NOBA Medallion

Winners of the 2023
National Outdoor Book Awards










In Memoriam. This year's awards are dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jim Fullerton. Jim, nationally recognized for his work in the outdoor and leadership fields, was a longtime NOBA judge and a well loved professor at the College of Coastal Georgia.


Brave the Wild RiverWinner  Brave the Wild River: The Untold Story of Two Women Who Mapped the Botany of the Grand Canyon.  By Melissa L. Sevigny.  W. W. Norton & Company, New York. 
ISBN 9780393868234

In 1937, the botanist Elzada Clover was on a two-week desert plant collecting trip in southern Utah, staying at small dirt-roofed lodge in a wide spot in the road called Mexican Hat.  While there, the still, little explored Grand Canyon, miles downriver from Mexican Hat, was calling to her.  No one had done a serious study of the plants in the canyon—and she started thinking that she could be the one to do it.   The Grand Canyon was also calling to twenty-nine-year-old Norm Nevills who ran the lodge.  Together, Nevills and Clover hatched a plan.  Nevills had not run “the Grand,” but he, nevertheless, offered to build boats and guide Clover down the river for her plant study.  The male dominated scientific and academic world didn’t take the work of women scientists seriously, but Clover managed to finagle some funding and was back the next year with fellow botanist Lois Jotter.   In this brilliantly told story you are given a seat in the boat along with Clover and Jotter for a bit of canyon botany - and the ride of your life.


Empire of Ice & SnowWinner  Empire of Ice and Stone:  The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk.  By Buddy Levy.  St. Martins Press, New York. 
ISBN 9781250274441

In this splendid re-telling of the ill-fated 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition, author Buddy Levy directs our attention to the two protagonists:  Vilhjalmur Stefansson, the expedition’s overall leader, and Bob Bartlett, the captain of the expedition’s ship named the Karluk.   Stefansson, an anthropologist, explorer and self-promoter, is building his Arctic resume.  Bartlett is a down-to-earth seaman, and arguably, the world’s most experienced ship captain when it comes to navigating ice-choked waters.  Just six weeks into the journey, however, the Karluk becomes trapped in ice, north of the Alaskan coast.  Stefansson, announcing that he would supplement the ship’s food supply, takes off with a small crew to hunt.  But while he is gone, the ice-bound ship is propelled eastward by strong Arctic currents, sending it into Russian waters.  Stefansson never returns to the ship.   Things go from bad to worse.  The ship is crushed by ice.   Trapped on the ice pack in the darkness of an Arctic winter, his ship in ruins, Bartlett waits for daylight to return.  His plan is to make for a large island in the East Siberian Sea.  But what then?  Help is still miles and miles away.  And Stefansson?  What has happened to him?  Find out in this captivating narrative.


 Outdoor Literature  

Winner  Battle of Ink and Ice:  A Sensational Story of News Barons, North Pole Explorers, and the Making of Modern Media.  By Darrell Hartman.  Viking, New York.  ISBN 9780593297162

Battle of Ink & IceBig early expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic required money—and lots of it.    Ships were needed.  So was custom made clothing, fuel, food and other supplies to keep the expedition going, sometimes for several years.  To make all that happen, explorers needed benefactors—and publicity.  During the heroic age of Arctic exploration, it was newspapers that promoted explorers and their exploits, and sometimes even funded their efforts.  Battle of Ink and Ice is the story of the close relationship between newspapers and expeditions.  In particular, it chronicles the rivalry between two dominant New York papers: the New York Herald and the New York Times.   Drawn into the fray are two American explorers Robert Peary and Frederick Cook, both of whom claimed to have reached the North Pole . . . or had they?  Each paper took the side of one of the explorers, instructing their reporters to make sure their side won.  Meticulously researched, and splendidly told, it is a fascinating story of newspaper tycoons, ambitious explorers, and the vast unknown reaches of the frozen north.


