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'Fire Season' Wins Banff Book Competition Grand Prize

Screen Shot 2012-11-02 at 10.00.48 AMFire Season. Photo: Ecco/Harper Collins

On Thursday, Banff announced that Fire Season won the Grand Jury Prize in its 2012 book competition. Written by Philip Connors, who quit his job at The Wall Street Journal to work on a fire lookout for eight seasons, the book quickly gained an impressive slate of reviews when it was released earlier this year. In our May issue, Bruce Barcott offered his opinion. "In short, it's one of the best books to come out of a government gig since Ed Abbey turned a ranger's wage into Desert Solitaire," he said.

Banff gave the book its Grand Jury Prize for a number of reasons.

"The winner of the Grand Jury Prize was for all three of us judges the outstanding book of the 2012 Banff Mountain Book Competition. Nothing else came close in terms of literary quality, human oddity, and that indefinable element of surprise present in all the very best writing. We loved this book," the judges wrotes. "The persona, the character as it comes through in his book of the author, his humor and odd sagacity, his sharp and lucid gift of natural observation, the fascinating perspective he gives on the ecology of wildfire, charmed and informed us. Also, since he went to school in Missoula, he can almost be claimed as Canadian, Montana being more like here than down there. Of all this year’s authors, here’s the one with whom we felt we’d most like to share a beer."

"His book will surely be accepted into the outdoor and environmental literary canon as one to be ranked with Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac and ornery old Ed Abbey’s Desert Solitaire," they continued. "It’s the account of a former Wall Street Journal writer’s sojourns through several summers at a fire-lookout post in the Gila Wilderness Area of southwest New Mexico: If there's a better job anywhere on the planet, I'd like to know what it is."

If you still need another opinion, consider this one from Outside senior editor Grayson Schaffer: "The gushing, here, over Philip Connors's book is well deserved," he said on Facebook. "Must read."

I've included the other winners below. Click on the award to read feedback from the Banff Mountain Book Competition Jury, and on the title to buy the book.

Fiva: An Adventure That Went Wrong, by Gordon Stainforth

Crazy River: Exploration and Folly in East Africa, by Richard Grant

Tibet: Culture on the Edge, by Phil Borges

Squamish Select, by Marc Bourdon

Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day, by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan

Fred Beckey’s 100 Favorite North American Climbs, by Fred Beckey

 —Joe Spring

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