Two books are winners in the Outdoor Literature category. Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail by Suzanne Roberts (University of Nebraska Publishing) details the author's 1993 trip through the Sierra Mountains of California with two other women. Fresh out of college, Roberts and her friend Erika decide to hike the 211-mile trail. Roberts reluctantly agrees to allow Dionne, a 98-pound bulimic who has never trail-hiked, to accompany them. The book unfolds with a chapter for each day of their trip (Roberts kept a journal during the hike), and the reader is propelled through the narrative by suspense: Will Dionne make it? Will the author's knees hold out? The heart of Almost Somewhere is the relationship between the three women—described as "a bulimic, a bully, and a neurotic"—and how they each find their strength and sense of self on the trail.
The other winner of the Outdoor Literature category is a more dramatic survival story. The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount Rainier, by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughan (Ballantine Books), details Davidson's harrowing experience after a climb up Mt. Rainier. During his hike down, he falls into a crevasse, but is stopped when his pack somehow wedges between two narrow walls. First a load of snow and then his hiking partner, gravely injured, fall on top of him. The Ledge recounts Davidson's harrowing efforts to save his partner's life, while balanced on his pack, and then his attempt to hike 80 feet to the top of the crevasse and hike out to safety.
On the extreme opposite end of nature's grandeur, David George Haskell's The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature (Viking) narrows its focus to a smaller spot: one square meter of a forest in Tennessee. Winner of the Natural History Literature category, The Forest Unseen tracks this "forest mandala," as Haskell calls it, through a full year of seasons and changes. The patch itself is shown in a video on Viking's site at the link above, and audio clips and photos can be found at Haskell's site, theforestunseen.com.
Fans of photography or ocean life should check out Design and Artistic Merit award winner Beneath Cold Seas: The Underwater Wilderness of the Pacific Northwest by photographer David Hall (University of Washington Press). His images document the ecosystem of the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska. Sarika Cullis-Suzuki's introduction to the book details the conservation issues related to the area.
For a full list of the award winners and honorable mentions, detailed by category (including awards for Nature and the Environment, Children's, and more), visit the Outdoor Book Award website at http://www.noba-web.org/books12.htm.