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 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. Here are this year's winners.
Winner. The Pacific Alone: The Untold Story of Kayaking's Boldest Voyage.
By Dave Shively. Falcon, Guilford, CT. ISBN 9781493026814
This is one of those absorbing books that is certain to carry you away on an inner voyage of your own. It is about an audacious attempt by Ed Gillet to cross the Pacific Ocean from California to Hawaii, a journey that would take at least two months. His means of travel? A kayak. That's right. A kayak! Even solo adventurers crossing the ocean in a row boat have a place to sleep. But a kayak? This is truly a great adventure, and outdoor writer and kayaking aficionado Dave Shively is perfect to tell the story. Does Gillet make it? You can find out in this first rate chronicle of the journey.
Winner. Inner Ranges: An Anthology of Mountain Thoughts.
By Geoff Powter. Rocky Mountain Books, Victoria, BC. ISBN 9781771602877
Inner Ranges is a collection of writings, the culmination of a lifetime of puzzling over what it is that motivates climbers and mountain explorers. Geoff Powter comes at it from a unique perspective, that of a practicing clinical psychologist. Included are his own personal stories, opinion pieces, and insightful profiles of notable climbers. What adds greatly to the book's appeal is that Powter has added commentary, evaluating his past writings in a new light and adding clarity in the passing of the years.
Honorable Mention. The Salt Path.
By Raynor Winn. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN 9780143134114
Lyrical, poignant, and full of heart, Raynor Winn's Salt Path is outdoor writing — or simply any kind of writing — at its very best. A true story, Raynor and her husband lose their small farm in Wales to creditors and find themselves nearly penniless, without even a place to live. Then to add to their already overwhelming burdens, her husband of thirty-two years is diagnosed with a terminal illness. With little time left, they decide to embark on a 630-mile trek on a coastal hiking trail in southwest England . . . and then everything changes. This is a story of hope, love, and the life-affirming power of living simply in the outdoors.
Winner. Grinnell: America's Environmental Pioneer and his Restless Drive to Save the West.
By John Taliaferro. Liveright Publishing, New York. ISBN 9781631490132
John Taliaferro is the author of several other highly acclaimed biographies, and his skill as a writer is on full display in this consummate work on George Bird Grinnell. Of all of the giants of the conservation movement, Grinnell is probably the least recognized. In the late 1800s Grinnell, a zoologist and anthropologist by training, came to realize that the United States was undergoing an alarming decline of birds and other wildlife. As a consequence, he began writing and editing countless articles arguing for sane conservation policies. Putting his words into action, he spearheaded the formation of the first Audubon Society, and along with Theodore Roosevelt, was a founding member of the Boone and Crockett Club, organized for the protection of wildlife habitat. Based on exhaustive research, Taliaferro synthesizes a vivid portrait of Grinnell, clearly establishing his place in the pantheon of American conservationists.
Winner. Drawn to the Deep: The Remarkable Underwater Explorations of Wes Skiles.
By Julie Hauserman. University Press of Florida, Gainesville. ISBN 9780813056982
In this well-told biography, the life of underwater pioneer Wes Skiles comes alive. Wes Skiles was a legendary scuba diver known for his exploratory cave dives and his innovative underwater photography work. Skiles explored where others had never been before, all the while inventing, innovating, and pushing the limits of what was possible. His work appeared in national magazines and in over one hundred documentary films. Readable and engrossing, Julie Hauserman's book is an exploration of the man and the hauntingly beautiful underworld that he inhabited.
Nature and the Environment
Winner. River of Redemption: Almanac of Life on the Anacostia.
By Krista Schlyer. Texas A&M University Press. College Station, TX. ISBN 9781623496920
The Anacostia River is not a long river. From its watershed in Maryland, it flows only nine miles before joining the Potomac River in Washington DC. Although short, it is long on cultural history, and even longer in the lessons to be learned from its checkered environmental past. River of Redemption is Krista Schlyer's moving, personal story of the river, a story she spent seven years photographing and even longer in exploring its natural world. It's a river which has been exploited and abused; yet despite all that it has suffered, Schlyer still finds isolated havens of beauty. While those havens are few to be found, Schlyer expresses hope that through continued efforts of restoration, the river may one day regain its former glory as a healthy, thriving ecosystem.
Natural History Literature
Winner. Underland: A Deep Time Journey.
By Robert Macfarlane. W. W. Norton, New York. ISBN 9780393242140
In this extraordinary book, Robert Macfarlane guides us on a journey downward through layers of soil where roots anchor trees and plants, and down further through bedrock and into caves where thousands of years ago the ancients left their art. Macfarlane relates one amazing story after another in vivid, soulful language, describing hidden worlds beneath our feet. Compelling and thought provoking, this is natural history writing at its best.
