facebook pixel Skip to Main Content
Idaho State University home

Winners of 20th annual 2017 National Outdoor Book Awards announced by Idaho State University

November 15, 2017

Graphic of National Outdoor Book Award medal

POCATELLO – The works of John Gierach were honored among the winners of 2017 National Outdoor Books. This year is the 20th anniversary of the awards, which are among the most prestigious honors in outdoor writing and publishing.

Gierach’s most recent book “A Fly Rod of Your Own” was selected as the winner of the Outdoor Literature category, and in selecting Gierach’s book, the judges also wanted to recognize his body of work which now totals more than 20 books.

“A Fly Rod of Your Own,” like his previous titles, consists of a series of stories about fishing and life in general. “There’s no better way to bring back memories of your own fishing trips, said Ron Watters, the Chair of the awards program “than to read some yarns by John Gierach. He has a wonderful sense of humor and a warm, inviting quality to his writing that makes him a pleasure to read.”

Image of book cover of A Fly Rod of Your OwnGierach’s book is one of 16 winning books in this year’s award program. Sponsors of the program include the National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Idaho State University and the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.

Awards are presented in 10, often highly competitive, categories.

“This year’s Outdoor Literature category,” said Watters, “had such an impressive field of books that the judges decided to name two winners and an honorable mention in that category.”

The other winner in the Outdoor Literature category is “On Trails: An Exploration” by Robert Moor. “Moor’s book,” said Watters, “is a little bit of everything about trails: history, philosophy, science. It’s about hiking trails, of course, but Moor goes further, expanding upon the normal concept of trails, and taking us on a roller coaster of an intellectual journey, full of surprises at every turn.”

Receiving honorable mention in the Outdoor Literature category is a book about the climbing and river running adventures of Erik Weihenmayer who is blind. Entitled “No Barriers,” it was co-written by Weihenmayer and Buddy Levy.

Weihenmayer was the first blind person to climb Mt. Everest, the subject of a previous book. “No Barriers” chronicles his life after Everest which culminates with a kayak journey down the rapids of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

“There was no disagreement among the judges,” said Watters of “No Barriers.” “It is simply a stirring and inspirational book.”

Image of book cover of Top honors in the History Biography Category were awarded to Bernadette McDonald’s "Art of Freedom: The Life and Climbs of Voytek Kurtya." James Moss, an outdoor industry attorney and one of the judges, called McDonald’s book "a masterpiece of a biography." Voytek Kurtya, the subject of the biography is from Poland and is known for his bold and lightning-fast ascents of big, unclimbed walls in the Himalaya. "This is a work of outstanding artistry," said Moss, "and a powerful and moving portrait of Kurtya’s life."

"Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean" by Jonathan White won the Natural History Literature category. Over a several year period, White traveled the globe, seeking out unusual and dangerous tides, and he interweaves these adventures with the science of tides. Ann Walka, a judge and natural history poet from Arizona said “Jonathan White does what an excellent writer can do, lure you into an unfamiliar world, take you on adventures, change you with intriguing images and ideas.”

A father and son team won the Children’s category with “Pup the Sea Otter.” Jonathan London wrote the story, and his son, Sean, did the illustrations.


“This is a tender story of a ball of fur named Pup,” said Watters, “Along with Sean London’s eye-catching illustrations, the book is the perfect bedtime treat for little ones in the four to eight year range.”

Image of book cover The winner of the Nature and the Environment category is “Monarchs and Milkweeds.” Authored by biodiversity expert Anurag Agrawal, it delves into the complicated relationship between the monarch and the milkweed.

“’Monarchs and Milkweeds’” is not only about a butterfly,” says nature writer and judge Val Cunningham, “but it also gives us a peek into the mind of an inventive scientist, one who clearly admires his subject and who guides us to a better understanding of this most remarkable creature.”

David Yarrow won the Design and Artistic Merit category with “Wild Encounters: Iconic Photographs of the World’s Vanishing Animals and Cultures.”

“Yarrow is one the virtuosos of black-and-white wildlife photography,” said Watters. “This portfolio-sized book includes some of his finest work and clearly depicts a photographer at the height of his artistic powers.”

Complete reviews of these and the other 2017 winners may be found at the National Outdoor Book Awards website at: www.noba-web.org.

Here is a list of winners.

• Outdoor Literature. Winner. “A Fly Rod of Your Own.” By John Gierach. Simon and Schuster, New York. ISBN 9781451618341.

• Outdoor Literature. Winner. “On Trails: An Exploration.” By Robert Moor. Simon and Schuster, New York. ISBN 9781476739236

Image of book cover • Outdoor Literature. Honorable Mention. “No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon.” By Erik Weihenmayer and Buddy Levy. Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. New York. ISBN 9781250088789.

