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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. Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari With a Cast of Trillions. By Mark W. Moffett. University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 9780520261990
Mark Moffett is something of a fanatic when it comes to bugs. He has been variously described as Doctor Bug, Ant Man, or the Indiana Jones of Entomology. It comes as no surprise then, that in this colorfully illustrated book, he would take us for an unusual and far-ranging ride in search of the hidden world of ants. What we discover in their world are behaviors which are strikingly similar to those of humans: warriors, builders, hunters and farmers. We find ants engaged in market economies and production lines, and dealing with hygiene, recycling and warfare. There's a wonderful energy to Moffett's writing. He's rigidly scientific, that's a given, but he makes science fun. The Ant Man cometh. The Ant Man cometh forth with one fine book.
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Winner. An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World. By Anders Halverson. Yale University Press, New Haven. ISBN 9780300140873
A fascinating story unfolds in the pages of An Entirely Synthetic Fish. Aquatic ecologist, Anders Halverson adeptly chronicles the rise and fall of rainbow trout. Once this highly adaptable species was the fish of choice among wildlife managers, stocked in rivers, streams, and lakes worldwide; and, in fact, it is still the most commonly stocked fish in the US. But more recently, biologists have realized that it competes with native fish, and in some locations it is being eradicated. Nicely blending a balance of natural history, historical information, and personal accounts, Halverson has created a thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking work.
Winner. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. By Elisabeth Tova Bailey. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. ISBN 9781565126060
Author Elisabeth Tova Bailey is struggling to recover from a severe illness which has kept her bedridden for months at a time. While barely able to lift her head, she begins to take interest in a common woodland snail residing in a flower pot that a friend has given her. One evening, she watches transfixed as the snail, ever so slowly, begins to eat the withered blossoms of some long-gone flowers. In the quiet of her room, she can hear something . . . She can hear it eating! In this beautifully written, mesmerizing work, Bailey skillfully merges her own observations with scientific information. In the end, reader and author alike learn that a simple but wondrous little creature can give solace and hope to a life gone awry.
Winner. Kook: What Surfing Taught Me About Love, Life and Catching the Perfect Wave. By Peter Heller. Free Press, New York. ISBN 9780743294201
Peter Heller is on a quest. His quest is to learn in one year how to surf well, to master one big, beautiful hollow wave that only a very experienced surfer can ride. But there's a problem. He is a beginner. In fact, he is a kook, a derisive term in surfing lingo for a bumbling, rank beginner. There's another problem: his love life. In that endeavor, he is also a kook. Middle-aged, with a string of disappointing love affairs, Heller is hopeful that things might change with the new love of his life—Kim, a beautiful woman of Chinese descent. In this rich and gracefully written book, Heller's creative and artistic abilities are on full display. We follow along with him on an insightful, year-long quest as he grapples with the dual, ever capricious, challenges of love and the sea.
Honorable Mention. Just Passin' Thru. By Winton Porter. Menasha Ridge Press, Birmingham, AL. ISBN 9780897328494
Winton Porter quits a secure corporate job, empties his saving account, and buys a store and hostel in Georgia beside the Appalachian Trail. Along with his wife, two young daughters and their dog Sky, he settles into a life dictated by the comings and goings of hikers on the Appalachian Trail. What he finds tramping by his new home is such an odd cast of characters that at times he appears to be living in some sort of a parallel universe to Alice's Wonderland. There's Billy Bumblefoot, Preacher Man, Earthworm, Critter, Pirate, Lego, Groovy, and the list goes on. A warmth imbues Winton Porter's writing—warmth of family and friends and kindness to hikers just passin' thru. He is a splendid story teller, nicely capturing dialogue, and all the while, doing a pretty good job of tickling your funny bone too.
Winner. Pilgrims of the Vertical: Yosemite Rock Climbers & Nature at Risk. By Joseph E. Taylor III. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. ISBN 9780674052871
This is one of those rare works that treats climbing history as a subject of serious study, rather than a narrative or biography. While clearly academic in nature with 73 pages of endnotes, it is, nevertheless, a fascinating and illuminating read for climbers and non-climbers alike. Author Joseph Taylor views the history of rock climbing through a social and cultural lens. In one chapter "The Moralists," Taylor describes the process by which Yosemite climbers—quite surprisingly for a motley and wildly independent lot—create a moral code, a set of environmental ethics by which to climb. Later in the book we find that key members of the climbing counterculture undergo a metamorphism, and end up embracing mainstream American ideals, going on to successful business and professional careers, and even starting multi-million dollar companies. There's plenty of fat to chew upon here, plenty of ways of examining the world of climbing in a refreshingly new light.