What an Owl KnowsWinner  What an Owl Knows:  The New Science of the World’s Most Enigmatic Birds.  By Jennifer Ackerman. Penguin Press, New York.  ISBN 9780593298886

It just takes a few pages and Jennifer Ackerman will have you hooked.  She writes with the enthusiasm of someone who thoroughly loves her subject.  Moreover, she is not one to sit still while doing it.  Throughout the book, she travels about, looking for different owl species, visiting scientists, observing their work, and bringing us up-to-date with the latest discoveries about these enchanting creatures.  We learn how they fly without making sound, how they hoot to defend their territory, how some live underground, and how others can make a tasty meal of black widows and scorpions.   Pick up a copy and jump in.  The next time you are walking in the woods and you hear a hoot from a nearby tree, you’ll have an idea of what an owl knows.


 Nature & the Environment

Milkweed LandsWinner  The Milkweed Lands: An Epic Story of One Plant Its Nature and Ecology.  By Eric Lee-Mäder.  Illustrations by Beverly Duncan.  Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA.  ISBN 9781635864366

Like a milkweed pod ready to burst apart, this lovely book cries to be opened.  And once opened, it comes alive with Beverly Duncan’s enchanting watercolors of the milkweed in all of its forms.  Ecologist Eric Lee-Mäder guides us along, explaining the plant's biology and its life cycle in a relaxed voice, not burdened by overly technical language.  Of all the critters that depend on milkweed—and by Lee-Mäder’s count, there are at least 40 insects that do—the most well-known, of course, is the monarch butterfly.  Of particular importance for the monarch is the Mississippi River corridor which because of its flood plain, side channels and generally un-farmable terrain, still hosts adequate milkweed for the monarch migration.  That’s just one small fact of the many found in this fine synthesis of art and nature writing.


Living RiverWinner  Living River: The Promise of the Mighty Colorado.  By Dave Showalter.  Braided River / The Mountaineers Books, Seattle.  ISBN 9781680516326

The numbers are astounding.  Forty million people depend on the waters of the Colorado River, and yet water stored in the river’s reservoirs is dwindling.  With states and the federal government currently deciding how best to allocate the river’s limited water, the book’s publication could not have been more timely.  Yet, this is not a doom and gloom book.  It is a celebration of the river and the dedicated individuals working toward solutions.  Combining superb photography, essays and interviews, the author takes us to different parts of the river’s watershed and provides us with an informed and enlightened view of the Colorado and its promise.

 Natural History Literature

Wild New WorldWinner  Wild New World: The Epic Story of Animals & People in America.  Dan Flores.  W. W. Norton & Company, New York. 
ISBN 9781324006169

In this expansive work on environmental history, Dan Flores concentrates on a period of time, starting some 16,000 years ago and leading up to the present.  It’s during this period of time when humankind became a dominant force on the North American continent.  In a highly readable style, Flores blends genetic science, anthropology, evolutionary biology, and cultural history to trace the decline of wildlife diversity.  The decline didn’t start with the coming of Europeans.  Flores documents how it was well on its way thousands of years before, but it has, of course, accelerated over the past couple of hundred years.  Flores points out that hopeful strides have been made to slow the eradication of species, but his work is also a warning to what lies ahead should we not continue those efforts.

Killer Whale JournalsWinner  The Killer Whale Journals: Our Love and Fear of Orcas.  By Hanne Strager.  Photographs by Paul Nicklen.  Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.  ISBN 9781421446226

This wonderful book on orca whales is done through the eyes and experiences of Hanne Strager, a Danish biologist.  She fell in love with whales when as a biology student, she served as a cook on a Norwegian whale research vessel, and from those early experiences, the study of whales became her life’s work.  In this series of stories, we learn about whales as she learns, each new experience revealing more details about these remarkable creatures.   Many of the chapters begin with historical accounts, helping shed light on current trends among whale populations.  Like a whale pod in search of food, she travels to Denmark, Iceland, Greenland, Russia, Seattle and British Columbia in an effort to more fully understand whales and their relationship to humankind.   It is a complicated relationship, but through Strager’s very personal stories, we have a better understanding of that kinship and of the whales themselves.


