indonesia.  Liam’s reading material on kayaking outings has been known to include Beowulf, Paston Letters, and nineteenth century novels.

Steve Guthrie, Lock Haven, PA
Assistant Professor in Outdoor Recreation Management at Lock Haven University. Former President, of the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education. Journal Advisory Board for Journal of Experiential Education. Former outdoor program coordinator, University of Nebraska at Omaha. Co-author of Outdoor Recreation in America.

Jim & Sara Fullerton, St. Simons Island, GA
Past president of the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.  Doctorate in Human Sciences from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Assistant Professor for management and leadership development at the College of Coastal Georgia. Twenty years experience as an outdoor adventure leader. His wife Sara who assists with judging the children’s category is a former elementary school teacher and worked in a children’s bookstore.

Dale Harrington, Boone, NC
Biology instructor at Caldwell Community College.  Naturalist.  Former trip leader for Appalachian State University.  Avid mountaineer and hiker.

Paul Kallmes, Berkeley, CA
Editor of Summit: The Photographs of Vittorio Sella, 1879-1909.  Organized a subsequent photographic exhibition of Sella’s mountain photography.  Active climber for over 30 years.  Worked for 10 years at Mountainfilm in Telluride.

Rodney Ley, Fort Collins, CO
Director for Outdoor Programs at Colorado State University. Former outdoor columnist for Gannett newspapers.  Founder of a backcountry ski yurt system. Former board member, Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.

John Miles, Bellingham, WA
Professor of Environmental Studies at Huxley College, Western Washington University.  Author of six books, most recently Wilderness in National Parks: Playground or Preserve. Former Dean of Huxley College Currently directs graduate programs at Huxley in environmental education. Teaches environmental studies, focusing on literature, history, and education.

Susanne Dubrouillet Morais,  Raleigh, NC
Instructor at North Carolina State University. Program coordinator for Geospatial Information Science and Technology, NC State. Formerly, program director and instructor at Penn State University working with recreation majors and overseeing Penn State’s Wilderness Orientation Program. Past program director with Clemson University’s Clemson Expeditions. Masters of Education in Outdoor Education.

James Moss, Littleton, CO
Outdoor industry attorney, risk management consultant, author and speaker.  Chair, American Alpine Club Library Committee.  Board of directors of the Galapagos Preservation Society, and Colorado Alliance of Environmental Education.  Teaches ski area risk assessment, liability and safety at Colorado Mountain College.

Tom Mullin, Unity ME
Fellow of the National Association for Interpretation.  Associate Professor of Parks and Forest Resources at Unity College. Consultant for a series of twenty Time-Life nature books. 1987 Thru-hiker of the 2,100+ mile Appalachian Trail.

Sophie Osborn, Laramie, WY
Wildlife biologist and writer. Currently the Wildlife Program Director for the Wyoming Outdoor Council. Her book Condors in Canyon Country was the winner of the 2007 National Outdoor Book Award in the Nature and Environment category.

Tammie L. Stenger-Ramsey, Bowling Green, KY
Associate Professor, Recreation Administration and Outdoor Leadership at Western Kentucky University. Leave No Trace Master Educator. American Canoe Association Canoe Instructor. Student Literary Award Coordinator for the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.

Ron Watters, Pocatello, ID
Chairman, National Outdoor Book Awards. Author of eight outdoor books (Never Turn Back, Ski Camping, The Whitewater Book, etc.) Formally, Director of the Idaho State University Outdoor Program (25 years).

Melanie Wulf, St. Charles, IL
Former director of the Outdoor Program at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.  Masters in Outdoor Education from Northern Illinois University.  Certified Elementary and Middle School Teacher.

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