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The National Outdoor Book Awards (NOBA) is the outdoor world's largest and most prestigious book award program. It is a non-profit, educational program, sponsored by the NOBA 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 nine categories making up the program, including History, Literature, Children, Nature, 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.
Winner. Backcast: Fatherhood, Fly-fishing, and a River Journey Through the Heart of Alaska. By Lou Ureneck. St. Martins Press, New York. ISBN 9780312371517.
Backcast plays out like the long and splendid arc of a fly line, unfurling on an Alaskan river trip that Lou Ureneck has arranged to re-connect with his son. As the trip progresses, Ureneck reflects back on his own life while adroitly capturing the sometimes hilarious and sometimes serious interactions between himself and his son. The result is a realistic and heartwarming story of a father and his son -- and a work of outdoor literature of the highest order.
Winner. Blue Horizons: Dispatches from Distant Seas. By Beth A. Leonard. International Marine/McGraw-Hill, Camden, ME. ISBN 9780071479585.
This is a beautifully written series of vignettes about life and the sea. You'll follow along, experiencing the ebb and flow, as Beth Leonard and her partner Evans Starzinger travel from port to port, and through calm and storm, on their six-year, 50,000-mile voyage from one end of the world to the other.
Winner. The Very Hard Way: Bert Loper and the Colorado River. By Brad Dimock. Fretwater Press, Flagstaff, AZ. ISBN 9781892327697.
Brad Dimock tackled this book like a tough rapid where success is uncertain. Not only did he come through intact as an author, but he produced a marvelous work, certainly registering among the most creative of outdoor biographies. The subject of the book is Bert Loper, a legendary Colorado River boatman who died on the river at 80-years old while oaring his own boat. Loper, however, wasn't the easiest subject to write about. He was an ordinary person, not particularly educated, never quite successful at anything, even at building a proper river boat. Yet Dimock artfully combines his own exhaustive research with interviews, first-person stories, letters, and Loper's own writing to fashion an absorbing portrait of his life.
Winner. Forever on the Mountain: The Truth Behind One of Mountaineering's Most Controversial and Mysterious Disasters. By James M. Tabor. W. W. Norton & Company, New York. ISBN 9780393061741.
In 1967, a storm with winds of unimaginable ferocity caught seven climbers high on the slopes of Alaska's Mt. McKinley. When a rescue was finally mounted over a week later, all seven were dead. What actually happened and why so many died in one of North America's worst mountaineering disasters is still debated to this day. James Tabor's Forever on the Mountain sheds a new light on the tragedy. In addition to his extensive investigative work, Tabor is an outstanding story teller, and once started, this is a book that is hard to put down.
Winner. Condors in Canyon Country: The Return of the California Condor to the Grand Canyon Region. By Sophie A. H. Osborn. Grand Canyon Association, Grand Canyon, AZ. ISBN 9780938216988.
It's impossible to page through this book without catching Sophie Osborn's passion for the condor. It's a passion that runs deep for her, for she was one of the scientists who played a role in the successful effort to return this magnificent bird to the Grand Canyon area. The book's intelligent design backed up by Osborn's superb photographs combine to create the perfect vehicle to celebrate this environmental success story.
Winner. White Paradise: Journeys to the North Pole. By Francis Latreille. Abrams, New York. ISBN 9780810930940.
This lavish, large format volume by French adventurer and photojournalist, Francis Latreille unveils the Arctic hinterlands like no other. Introductory text covers expeditions, research and the peoples of the North, but mostly Latreille shows us the Arctic—and the effects of global warming—through a stunning collection of photographs.
Winner. Yosemite in the Sixties. Photographs by Glen Denny. Essays by Kevin Starr, Steve Roper and Glen Denny. Patagonia and T. Adler Books, Santa Barbara, CA. ISBN 0979064909.
This is Yosmite in the golden age: the big walls, the climbing action, the quiet times, the high times, the whole gamut of life and rock. Glen Denny, no slouch as a climber himself, was the era's premier photographer. The book's crisp and clear, black and white reproductions are perfectly complemented by insightful essays by Denny, Steve Roper and Kevin Starr. Yosemite in the 1960s ushered in a period of fast-paced growth, advancing technique, and a lifestyle of total commitment. Thankfully Glen Denny was there to capture it.
Winner. Arctic Wings: Birds of the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. Edited by Stephen Brown. The Mountaineers Books, Seattle. ISBN 0898869765.
Arctic Wings establishes a new benchmark in the art and literature of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This is not only a book of exceptional photography, but it also includes solid and factual information, along with a series of essays by noted biologists and conservationists. Topping off this stylish, impressively designed book is an included CD of the birdsongs of the refuge.
Winner. Peak. By Roland Smith. Harcourt, Orlando, FL. ISBN 9780152024178.
This novel for teens is about a boy who joins his father to climb the highest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest. If he makes it, he'll be the youngest person to reach the summit. It's a fast-paced story that ranges from the hustle and bustle of New York to the great, high plateau of Tibet. Does he make it? There's only way to find out.
Winner. Guide to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. By Tom Martin and Duwain Whitis. Vishnu Temple Press, Flagstaff, AZ. ISBN 9780977674985.
For whitewater river runners, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is the pinnacle experience. Now there's a river map and guide to match that reputation. It's built upon a series of 7.5 minute topographic maps, correctly oriented and large enough to read easily from the seat of your boat. Outstanding cartographical work combined with accurate descriptions of rapids, camps and landmarks make this the state-of-the-art of river guides.
Winner. The Complete Mountain Biking Manual. By Tim Brink. Ragged Mountain Press, Camden, ME. ISBN 9780071493901.
One look at this book and you'll want to grab your bike and head for the trail. Colorful, comprehensive and competently written, the Complete Mountain Biking Manual lives up to its title.
Winner. Birds of Northern South America: An Identification Guide. By Robin Restall, Clemencia Rodner and Miguel Lentino. Yale University Press, New Haven. ISBN 9780300108620.
This remarkable work consists of two volumes: the first with written descriptions of the birds, and the second with color plates portraying over 2,300 species in almost every distinct plumage. Quite simply, Birds of Northern South America is a tour de force.
Outdoor Classic Award. A Natural History of North American Trees. By Donald Culross Peattie. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. ISBN 9780618799046.
Donald Culross Peattie died in 1964, but he left us with the classical work on trees. His Natural History is not a field identification guide, but rather it goes far deeper. Through a lovely and poetic series of essays, Peattie describes the very essence of trees and our relationship with them. Each chapter covers a different tree, ranging from the sequoias to the pines to the hard woods—his rich descriptions exciting our imagination and reminding us of their utility and beauty.
Work of Significance Award. Connecticut Walk Book: The Guide to the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails of Western Connecticut. Edited Ann T. Colson. Connecticut Forest and Park Association, Rockfall, CN 06481. ISBN 0961905263.
No doubt about it. The Connecticut Walk Book is among the top tier of long-standing, tried-and-true guidebooks. With map accuracy assured by global positioning, and trail descriptions backed-up by the work of an army of volunteers, this is one dependable book. Guidebooks aren't any more comprehensive and useful than this.
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