Honorable Mention. The Last Man on the Mountain: The Death of an American Adventurer on K2. By Jennifer Jordan. W. W. Norton & Company, New York. ISBN 9780393077780
In 2002, while exploring the glacier at the base of K2, the world's second highest summit, author Jennifer Jordan and climber Jeff Rhoads came upon a grisly sight: the remains of Dudley Wolfe, an American who disappeared on the mountain in 1939. Saddened by the sight, but yet curious about Wolfe and his fate, Jordan, a journalist, spends the next several years investigating the story. For Jordan, it becomes an all-consuming endeavor reconstructing the personalities and events which led to Wolfe's disappearance. What she uncovers is a story of wealth, ambition, and betrayal.
Honorable Mention. Arctic Labyrinth: The Quest for the Northwest Passage. By Glyn Williams. Viking Canada, Toronto. ISBN 9780670068692
This is a remarkably well told story, written by a remarkably well versed author. Glyn Williams has been studying and writing about Arctic exploration his entire life, and his vast experience and scholarship comes together splendidly in this book about the Northwest Passage. Employing fresh and interesting approaches, he keeps the story moving along, nudging it in a slightly different direction than past works by examining the influences exerted on expeditions by supporters and financiers on the home front. If you read one book on the Northwest Passage, this is the one.
Winner. Annapurna: First Conquest of an 8,000-meter Peak. By Maurice Herzog. Lyon Press, Guilford, CT. ISBN 9781599218939
There is no question that Annapurna is an outdoor classic. National Geographic calls it the "most influential mountaineering book of all time." It appears in Sport's Illustrated top 100 sports books, and likewise on Outside Magazine's list of best outdoor books. Brilliantly told by Maurice Herzog, it is the riveting account of the 1950 ascent the 26,493-foot Himalayan giant. What made the climb even more challenging was that it was unknown territory. No one really knew from what side to climb the mountain. Herzog's team reached the summit, a remarkable achievement in itself, but what happened on the descent is some of the most gripping in all of mountaineering literature.
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Winner. Camping With the President. By Ginger Wadsworth. Illustrated by Karen Dugan. Calkins Creek, Honesdale, PA. ISBN 9781590784976
Camping with the President is a delightful and historically accurate book for children (ages 8-11). It's about two icons of the outdoor world: Theodore Roosevelt, our most outdoorsy president, and John Muir, the world famous naturalist. In May of 1903, President Roosevelt while on a western excursion made a planned stop at Yosemite National Park. Dismissing his Secret Service men and sending reporters away, he and John Muir went off on a camping trip. They spent four days together, chatting about the wonders of the outdoors and discussing the need to protect wild areas. Author Ginger Wadsworth captures those exciting days together, creating a marvelous portrait of the two men. That's complimented perfectly with Karen Dugan's colorful and lively illustrations of the two men.
Winner. Captain Mac: The Life of Donald Baxter MacMillan, Arctic Explorer. By Mary Morton Cowan. Calkins Creek, Honesdale, PA. ISBN 9781590787090
Promising explorers (ages 9-12) will be captivated by this 208-page biography. Moving along briskly, at a pace perfect for young readers, the book is about Donald MacMillan who explored the Arctic for nearly fifty years. MacMillan, a geologist, got his start in Arctic exploration when he accompanied Robert Peary's famous attempt to reach the North Pole in 1908-09. Smitten with the icy northern reaches, he continued going on various scientific and exploratory journeys until the 1950's. Author Mary Morton has done a first-class job with this book, combining solid research and exciting writing and creating a memorable likeness of this pioneering explorer.
Honorable Mention. An Egret's Day. Poems by Jane Yolen. Photographs by Jason Stemple. Wordsong, Honesdale, PA ISBN 9781590786505
Poetry is always a treat for children, and so are beautiful photographs of wildlife—particularly photographs of such a lovely and elegant bird as the egret. An Egret's Day combines the two into a verse-and-visual delight for youngsters (ages 9-11). Each page includes a poem, a photograph and a descriptive paragraph about egrets: what they eat, how they fly, how tall they stand, and other tidbits of egret life.
Winner. Freshwater Fish of the Northeast. Illustrated by Matt Patterson. Text by David A. Patterson. University Press of New England, Hanover, NH. ISBN 9781584658191
This lovely identification guide to 60 freshwater fish in New England is the result of collaborative work between a father (the author) and his son (the illustrator). What a job Matt Patterson did with the illustrations. He knows his fish and he knows his art. The illustrations are absolutely splendid: accurately rendered and artistically striking. Moreover, the book's designer created a handsome blend of art and text, and in places, even creates the appearance of fish migrating through the book. If you're a serious fisher in the Northeast, or if serious anglers come to visit, this is a book you'll want lying on the coffee table.
