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Best of Year: 2009


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Best of the Year 2009


By Ron Watters


2009 Collage



Best Books of 2009:   Winners of the National Outdoor Book Awards and the following . . .


Children's Book:

Meet Me at the Mountain

2009 Best of the Year Outdoor Book:


Meet Me at the Mountain: An Interactive Multi-sensory Adventure  By Mark A. Andrews.  Meet Me at the Mountain, Charlottesville, VA  ISBN 9781607436393


I was really surprised when this book didn't win a NOBA, but the children's category is always a tough one, and this year, the judges had a particularly difficult time coming to consensus among the many fine books entered.  It is a winner here, however.  Meet Me at the Mountain has been chosen as a "Best Book of the Year." 


Mountain MenagerieChildren from 3 to 10 years of age will get wide-eyed over the story and will delight in its playful animal illustrations.  But there's something more here than poetic language and art.  There's a message about disabilities, hope and teamwork.  


The story begins with Emerald Eagle who sends out a call that the snow has fallen and winter is here.  Rossi Raccoon (who is blind) collects Jean Claude Jack Rabbit (who is deaf), and together with Big Max the Moose (who has MS), and a menagerie of other forest creatures, they begin a journey.  It isn't easy going with wheelchairs, crutches and other impediments, but by helping one another, they struggle forward, and eventually they all reach The Mountain . . . 


Meet me at the Mountain.

She's calling you and me.

The mountain is our mighty friend.

She sets our spirits free


Author's Site:  More Information or Purchase




Edge of Never

2009 Best of the Year Outdoor Book:


The Edge of Never  By William A. Kerig. Stone Creek Publications, Milford, NJ  ISBN 9780965633840


This is the true story of a film maker and a fifteen year old boy, both with lives that revolve around skiing.  William Kerig the author of the book, travels from Salt Lake City to Whistler, British Columbia to talk to young Kyle Peterson about a film project.  The idea is to film Kyle skiing the extreme couloirs and slopes of the Mt Blanc massif in Chamonix, France.  Kyle is noncommittal at first, but eventually, along with his mother's concurrence, agrees to the idea.


Why was the teenager so important to Kerig?  It has to do with family and the story that Kerig envisioned to capture on film.  Kyle's father was the legendary, high-flying extreme skier Trevor Peterson.   Trevor was darling of the ski world, endorsing equipment and appearing in movies and magazine spreads, making his living off of skiing, something his son Kyle was now attempting to do. 


But why go to Mt Blanc?  It's because Mt Blanc couldn't be more central to the story.  In 1996, Trevor Peterson was skiing the infamous Exit Couloir on the side of Mt Blanc and was swept to his death by an avalanche.  In the back of Kerig's mind is the unnerving, yet irresistible thought that Kyle might ski the same dangerous run that killed his father.


One of the strong suits of the book is Kerig's adeptness with dialog.  He uses no quote marks in the text, a technique which, depending upon the author, sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.  With Kerig it works.  He is able to pull it off without marring the flow of the story.  And flow, it does, the book moving along like celluloid film clipping through the gate of a projector. 


Not surprisingly the book takes on a film-like quality.  It cuts from one scene to another, with long takes interspersed with inviting close-ups, all leading up to one climatic scene—a scene that people in the film business call the “money shot.” 


But therein is the underlying tension of the book: should Kerig expose Kyle Peterson to danger, the same danger that claimed life of his father? There's more to this story than just a 15-year kid skiing some crazy terrain.  There's a moral question, and you'll find out just how Kerig deals with it in this absorbing account.


Amazon.com:  More Information or Purchase


2009 Best of the Year Outdoor Book:


Coolest RaceThe Coolest Race on Earth: Mud, Madmen, Glaciers and Grannies at the Antarctica Marathon.  By John Hanc, Chicago Review Press, ISBN 9781556527388


If you're a runner, you're going to love this book!  Put away any of those ideas that a book on running is dry.  Not this one.  Not in author John Hanc's hands.  Hanc knows the craft of writing, and he knows how to keep a book moving along at a good clip.  You'll quickly find yourself keeping pace, running with him in one of the craziest, most adventurous marathons ever.


There are no cinder tracks, no nicely groomed jogging paths along the Antarctic's seaside.  Rather running in Antarctica is about mud, melting glaciers, uncooperative weather and cold.  But how did we get there?  How did marathon running come from tame countryside lanes and paved city streets to the most barren and forbidding part of the globe?  Hanc takes us there gently, beginning with the question of why we run, and then providing historical perspective by tracing the explosive growth in running among the general public. 


