Last Saturday I spent the day at Chico Hot Springs with other members of the Montana Book Award choosing this year’s winner and honor books. The news release below reports the results of our deliberations.

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The 2011 Montana Book Award winner is Raptors of the West by Kate Davis, Rob Palmer and Nick Dunlop, published by Mountain Press. This annual award recognizes literary and/or artistic excellence in a book written or illustrated by someone who lives in Montana, is set in Montana, or deals with Montana themes or issues.

Presentations and a reception with the winning authors will take place in April, during the Montana Library Association Conference at Big Sky.

Raptors of the West, the latest collaboration by award-winning photographers Rob Palmer and Nick Dunlop and author/photographer Kate Davis, is a glorious photographic ode to the forty-five birds of prey that roam the skies of the American West. The book is arranged by the habitat type which gives a great way to identify many birds in one area. While the 430 stunning color photographs are enough to set this book apart on their own, Davis’s informative and entertaining captions make this a perfect guide for all age groups.

Four honor books were also chosen by the 2011 Montana Book Award Committee:

Beautiful Unbroken: One Nurse’s Life by Mary Jane Nealon, published by Graywolf Press. As a child, Mary Jane Nealon dreams of growing up to become a saint or, failing that, a nurse. Beautiful Unbroken details Nealon’s life of caregiving, from her years as a flying nurse, untethered and free to follow friends and jobs from the Southwest to Savannah, to more somber years in New York City, treating men in a homeless shelter on the Bowery and working in the city’s first AIDS wards. In this compelling and revealing memoir, Nealon brings a poet’s sensitivity to bear on the hard truths of disease and recovery, life and death.

Conjugations of the Verb To Be by Glen Chamberlain, published by Delphinium Books. In her debut collection of short stories, Glen Chamberlain stakes out her own distinct, well-imagined parcel of Montana land. Set in the fictional town of Buckle–“an informal little dot on the map”–these stories are populated with salt-of-the-earth ranchers, schoolteachers, nurses, lovers and dreamers.

Hand Raised: The Barns of Montana by Chere Jiusto, and Christine Brown with photographs by Tom Ferris, published by Montana Historical Society Press. Beyond their utilitarian functions, barns are simply beautiful. The historic barns pictured in this book present the best, most unique, most significant, and most beautiful across the state. Photographer Tom Ferris explored barns inside and out across Montana, and authors and
architectural historians Chere Jiusto and Christine Brown help readers understand the significance of what they are looking at and tell the stories of the individual barns.

Where Elk Roam: Conservation and Biopolitics of Our National Elk Herd by Bruce L. Smith, published by Lyons Press. This book provides an inside look at the field studies and conservation work of a federal wildlife scientist who for twenty-two years served as the National Elk Refuge’s wildlife biologist, coordinating winter feeding of 8,000 elk and tracking their births, deaths, and annual migrations throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The Montana Book Award was founded by the Friends of the Missoula Public Library in 2001 and winners are selected by a committee of individuals representing areas throughout Montana.

Members of the 2011 Montana Book Award committee included Honore Bray, Missoula; Adam Kish, Twin Bridges; Mark Miller, Bozeman; Carole Ann Clark, Great Falls; Jill Munson, Fort Benton; Gordon Dean, Forsyth; and Sarah Daviau, Libby.

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Saturday’s meeting was my last as a member of the MBA selection committee. During my four-year term I read some great books, many good ones, and a few not so good. It’s been great fun, but I’m happy to regain control over my reading list. Tamara Miller will succeed me as the Bozeman representative on the committee.

— You can read the item I posted last year about Montana Book Award procedures—and the heady experience of serving on the selection committee here.

— The Montana Book Award Logo is a woodcut by Claire Emory.

— To find out more about my work with the Montana Book Award look under the “Categories Button” on the right.

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