Attention outdoor book lovers! If you’re looking to shore up your bookshelf for the rest of winter and beyond, well, have I got a cornucopia of pleasing titles for you. And I’ll wager good money that you’ll find a few good ones of interest here among the list of the 2013 winners of the National Outdoor Book Awards.
Take an in-depth look at the wildlife and people along both sides of the man-made wall that is the U.S.-Mexico border. Discover how to turn your garden into a sanctuary for all kinds of wildlife. Take a voyage through the wild waters of the Sea of Cortez off Baja, Mexico. Cross the salmon country of the Pacific Northwest to study wolves. Hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. Enjoy a chronicle of a family’s year of simple living. Scale a previously unclimbed ridge on Mount Everest. Raft the Grand Canyon through once-in-a-lifetime flood waters. Take a photo and essay tour of the Appalachian Trail. Enjoy a guided tour of all 58 of our treasure national parks. Learn the necessary skills for traveling safely over the mountain snows.
According to the NOBA website, “the National Outdoor Book Awards is the outdoor world’s largest and most prestigious book award program. It is a non-profit, educational program, sponsored by the National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, and Idaho State University.
The purpose of the awards is to recognize and encourage outstanding writing and publishing. Each fall in early November, the NOBA Foundation announces the winners of the ten categories making up the program, including History, Literature, Children, Nature, Natural History, Instructional, Adventure Guidebook, Nature Guidebook, Design, and Outdoor Classic.
The program has very high standards of fairness and objectivity and has no connection whatsoever to any publisher or publishing business interest. The winners are chosen by a panel of judges consisting of educators, academics, book reviewers, authors, editors, and outdoor columnists from throughout the country. Once selected, the books are publicized through wire service stories, press releases, and announcements at related websites.”
Ron Watters, the Chair of the National Outdoor Book Awards, reviews the winners…
NATURE & ENVIRONMENT
Krista Schlyer in her winning book “The Continental Divide” reports on the controversial border wall between the United States and Mexico and its effect on the natural environment.
“This is a groundbreaking work,” said Watters. “The effects of the border wall on the environment have been left out of the national discourse, but Krista Schlyer casts a bright light on this forgotten part of the debate.”
When Congress authorized the border wall, it allowed the Department of Homeland Security to waive environmental laws near the border, and as a result, according to Schlyer, the wall has devastated wildlife migration paths. It has also rerouted human traffic through the most pristine and sensitive of wild lands.
“This book is an important work on nature, and it’s timely,” said Watters. “It is the judges’ hope that the book plays a role in jump-starting a more fully informed debate on the wall.”
The winner of the Natural History category is “Telling Our Way to the Sea” by Aaron Hirsh.
Each year for a decade Hirsh has been taking a small group of students to the Sea of Cortez for a course in ecology and evolutionary biology. Using dialog, interactions between himself and his students, he merges marine biology, research, and cultural and natural history into his narrative.
“It’s done very effectively,” said Watters. “Here we have a book on natural history, but it reads much like a novel. Hirsh will keep you turning the pages, and you’ll come away with a whole new understanding of the Sea of Cortez and its natural history.”
Winning the Outdoor Literature category is “I Promise Not to Suffer” authored by Gail Storey. At the beginning of the book Storey has to make a decision. Is she willing to put her life on hold and sell her possessions, including a dream house, to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with her husband?
“She longs to be with her husband and immerse herself in nature and decides to go on the long journey,” said Watters, “But then she realizes that she hates bugs!”
“Her story of hiking the Pacific Crest trail is brilliantly witty. She is a master story teller and has a wonderful way with words. It’s one of those books that leaves you with a smile on your face and completely satisfied when you reach the end.”
“The Emerald Mile” by Kevin Fedarko is the winner of the History/Biography category. Fedarko, a previous staff writer for Time Magazine, tells the story of three river guides that attempt the fastest run down the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
“Fedarko focuses on the three guides,” said Watters, “but at the same time, he adeptly weaves into his narrative the broader story of the river itself. It’s a fascinating blend of adventure, history, politics and the culture of river running.”
The winner of the Children’s category also has an adventurous theme and is about two brothers who travel with their parents to Botswana. While there, the brothers go on a safari and find themselves face to face with poachers.
Entitled “Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Botswana,” it’s by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet and is appropriate for 9-12 year olds.
“The story is told quite cleverly, in journal form: first one brother writing in his diary and then the other brother,” said Watters. “It’s a technique that might inspire young readers to keep their own diaries.”
Two of this year’s winners feted milestones. The first of the two is “The Appalachian Trail” which is an attractive, large format book celebrating the 75 birthday of the establishment of the Appalachian Trail.
The other is a classic in mountaineering literature: “Everest: The West Ridge.” It was 50 years ago that the first Americans stood on the summit of the highest mountain in the world. One of the major accomplishments of that 1963 expedition was the ascent of the mountain by a bold and entirely unknown route: the West Ridge. This book tells the story of that historic climb.
“The West Ridge” was re-issued by The Mountaineers Books and includes all of the original text and photographs. It also includes a special addendum which follows-up on the lives of each of the members of expedition now a half century later.
A complete list of all eighteen 2013 winners plus full reviews can be found at the National Outdoor Book Awards website.