Honorable Mention. The Secret Wisdom of Nature: Trees, Animals, and the Extraordinary Balance of All Living Things.
By Peter Wohlleben. Greystone Books, Vancouver. ISBN 9781771643887
Reading The Secret Wisdom of Nature is like having an informal chat with Peter Wohlleben, ambling along, on a stroll through the woods near his home. There is an intimacy about this book, a relaxed personal touch about his deliberations on the subject of ecology. Using examples and the results of research from North America, Europe and other locales, he poses a series of questions. Using simple and understandable language, he answers them, painting the study of ecology with an entirely new palette of colors.
Honorable Mention. This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption are Ruining the American West.
By Christopher Ketcham. Viking, New York. ISBN 9780735220980
The 450 million acres of public land in the western United States are under assault like no other time in history. Christopher Ketcham who has been reporting on public land issues for over a decade, pulls no punches as he documents how influence peddlers, government policy and mismanagement are causing irreparable damage to these lands. Often approaching it on a personal level, Ketcham interviews those on the front lines whose lives are thrown into turmoil. Raw and unrestrained, Ketcham's work goes to the heart of this increasingly virulent national crisis.
Design & Artistic Merit
Winner. The Grand Canyon: Between River and Rim.
Photographs and Text by Pete McBride. Design by Susi Oberhelman. Rizzoli International Publications, New York.
This large format book is more than a collection of beautiful photographs — although, it certainly is that — rather it is a moving, visual story of an amazing 750-mile hike from one end of the Grand Canyon to the other. Photographer
Pete McBride and fellow companion Kevin Fedarko did it the hard way: traveling off-trail, searching out weaknesses in the canyon walls: thin, airy ledges, faint wildlife trails, and zigzagging through sweltering boulder fields. This is a real treat: an inspiring adventure and superb photography all rolled into one colorful and marvelous work of art.
Winner. 101 Outdoor Adventures to Have Before You Grow Up.
By Stacy and Jack Tornio. FalconGuides. Lanham, MD. ISBN 9781493041404
This wonderful book is full of inspiring things for children to do outdoors. See an endangered species. Identify animal tracks. Go stargazing in the middle of nowhere. Go on an amazing day hike. Skip a rock across the water at least 10 times. Oriented to the 8-12 age group, authors Stacy and Jack Tornio offer five easy steps to accomplish each of the activities covered in the book. One fun fact about the authors is that Jack Tornio is Stacy's teenage son. Throughout the book, Jack adds a kid's
perspective, offering tips on making each of the activities more enjoyable.
Winner. Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir.
By Julie Bertagna. Illustrated by William Goldsmith. Yosemite Conservancy, El Portal, CA.
Wildheart is a biography for children about the great outdoorsman and conservationist, John Muir. The story is told through John's eyes beginning with his boyhood in Scotland and then moving to the wild lands of America. In 1868, he makes it to California and immediately sets out on a hike across the Central Valley which he finds filled with a carpet of flowers, the colors of a rainbow. Later, he travels to Alaska to study glaciers, and it is there that he and his dog Stikeen have an unforgettable adventure. The book is done using a series of pictures and scenes on each page, in comic book style, perfect for keeping a child's interest and for moving the story along. Age group: 9-12 years old.
Honorable Mention. The Lost Forest.
By Phyllis Root. Illustrations by Betsy Bowen. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis.
Many years ago, surveyors in Minnesota made a mistake in their map making and placed a lake in the middle of what was really an old growth forest. For more than seventy-five years, the mistake stayed on maps, and the ancient timber on the site remained safe from logging. Along with Betsy Bowen's sumptuous illustrations, author Phyllis Root tells the story of the lost forest and its eventual preservation as one of the last and largest stands of virgin timber in Minnesota.
Age group: 4-9 years old.
Winner. Mammal Tracks and Sign: A Guide to North American Species.
By Mark Elbroch and Casey McFarland. Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT. ISBN 9780811737746
In its relatively short life, Mark Elbroch's guidebook about mammal tracks has become a classic. It is, after all, the most comprehensive guide available
on the topic, eminently useable and filled with hundreds of photos and illustrations. In addition to visual and textual material on how to recognize tracks, Elbroch includes other clues helpful in making an accurate identification including scat, urine, ground and plant signs.
Winner. Training for the Uphill Athlete: A Manual for Mountain Runners and Ski Mountaineers.
