2012 National Outdoor Book Award Winners Announced

The Ledge. Photo: Random House

The National Outdoor Book Awards have released their picks for the best books of 2012. This year's titles include 15 winners and honorable mentions in nine categories, ranging from children's book to natural history to design. The Outdoor Literature Award was a tie between two books, Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail, by Suzanne Roberts, and The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount Rainier, by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughan.

Here's what the organization had to say about each of the two winners:

In the summer of 1993, author Suzanne Roberts and two other women set out on a month-long backpack trip in California’s Sierra Mountains. Almost Somewhere is Robert’s introspective and no-holds-barred account of that journey and the interactions between the three women. What emerges is a revealing and insightful coming-of-age portrait of women of the post baby boom generation. Roberts obsesses with her weight, competes openly with other women for men, and grapples with conflicted views of sex and relationships. One of the other women struggles with bulimia. This is life in an outdoor setting from a feminine perspective:  anxiety over strange men met along the way and the challenges of long days on the trail—can Robert’s weakening knees and the health of her bulimic friend hold up to the end? The dialog, the imagery, and the story are so well done and so absorbing that men and women of all generations will find it a satisfying and fulfilling literary treat.

The Ledge is storytelling at its finest. Jim Davidson is descending from a climb of Mount Rainier when he plunges into a crevasse, pulling his partner in with him. Davidson survives the fall, but unknown to him at the time, his pack has stopped him, wedging between two walls of ice. Below him is an abyss. Shortly after he stops, a small avalanche of snow covers him completely. Then his partner hurtles down and lands on top. Somehow Davidson must dig himself out of the snow, provide aid to his critically injured partner, and plan a way to climb out—all the while, delicately balanced on his pack. His is a struggle that involves all of his faculties and which alternates between hope, despair, and terror. From start to finish, this is a story that will hold you spellbound.

I've included a full round-up the winners below. For the full list of reviews, go to The National Outdoor Book Awards. If you need a reason to check out the books, last year's winner of the Outdoor Literature Award, Fire Season, went on to win numerous awards and accolades—including a rave review from Bruce Barcott for Outside and the 2012 Banff Book Competition Grand Prize.

Outdoor Literature. Winner. “Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail.” By Suzanne Roberts. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. 

Outdoor Literature.  Winner. “The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount Rainier.” By Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughan. Ballantine Books, New York.

Outdoor Literature. Honorable Mention. “Before They're Gone: A Family's Year-Long Quest to Explore America's Most Endangered National Parks.” By Michael Lanza. Beacon Press, Boston.

Natural History Literature. Winner. “The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature. By David George Haskell. Viking, New York.

History/Biography. Winner. “Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2's Deadliest Day.” By Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan. W. W. Norton, New York.

History/Biography. Winner. “Anything Worth Doing: A True Story of Adventure, Friendship and Tragedy on the Last of the West's Great Rivers.” By Jo Deurbrouck. Sundog Book Publishing, Idaho Falls, ID.

Design and Artistic Merit. Winner. “Beneath the Cold Seas: The Underwater Wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.” By David Hall. University of Washington Press, Seattle and Greystone Books, Vancouver.

Children's Category. Winner. “For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson.” By Peggy Thomas. Illustrated by Laura Jacques. Calkins Creek, Honesdale, PA.

Nature and the Environment. Winner. “The Melting Edge: Alaska at the Frontier of Climate Change.” By Michael Collier. Alaska Geographic Association, Anchorage.

Nature and the Environment. Honorable Mention. “Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History.” By Carol Gracie. Princeton University Press. Princeton.

Nature and the Environment. Honorable Mention. “Polar Bears: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior.” By Andrew E. Derocher. Photographs by Wayne Lynch. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Instructional / How-to. Winner. “AMC Guide to Outdoor Digital Photography: Creating Great Nature and Adventure Photos.” By Jerry Monkman. Appalachian Mountain Club, Boston.

Instructional / How-to. Winner. “Backpacker Magazine's Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair: Step by Step Techniques to Maximize Performance and Save Money.” By Kristin Hostetter. Falcon Guides, Guilford, CT.

Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks. Winner. “Grand Canyoneering: Exploring the Rugged Gorges and Secret Slots of the Grand Canyon.” By Todd Martin. Todd's Desert Hiking Guide, Phoenix.

Nature Guidebooks. Winner. “A Field Guide to the Southeast Coast & Gulf of Mexico.” By Noble S. Proctor and Patrick J. Lynch. Yale University Press, New Haven.

—Joe Spring

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