Hidden MountainsWinner  Hidden Mountains: Survival and Reckoning After a Climb Gone Wrong.  By Michael Wejchert.  Harper Collins, New York.  ISBN 9780063085527

Four experienced climbers, two men and two women, are on an expedition to the Hidden Mountains, a little visited range in Alaska.  Early in the expedition, while ascending an unclimbed peak, one of the men is badly injured by rock fall.  He is isolated from the others, but eventually, one member of the party reaches the injured climber, and what he finds is not reassuring.  Although a distress text had been sent earlier, it becomes crystal clear that they need outside help—and they need it quickly.  Much of the account centers on a nail-biting rescue undertaken by Alaska Air National Guard.  Oftentimes in narratives like this, the rescuers are secondary to the main story, but in this work, they are very much the story.  We learn who they are, how they train, and how they deal with the everyday dangers of their work.  Author Wejchert goes a step further, following the story beyond the rescue to its aftermath and the lives that have been changed. 

 Design & Artistic Merit

Seasons of YellowstoneWinner  Seasons of Yellowstone:  Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  By Thomas D. Mangelsen.  Rizzoli, New York. 
ISBN 9780847872336

When Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, it was oil paintings and black-and-white photographs made from glass plates that helped convince Congress that this remarkable area should be set aside as a “public park.”   The fact that Congress was moved to do so is a demonstration of the power of images.  Thomas Mangelsen believes in that power, and his life time work has been to use images for the purposes of conservation.   In this stunning book, Mangelsen draws from years of painstaking work to capture the grandeur of Yellowstone and the Tetons.  Whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall, this book is truly the hallmark of a master.

 Children's Category

Beaver PondWinner  What Goes On Inside a Beaver Pond?  By Becky Cushing Gop.  Illustrated by Carrie Shryock.  Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA.  ISBN 9781635865271

This charming story for eight- to ten-year-olds will take them on an adventure to a beaver pond.  Guided along by lovely illustrations, the story begins with a beaver family going about what all beaver families do.  Eventually, we follow a young beaver setting out on her own.  She travels along the stream looking for just the right place to start her own family.  Soon she is joined by a mate, and together they build a dam, stock up on their winter supply of food, and construct their new home.  At the conclusion of the story, children can play a fun game.  Pictured are a series of drawings of animals which have appeared earlier in the book.  The child must try to find where in the book where animal is found.  It is a perfect way for children to relive the story and have a bit fun too.

 Classic Category

Everest West RidgeWinner  Everest: The West Ridge.  By Thomas F. Hornbein.  The Mountaineers Books, Seattle. 
ISBN 9781594857072

There was absolutely no doubt about it when this book arrived in the judges’ hands.  Everest: The West Ridge is a classic in outdoor literature.  The ascent of the West Ridge was the crowning achievement of the 1963 American expedition to the mountain.  The main purpose of the expedition, of course, was to get the first Americans on top of Everest via the standard South Col Route.  Once that had been accomplished, however, the climbing team was free to try something else—and that something was Everest’s imposing West Ridge.  No one knew whether it was possible to climb it, but two climbers, Thomas Hornbein and Willy Unsoeld, set out to try.  This is that story, told in unfailing candor by Hornbein, of one of the most remarkable ascents—and descents—in all of Himalayan climbing history.  Re-issued by the Mountaineers Books on the fiftieth anniversary of the original publication, this is a collector’s item: all original text, all original photographs, all beautifully presented and packaged with a hardbound cover.

 Nature Guides

Sam Thayer's Field Guide to Edible PlantsWinner Sam Thayer’s Field Guide to Edible Plants of Eastern & Central North America.  By Samuel Thayer.  Forager’s Harvest Press, Weyerhaeuser, WI.  ISBN 9780976626640

With over 700 pages and color photos throughout, you can’t go wrong with this comprehensive guide to edible plants.  And you can’t go wrong with the advice of author Samuel Thayer.  An internationally known expert on edible plants, he lives with his family in an off-grid log cabin where he manages the land for wildlife and native edible plants.  Each plant in this guide is accompanied by at least two photos, showing it in different angles and in different stages of growth.  For each of the covered species, Thayer very helpfully includes plants which might be confused with it and why that is.  Tack on range maps, foraging calendar, and an innovative system for identifying plants, and this is one fine field guide.


