Books

Canadian writers Suzanne Simard, Jessica J. Lee among Banff Mountain Book Award winners

The competition recognizes excellence in mountain literature from around the world.
Canadian authors Suzanne Simard, left, and Jessica J. Lee, right, are two of the eight category award winners for the 2021 Banff Mountain Book Awards. (Bill Heath, CBC)

Canadian authors Suzanne Simard and Jessica J. Lee are two of the eight award winners of the 2021 Banff Mountain Book Awards.

The awards recognize outstanding mountain literature in all forms from around the world. Over $20,000 in prize money is awarded across eight categories.

Simard won the mountain environment and natural history award for her scientific memoir Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

Having spent the last four decades understanding how trees communicate with each other, Simard brings us into the intimate world of the trees in her first book. She explains how trees are a complex, interdependent circle of life, and how forests are social, communal creatures connected through underground networks. 

Simard is a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia.

"Simard has proven, without doubt, the power of storytelling in the communication of science," jury member Bernadette McDonald said in a statement. 

"She has brought this mind-boggling world she calls the 'wood-wild web' into our minds, and perhaps more importantly, into our hearts."

LISTEN | Suzanne Simard discusses Finding the Mother Tree:

‘Finding the Mother Tree’ that protects her young saplings in pioneering researcher’s memoir

Lee's memoir Two Trees Make a Forest won the adventure travel category.

A chance discovery of letters written by her immigrant grandfather leads the author to her ancestral homeland, Taiwan, where she seeks his story while growing closer to the land he knew. Two Trees Make a Forest encompasses history, travel, nature and memoir.

The book also won the 2020 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction and was a finalist for Canada Reads 2021, when it was championed by singer-songwriter Scott Helman.

"Exploring physical and cultural landscapes, this book made us question the meaning of 'adventure,'" jury member Heather Dawe said in a statement. 

"Two Trees Make a Forest is full of evocative descriptions of the land along with a gentle, determined search to find belonging. Lee unravels a complex, ultimately grounding family history during a brave and enlightening journey."

Lee is a British Canadian Taiwanese author and environmental historian. She is also the author of Turning. Lee grew up in Ontario, and now lives in the U.K.

WATCH | Scott Helman defends Two Trees Make a Forest on Canada Reads:

Canada Reads 2021: Day One Highlight

2 years ago
Duration 1:54
Canada Reads 2021: Day One Highlight

Structured Chaos by U.K. author Victor Saunder won the Jon Whyte award for mountain literature (non-fiction).

Dammed If You Don't by American author Chris Kalman won the prize for mountain fiction & poetry.

The Great Sea Cliffs of Scotland by Scottish writer Guy Robertson from Scotland won the mountain image category award.

Irish Peaks by Mountaineering Ireland won the award for guidebooks.

Letters to a Young Climber by American writer Doug Robinson won the mountaineering article category.

A Feeling for Rock by British writer Sarah-Jane Dobner won the award for climbing literature.

The 2021 Phyllis and Don Munday Award, the $4,000 grand prize sponsored by the Alpine Club of Canada, will be awarded to one of the category winners.

The grand prize winner will be announced on Friday, Nov. 5, as part of the 2021 Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival.

The festival will take place as a hybrid event from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7.

Participating authors include Steve Swenson, Geoff Powter and Angie Abdou

The annual festival is hosted by Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, an organization showcasing the world's best films, books and photographs on mountain subjects.

The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is a partner of the CBC Literary Prizes.

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