By Steve House, Scott Johnston and Kilian Jornet. Patagonia Books, Ventura, CA. ISBN 9781938340840
If you are a trail runner or competitive ski mountaineer, you can't go wrong with this highly graphic and beautifully designed training manual. Based on the latest scientific work, the book helps you create your own training plans and work-outs. Full of helpful suggestions, and authored by noted endurance experts and athletes, this is one of the finest training manuals available, bar none.
Winner. Field Guide to the Flower Flies of Northeastern North America.
By Jeffrey H. Skevington and Michelle M. Locke. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. ISBN 9780691189406
First things first: flower flies or hover flies are not bees or wasps. Yes, they are pollinators, and yes, they have similar markings to bees — which serves them well as a form of protection from potential predators — but that's where the similarity ends. They have two wings. Bees and wasps have four. Moreover, flower flies haven't had the sort of guidebook attention that bees have had. Until, that is, the arrival of this book, the first comprehensive guide to flower flies. With plenty of photographs, a smart lay-out, and clear textual material, it does the job and does it well.
Winner. Wildflowers of the Atlantic Southeast.
By Laura Cotterman, Damon Waitt and Alan Weakley. Timber Press, Portland, OR. ISBN 9781604697605
If you live in the Southeast, you can't go wrong with this new and exceptionally well-done guide to the region's wildflowers. You barely have to open the book and you know where to start looking to identify a flower that you've found. The entire right hand margin of each page is colored. Match the flower's color to page color and you're in the ballpark. Additionally, the authors have devised a simple key which consists of six steps, each step leading you closer to the flower at hand. It's all there: intelligent design, well-honed descriptions, and crisp color photographs of the 1200 species covered by the book.
Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks
Winner. Sierra Summits: A Guide to Fifty Peak Experiences in California's Range of Light.
By Matt Johanson. Falcon Guides. Guilford, CT. ISBN 9781493036448
Sierra Summits takes a different approach than many climbing guidebooks. In fact, it's not really for climbers. It's for non-climbers. No ropes or climbing equipment needed. No overnight bivouacs on icy ledges required. All of the fifty summits described in the book can be reached by hiking, and they can be done in a single day. Areas covered by the book include Tahoe, Central Sierra, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Eastern Sierra.
Honorable Mention. 150 Nature Hot Spots in California: The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places.
By Ann Marie Brown. Firefly Books. Richmond Hill, ON. ISBN 9780228101680
This beautifully designed and photographed book features some of California's finest natural areas. Covered in the book are national and state parks, natural reserves, national monuments and other recreation sites. All of the state is included from the snow-draped slopes of Mt. Shasta in the north to the Joshua tree landscapes of the south.
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.
Jeff Cramer, Lincoln, MA
Curator of Collections at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods. Editor of The Portable Thoreau, The Quotable Thoreau, and Walden: A Fully-Annotated Edition.
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.
Louis Dzierzak, Minneapois, MN
A full-time freelance writer focusing on the business side of outdoor recreation. Member of Outdoor Writers Association, Society of Environmental Journalists, and the American Society of Authors and Journalists. Editor of the two-volume Boundary Waters Canoe Area guidebook. Currently writing a book about invasive carp for the University of Minnesota Press.
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. Associate 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 has worked in a children's bookstore.
Dale Harrington, Boone, NC
Retired 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 Adventures. 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
Adult Services Librarian at the Park City Library. Former wilderness ranger and archaeologist for the US Forest Service. A former professional ski patroller for 8 years and former president of the Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association. A judge for the Women Writing the West-Willa 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. Jill supervises book selection, layout, design and production. An old dairy farm is home, where she lives with her husband and an assortment of dogs and cats. Chickens roam around in the backyard. Their three children are grown and their eldest daughter is an indispensable part of Purple House Press.
Susanne Dubrouillet Morais, Raleigh, NC
Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University. Formerly, program director of ORION - Penn State's Wilderness Orientation Program and Instructor at Penn State University (10 years). Past program director with Clemson University's Clemson Expeditions. Masters degree 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 Denver Area Council, Boy Scouts of America. 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.
Ann Weiler Walka, Flagstaff, AZ
Poet and a retired naturalist guide on the Colorado Plateau. Teaches occasional art and writing workshops. Author of several works including Waterlines: Journeys on a Desert River and Walking the Unknown River (And Other Travels in Escalante Country).
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).
Melanie Wulf, Des Moines, IA
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. Has worked 16 years in the outdoor retail industry and currently serves as the Retail Sales Manager for REI in Des Moines, Iowa.