Edible Wild Plants: Vol 2Silver Medalist  Edible Wild Plants:  Wild Foods from Foraging to Feasting (Vol 2).  By John Kallas, Ph.D.  Gibbs Smith.  Layton, UT.  ISBN 9781423641346

Edible plants made a strong showing in this year’s crop of nature guides, and John Kallas’s new guidebook was another stand-out.  Kallas has the perfect combination of credentials to write this book: a long-time edible plant enthusiast, and a practicing botanist with a Ph.D. in nutrition.  What is so appealing about Kallas’ guide is that in addition to identifying edible plants, he also includes recipes and cooking instructions.  The color photography is, hands down, some of the best found in books about edible plants.  And those photos of wild plants, cooked and ready to serve on the dinner table?   There’s only word to describe them:  Yum!


 Outdoor Adventure Guides

ShralpinismWinner  The Art of Shralpinism:  Lessons from the Mountains.  By Jeremy Jones.  Mountaineers Books Books, Seattle.  ISBN 9781680513301

Undoubtedly, after taking a quick look at the cover, you’ll be thinking . . . what the heck is shralpinism?  Without giving too much away, it’s a combination of shredding—as in shredding snow—and alpinism.  Once you dive into the book, you’ll find this instructional guide unlike any other.  There are no photographs.  Rather it’s an assemblage of drawings, watercolors and text which ranges from type-set to hand-written notes.  It has a journal feel to it. In fact it consists of journal-like entries made by snowboarder Jeremy Jones as he shifted his interests from a racing career to a backcountry devotee.  Adding to the book’s appeal, Jones has supplemented his own thoughts with interviews of other experienced skiers and snowboarders. 


Fly Fishing HoustonSilver Medalist   Fly Fishing Houston & Southeastern Texas.  By Robert H. McConnell.  Imbrifex Books, Las Vegas.  ISBN 9781945501609.

Robert McConnell warns readers in his colorful fly fishing guide that many of the streams he has covered won’t end up appearing on postcards.  A good portion are in Houston and nearby urbanized areas:  forgotten, slow moving tannin-stained waters.  Some are even cement lined ditches.  But despite that, there are fish!  Plenty of fish.  And they are a delight to catch.  This fine guide includes everything you need to find these forgotten streams: maps and descriptions, helpful information on fly patterns, behavior characteristics of the fish, QR codes showing the best place to park, and GPS coordinates for legal access points.  Everything you’ll need for an hour, an afternoon—or a full day of fly fishing fun


Note that a Silver Medal is not awarded in every category. It is only awarded when the winner and second place book are very closely scored.

Official NOBA reviews prepared by Ron Watters.  Reviews are based on comments and insights provided by members of the judging panels.  A special thanks to Katherine Daly for her editorial work. 


End of Listing: 2023 National Outdoor Book Awards



Natalie Bartley, Boise, ID
Freelance outdoor writer/photographer/editor and certified Nordic ski instructor. Active member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association. Doctorate in Recreation and Leisure Services from University of Utah. Author of Best Easy Day Hikes Boise and Best Rail Trails Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Former river ranger, raft guide, ropes course manager, and university professor. Instructed at Hong Kong and Pacific Crest Outward Bound Schools.

Cort Conley, Boise, ID
Writer, editor, and publisher.  Author of several outdoor titles and an anthology of river poems.  Independent river guide since 1968.  Served as a judge for the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. Former Director of Literary Services for the Idaho Commission on the Arts. f

Louis Dzierzak, Minneapolis, MN
A full-time freelance writer focusing on the business side of outdoor recreation. Member of Outdoor Writers Association of America, Society of Environmental Journalists, and the American Society of Authors and Journalists.  Editor of the two-volume Boundary Waters Canoe Area guidebook. Currently writing a book about invasive carp for the University of Minnesota Press. 

Jim & Sara Fullerton, St. Petersburg, FL
Past president of the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.  Doctorate in Human Sciences from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.   Professor for management and leadership development at the College of Coastal Georgia.  Twenty years experience as an outdoor adventure leader.  His wife Sara who assists with judging the children's category is a former elementary school teacher and has worked in a children's bookstore.

Dale Harrington, Boone, NC
Retired biology instructor at Caldwell Community College.  Naturalist.  Former trip leader for Appalachian State University. Avid mountaineer and hiker.