• History/Biography. Winner. “Art of Freedom: The Life and Climbs of Voytek Kurtyka.” By Bernadette McDonald. Rocky Mountain Books, Vancouver, BC. ISBN 9781771602129.

• Natural History Literature. Winner. “Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean.” By Jonathan White. Trinity University Press, San Antonio. ISBN 9781595348050

• Children’s Category. Winner. “Pup the Sea Otter.” By Jonathan London. Illustrated by Sean London. WestWinds Press/Graphic Arts Books, Portland. ISBN 978194332887

• Children’s Category. Honorable Mention. “Treecology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Trees and Forests.” By Monica Russo. Photographs by Kevin Byron. Chicago Review Press, Chicago. ISBN 9871613733967

• Nature and Environment. Winner. “Monarchs and Milkweed.” By Anurag Agrawal. Princeton University Press, Princeton. ISBN 9780691166353

• Nature and the Environment. Honorable Mention. “The Pipestone Wolves: The Rise and Fall of a Wolf Family.” By Günther Bloch. Photography by John E. Marriott. Rocky Mountain Books, Vancouver, BC. ISBN 9781771601603

Image of book cover of • Design and Artistic Merit. Winner. “Wild Encounters: Iconic Photographs of the World’s Vanishing Animals and Cultures.”  Photography and Commentary by David Yarrow. Rizzoli, New York. ISBN 9780847858323.

• Classic. Winner. “Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder.” By Kenn Kaufman. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. ISBN 9780618709403

• Instructional Category. Winner. “Backpacker Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-hike.” By Liz Thomas. Falcon Guides, Lanham, MD. ISBN 9871493028726

• Instructional Category. Winner. “Big Walls, Swift Waters: Epic Stories from Yosemite Search and Rescue.” By Charles R. “Butch” Farabee. Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite National Park, CA. ISBN 9781930238749

• Nature Guidebooks. Winner. “The Scout’s Guide to Wild Edibles.” By Mike Krebill. St. Lynn’s Press, Pittsburg. ISBN 9781943366064

• Nature Guidebooks. Winner. “Butterflies of Pennsylvania: A Field Guide.” By James L. Monroe and David M. Wright. University of Pittsburg Press, Pittsburg. ISBN 9780822964551

 • Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks. Winner. “Outdoor Adventures, Acadia National Park: Your Guide to the Best Hiking, Biking and Paddling.” By Jerry and Marcy Monkman. Appalachian Mountain Club, Boston. ISBN 9781628420579

 # # #

Home Towns of Authors

• Outdoor Literature. “A Fly Rod of Your Own.” John Gierach (Fort Collins, CO)

• Outdoor Literature. “On Trails: An Exploration.” Robert Moor (British Columbia, Canada)

• Outdoor Literature. “No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey.” Erik Weihenmayer (Denver, CO) and Buddy Levy (Moscow, Idaho)

• History/Biography. “Art of Freedom.” Bernadette McDonald (Banff, AB, Canada)

• Natural History Literature. “Tides.” Jonathan White (Orcas Island, WA)

• Children’s Category. “Pup the Sea Otter.” Jonathan London. Sean London. (Graton, CA)

• Children’s Category. “Treecology.” Monica Russo (Kennebunk, ME). Photographs by Kevin Byron (Kennebunk, Maine).

• Nature and Environment. “Monarchs and Milkweeds.” Anurag Agrawal (Ithaca, NY)

• Nature and the Environment. “The Pipestone Wolves.” Gunther Block (Canmore, AB, Canada). Photographer - John E. Marrioti (Smith’s Cove, NS, Canada)

• Design and Artistic Merit. Winner. “Wild Encounters.” David Yarrow (London, England)

Classic. "Kingbird Highway" Kenn Kaufman (Oak Harbor, OH)

• Instructional Category. “Backpacker Long Trails.” By Liz Thomas (Boulder, CO)

• Instructional Category. “Big Walls, Swift Water.” Charles R. Farabee (Tucson, AZ)

• Nature Guidebooks. “The Scout’s Guide to Wild Edibles.” Mike Krebill (Keokuk, IA)

• Nature Guidebooks. “Butterflies of Pennsylvania.” James L. Monroe (Beaver, PA) and David M. Wright (Landsdale, PA)

• Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks. “Outdoor Adventures, Acadia National Park.” By Jerry and Marcy Monkman (Portsmouth, NH)

Judges (quoted in release) - Home Towns

Ann Walka – Flagstaff, AZ

Val Cunningham – St. Paul, MN

Jim Moss - Littleton, CO