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2022 National Outdoor Book Award Winners Announced

November 21, 2022

A woman’s obsession with the kingfisher, a thriller about climbing the world’s eighth highest peak, a Vietnam veteran’s fascination with grizzly bears, a life amongst caribou in the Northwest Arctic.  All of these and more are the themes of winning books in the 2022 National Outdoor Book Awards.  

A total of 19 books were chosen as winners or silver medalists in this year's contest which is celebrating its 26th year.  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 ten categories which range from Natural History Literature to Biography to Journeys.

The winning book in the Journeys category is Halcyon Journey:  In Search of the Belted Kingfisher.  It’s about Marina Richie, a mom and budding citizen scientist who attempts to find and observe a nesting pair of kingfishers.  

Day after day, Richie searches for a kingfisher nest near her home in Montana.  As we follow her along, she weaves together scientific studies with stories of her family.  We learn that the kingfisher is the halcyon of Greek mythology, a bird with magical powers who could calm the waters of the sea when it nested.  

Her simple desire to observe kingfishers turns into a halcyon quest and sends her on far-flung adventures to other continents to learn more about these mythic birds.  

“This is superb nature writing,” said Ron Watters, the chair of the National Outdoor Book Awards.  It is engrossing, enlightening and illuminating.  Marina Richie is clearly an exciting new voice in nature writing.”

One work of fiction was among this year’s winner.  Taking top honors in the Outdoor Literature category is Breathless, a spine-tingling novel transporting readers to the icy slopes of Manaslu, the world’s eighth highest peak.  

Written by Amy McCulloch, it combines the dangers of high altitude climbing with a sociopathic murderer on one of the teams.   It comes as no surprise that McCulloch expertly captures the drama of high altitude climbing in this book.  She is a Himalayan climber, having summited Manaslu, the youngest Canadian woman to do so.  

“There are very few well written and realistic works of fiction on climbing,” said Watters, “and this gripping page-turner is clearly one.”

The non-fiction winner in the Outdoor Literature category is Was it Worth It?  A Wilderness Warrior’s Long Trail Home.  Author Doug Peacock writes about how his studies of grizzly bears helped heal the scars left from his Viet Nam experiences. 

“Peacock has this informal, devil-may-care attitude which draws you into his writing,” said Jim Moss, an outdoor industry attorney and one of the judges of the awards.  “This book represents some of his finest writing.  Best of all, we get to really know this remarkable individual.”

One of the great migrations of the animal world is the subject of the winner of the Natural History category.  Book is titled A Thousand Trails Home and is by Seth Kantner.  Twice yearly in Alaska, caribou move between summer and winter ranges, typically walking over 2,000 miles.  Kantner lives along the migration path and describes his life – and the lives of native Alaskans - dependent upon caribou.

“This book is a remarkable achievement, presenting natural history in a fresh and rich way,” said John Miles, former dean and professor of Environmental Studies at Western Washington University.  “It is a deeply emotional book in which Kantner shares his love for the land, wildlife and people.  Simply compelling and marvelous.”

Children’s books are also represented in the awards.  The winner is Alaska for the Birds by Susan Ewing.  Oriented to children in the 5 to 8 year group, it describes 14 birds.  The birds can be found nearly anywhere and children don’t need to be from Alaska to enjoy it.  

“What makes this book stand out is a combination of poems and colorful illustrations,” said Watters,  “The poems are pure fun – and they rhyme in a musical way which makes it a joy to read to children.”  

Complete reviews of these and the other 2022 winners may be found at the National Outdoor Book Awards website at:  www.noba-web.org.

Here is a list of winners.  

Journeys.  Winner.  Halcyon Journey:  In Search of the Belted Kingfisher.  By Marina Richie.  Oregon State University Press, Corvallis.  ISBN:  9780870712036.

Outdoor Literature (Fiction).  Winner.  Breathless:  A Thriller.  By Amy McCulloch.  Viking/Penguin Random House – Canada, Toronto.  ISBN 978035242852.

Outdoor Literature (Non-fiction).  Winner.  Was it Worth It?  A Wilderness Warrior’s Long Trail Home.  By Doug Peacock.  Patagonia Books, Ventura, CA.  ISBN  9781952338045.

Outdoor Literature (Non-fiction).  Winner.  Headwaters: The Adventures, Obsession, and Evolution of a Fly Fisherman.  By Dylan Tomine.  Patagonia Books, Ventura, CA.  ISBN 9781952338076.

History/Biography.  Winner.  A Life Lived Wild:  Adventures at the Edge of the Map. By Rick Ridgeway.  Patagonia Books, Ventura, CA.  ISBN  9781938340994.

History/Biography. Winner.  Written in the Snows:  Across Time on Skis in the Pacific Northwest.  By Lowell Skoog.  The Mountaineers Books, Seattle.  ISBN  9781680512908.

Natural History Literature. Winner.  A Thousand Trails Home: Living with Caribou.  By Seth Kantner.  The Mountaineers Books, Seattle.  ISBN  9781594859700.

Natural History Literature.  Silver Medalist.  The Treeline:  The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth.  By Ben Rawlence.  St. Martins Press, New York.  ISBN 9781250270238.

Nature and the Environment.  Winner. Seeing the Silence: The Beauty of the World’s Most Quiet Places.  Photography and Text by Pete McBride.  Rizzoli, New York.  ISBN  9780847870868.

Nature and the Environment.  Silver Medalist.  The Skies Above: Storm Clouds, Blood Moons, and Other Everyday Phenomena.  By Dennis Mersereau.  Mountaineers Books, Seattle.  ISBN 9781680515558.

Children’s Category.  Winner.  Alaska is for the Birds!  Fourteen Favorite Feathered Friends.  Poems by Susan Ewing.  Illustrations by Evon Zerbetz.  Alaska Northwest Books, Portland, OR.  ISBN 9781513128665.

Design & Artistic Merit. Winner.  Our National Monuments: America’s Hidden Gems.  By QT Luong.  Terra Galleria Press, San Jose, CA.  ISBN 9781733576079.

Design & Artistic Merit.  Winner.  Drawn to Birds: A Naturalist’s Sketchbook.  By Jenny deFouw Geuder.  Adventure Publications, Cambridge, MN.  ISBN 9781647552251.

Design & Artistic Merit. Silver Medalist.  Inside the High Sierra by Claude Fiddler.  Claude Fiddler, Crowley Lake, CA.  ISBN: 9781938393396.

Nature Guides.  Winner.  Common Bees of Eastern North America.  By Olivia Messinger Carril and Joseph S. Wilson.  Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.  ISBN9780691175492.

Nature Guides. Silver Medalist.  Beetles of Western North America.  By Arthur V. Evans.  Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.  ISBN 9780691164281.

Outdoor Adventure Guides (Guidebooks).  Winner.  Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Guide.  By James Kaiser.  Destination Press, Morgantown, WV.  ISBN 9781940754475.

Outdoor Adventure Guides (Instructional) Winner.  How to Suffer Outside: A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking and Backpacking by Diana Helmuth.  Illustrations by Latasha Dunston. Mountaineers Books, Seattle.  ISBN 9781680513110.


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