Julia Hughes, Telluride, CO
Avid skiier, long distance hiker, certified EMT and outdoor enthusiast with past experience as an outdoor instructor and guide. Has completed the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, Colorado, and Arizona Trails. Ardent consumer of books on outdoor adventure, survival, and exploration.

Rob Jones, Salt Lake City, UT
Associate Director of Adventure & Sports at the University of Utah.  Former president Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education. More than 40 years in the outdoor recreation/education field.   Leave No Trace Master Educator.  Rob & his wife of 35 years love traveling and spending time with their grandchildren.

Paul Kallmes, Berkeley, CA
Editor of Summit: The Photographs of Vittorio Sella, 1879-1909.  Organized a subsequent photographic exhibition of Sella's mountain photography.  Active climber for over 30 years.  Worked for 10 years at Mountainfilm in Telluride.

Rodney Ley, Fort Collins, CO
Author of Backcountry Skiing Cameron Pass Colorado. Emeritus Director, Outdoor Programs at Colorado State University. Former outdoor columnist for Gannett newspapers. Founder of Never Summer Nordic ski yurt system. Former board member, Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.

Kate Mapp, Park City, UT
Adult Services Librarian at the Park City Library. Former wilderness ranger and archaeologist for the US Forest Service. Professional ski patroller for 8 years and past president of the Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association. Served as a judge for the Women Writing the West-Willa Book Awards.

John Miles, El Prado, NM
Former Dean and Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies, Huxley College, Western Washington University. Author of six books including Wilderness in National Parks: Playground or Preserve. His most recent book, Teaching in the Rain: The Story of North Cascades Institute will soon be published. Currently researching books on national parks and the history of the youth conservation movement.

Jill Morgan, Cynthiana, KY
Publisher of Purple House Press specializing in classic children's books. Jill supervises book selection, layout, design and production. An old dairy farm is home, where she lives with her husband and an assortment of dogs and cats. Chickens roam around in the backyard. Their three children are grown and their eldest daughter is an indispensable part of Purple House Press.

Susanne Dubrouillet Morais, Raleigh, NC
Hypnotherapist and owner of Journeys Hypnosis. Former Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University 2010 - 2023. Former, program director of ORION - Penn State's Wilderness Orientation Program and Instructor at Penn State University (10 years). Past program director with Clemson University's Clemson Expeditions. Masters degree in Outdoor Education

Anders Morley, Littleton, NH
Full-time freelance writer and regular contributor to New Hampshire Magazine. Worked as a teacher and academic translator in Italy. Author of This Land of Snow, a 2021 National Outdoor Book Award winner. Currently working on a book that explores how habits of movement and imagination shape the sense of place.

James Moss, JD Littleton, CO
Outdoor industry attorney, risk management consultant and author.  Board of directors of the Galapagos Preservation Society, and Denver Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.  Author of Outdoor Recreation Risk Management, Insurance and Law.

Tom Mullin, Richmond, ME
Fellow of the National Association for Interpretation. Interpretation/Environmental Education & Trails Consultant, Executive Director of the Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed in Winthrop, ME, Former Associate Professor of Parks and Forest Resources at Unity College of Maine. Consultant and advisor for a series of twenty Time-Life nature books. 1987 Thru-hiker of the 2,100+ mile Appalachian Trail.

Krista Schlyer, Mount Rainier, MD
A freelance conservation writer and photographer and Senior Fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers. Author of four books including River of Redemption: Almanac of Life on the Anacostia, and the National Outdoor Book winner Continental Divide: Wildlife, People and the Border Wall.

Tammie L. Stenger-Ramsey, Bowling Green, KY
Associate Professor, Recreation Administration and Outdoor Experience Leadership at Western Kentucky University.  Leave No Trace Master Educator.  American Canoe Association Canoe Instructor.  Operations Coordinator WKU Field McChesney Field Campus.

Ron Watters, Pocatello, ID
Chairman, National Outdoor Book Awards.  Author of eight outdoor books (Never Turn Back, Ski Camping, The Whitewater Book, etc.)  Formerly, Director of the Idaho State University Outdoor Program (25 years).

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