He nicely melds the story of his own interest in the Antarctica marathon along with the historical information and interviews with key players.  Eventually, we find ourselves there.  With mist rising on an overcast morning, we disembark from the motorized inflatable Zodiac, and then we're off running, slogging at times through ankle-deep mud, and splashing across glacial streams, following a thin line of runners through an undulating desolation, devoid of vegetation of any kind.


It's insanity.  Pure insanity.  And Hanc is there to capture it, insanity and all:  the abysmal conditions, the colorful participants, and yes, the glorious exhilaration of adventure running as only the pen of good writer can.   If you were to pick one book on adventure running to read,  this is the one.



Amazon.com:  More Information or Purchase


2009 Best of the Year Outdoor Book:


Beyond the HorizonBeyond the Horizon: The First Human-powered Expedition to Circle the Globe.  By Colin Angus.  Menasha Ridge Press. Birmingham, AL ISBN 9780897326858


An interesting thing happened in the 2009 National Outdoor Book Awards.  Two books about the same expedition were entered.  That isn't particularly unusual.   It has happened before.  But this situation was a bit different. 


One of the books, the book reviewed here, was written by Canadian Colin Angus.  The other was written by another Canadian, Julie Angus. 


Notice any similarity in the last name?  Yep.  They are married.   Both books ended up competing with one another in the National Outdoor Book Awards.


The two books are about Colin Angus's amazing journey which circumnavigated the globe.  Julie joined him for the last half: a row from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean to Central America and then a bike ride north back to Colin's starting point in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Colin's book is about the entire journey.  Julie's is about the row across the Atlantic.   In the end, Julie won honorable mention in the highly competitive Outdoor Literature category for her gripping account of the Atlantic segment.


Although Colin didn't win a NOBA, he is certainly deserving of recognition, and we are happy to announce the inclusion of Beyond the Horizon in "Best Books of the Year."  It's is true that Colin Angus is not a professional writer.  He's an adventurer, but he knows how to tell a good story, and you'll find his account of the expedition engrossing. 


What makes this is a winning book is the significance of his feat: the first person to travel around the world by totally human-powered means.  In the journey, Angus rowed across two oceans, and hiked, cycled and skied through seventeen countries on seven continents.  All in all, it was a remarkable and grueling 26,700 miles, a supreme test for latter day Odysseus.


Amazon.com:  More Information or Purchase


Trail to Table Mountain

2009 Best of the Year Outdoor Book:


The Trail to Table Mountain: A Location Based Guide to 186 Plants Found in the Teton-Yellowstone Region.  Written and Illustrated by Kelley Coburn.  Black Timber Press.  ISBN 9780615218946


Best of 2009


This is a guide to the plants found along the trail leading to the top of Table Mountain.  The mountain lies on the west slope, or the Idaho side, of the Tetons near the town of Driggs. Before I sat down with the book, I thought I might read a chapter here and there, skipping throughout until I got a feel for it.  But from the first few pages, I was completely taken in by Coburn's soothing voice, his well chosen words, and the way in which the book is ordered and arranged.  I found myself totally absorbed.  All in all, this is a superb guidebook


Amazon.com:  More Information or Purchase


OR Available from:  Dark Horse Books in Driggs, Idaho (phone: (208) 354-8882 / email: dhbooks@tetonvalley.net)




National Park Wilderness

2009 Best of the Year Outdoor Book:


Wilderness in National Parks:  Playground or Preserve.  By John C. Miles.  University of Washington Press. Seattle  ISBN 9780295988757


This gets the vote, along with 2009 NOBA winner Wilderness Warrior, for the best researched outdoor book of the year. You'll can always depend upon John Miles for substance and authoritative work, and Wilderness in National Parks is that and more.


What Miles does in this book is to the explore the ambiguous relationship between the National Park Service and the concept of wilderness.  Miles presents a historical perspective, starting with the origins of the Park Service, moving to the designation of the first National Park wilderness 1970, and finally bringing the reader up to date on the present situation.  The present, we discover, is not much different than the past: a continuation of the old paradox of trying to balance public needs with the protection and preservation of the park's natural resources.


Miles' book was well timed.  It arrived the same year that Ken Burns released his six part PBS series National Parks: America's Best Idea.   If you haven't seen Burn's series, it's a must for any outdoor lover.   And so is John Miles' book.  It's a erudite and illuminating read by itself, and certainly a great companion to the Burns' series.


Amazon.com:  More Information or Purchase



Links to the Best Books of Other Years:  See List








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