2012 National Outdoor Book Award Winners Announced

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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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