Winner. Tracks and Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates: A Guide to North American Species. By Charley Eiseman and Noah Charney. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA ISBN 9780811736244
Tracks and Sign is an outstanding work and a first-of-its-kind. The purpose of this 592-page guide is to aid in identifying beetles, spiders, flies, ants, slugs, and many other invertebrates from the sign they leave behind. Signs include egg and egg cases, droppings, secretions, webs, cocoons, coverings, galls, burrows, mounds, tracks and trails. Included are 1,000 color photos and some 2,000 species. It's clearly a must-have for anyone who enjoys learning more about the invertebrates.
Honorable Mention. Night Sky: A Field Guide to the Constellations. By Jonathan Poppele. Adventure Publications, Cambridge, MN. ISBN 9781591932291
This is a fine guide, a perfectly portable companion for a night under the stars. Simple and easy to use, Night Sky is intelligently laid out, focusing on one constellation at time instead of charts with a mass of stars. The top edge of the book is tabbed with colors representing the four seasons. Each season begins with the most easily identified constellations progressing to more difficult. You can use one of two different methods to locate the constellation: an overhead map or horizon chart. All these features are finished off nicely with just the right amount of complementary text to enhance your star gazing experience.
Honorable Mention. Molt in North American Birds. By Steven N. G. Howell. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. ISBN 9780547152356
New and groundbreaking, Molt in North American Birds is a significant addition to our understanding of birds. What is molt? Simply stated, it is the process in which birds shed old, worn feathers and replace them with new, healthy ones. Recognizing the signs of molt adds one more piece to the identification puzzle and more fully helps explain the life of birds. Admittedly, this book is not for the casual avian observer, but professionals and experienced bird watchers will clearly want to add it to their reference library.
Winner. Exploring Havasupai: A Guide to the Heart of the Grand Canyon. By Greg Witt. Menasha Ridge Press, Birmingham, AL. ISBN 9780897326544
There are any number of tucked away oases in the Grand Canyon, but if there is a Shangri-la, it's Havasupai. The remote and isolated village, also known as Supai, has been home to the Havasupai Indians for centuries. To get to Supai, you have to hike in 8 miles. Two miles beyond Supai is a campground, and explorations of Havasu Canyon and its famous turquoise waters begin from there. This full-color guidebook includes information on flora, geology, cultural history and backcountry trails, but it is the preparatory material which is some of the most useful: obtaining reservations, getting there, where to stay, choice of equipment, and other helpful hints to make your journey to Shangri-la a memorable one.
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Winner. Sport Climbing: From Top Rope to Redpoint, Techniques for Climbing Success. By Andrew Bisharat. The Mountaineers Books, Seattle. ISBN 9781594852701
Andrew Bisharat is a senior editor at Rock and Ice magazine and he couldn't be better suited to write about sport climbing. He is an accomplished, versatile climber and an equally accomplished author. Bisharat's clear descriptions along with plentiful and instructive photographs provide thorough coverage of the sport. It's all there and all nicely done: history, gear, climbing moves, falling, belaying, motivation, and more.
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
Outdoor columnist for the Idaho Statesman, certified Nordic ski instructor, and active member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Author of two outdoor guidebooks Best Easy Day Hikes Boise and Best Rail Trails Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Doctorate in Recreation and Leisure Services from University of Utah.
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 (1,000 birds on her life list), contributing writer for Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Country Today. 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 Fullerton, Pocatello, ID
Former Outdoor Program Director at University of Nebraska. Past President of the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education. Current Assistant Dean of Students and Leadership Program Director at Idaho State University.
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.
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; board of directors, Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.
John Miles, Bellingham, WA
Director of the Center for Geography and Environmental Social Sciences, Huxley College, Western Washington State. Executive Editor of the Journal of Environmental Education. Author/Editor (North Cascades, Guardians of the Parks, and Adventure Education, etc.).
Susanne Dubrouillet Morais, Raleigh, NC
Instructor 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.
Tom Mullin, Unity ME
Fellow of the National Association for Interpretation. Director, Center for Natural Resource Management and Protection. Associate Professor of Parks, Recreation and Ecotourism . 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 Manager 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.
Jim Paruk, Ashland, WI.
Professor of Biology at Northland College. Doctoral dissertation on the behavioral ecology of the Common Loon. Author of Sierra Nevada: Tree Identifier and is currently working on a collection of nature writings.
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. Awards Chairperson, 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, Geneva, 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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