36 Books in 36 Days: Canoes

Each day we highlight one of the 36 finalists leading up to the April 8 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, presented by Education Minnesota. Today we feature 2017 General Nonfiction finalist:

Canoes: A Natural History in North America by Mark Neuzil and Norman Sims
Published by University of Minnesota Press

Ancient records of canoes are found from the Pacific Northwest to the coast of Maine, in Minnesota and Mexico, in the Southeast and across the Caribbean. And if a native of those distant times might encounter a canoe of our day—whether birch bark or dugout or a modern marvel made of carbon fiber—its silhouette would be instantly recognizable. This is the story of that singular American artifact, so little changed over time: of canoes, old and new, the people who made them, and the labors and adventures they shared. With features of technology, industry, art, and survival, the canoe carries us deep into the natural and cultural history of North America.

1 John White, The Manner of their Fishing_From Chapter 2




The Manner of their Fishing by John White (~1585-1593)
From Chapter 1: Dugout Canoes






2 Coleman Vintage Canoe Ad




Coleman advertisement, 1978
From Chapter 6: Synthetic Canoes







Mark Neuzil CanoeAbout the Authors:

Mark Neuzil is a professor in the communication and journalism department at the University of St. Thomas. He is the author or coauthor of seven books and a frequent writer and speaker on environmental themes. A former licensed wilderness guide and summer state park ranger, he lives in St. Paul with his wife, the journalist Amy Kuebelbeck. Follow Mark Neuzil on Twitter.

Norman Sims is a retired honors professor from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a past president of the International Association for Literary Journalism Studies. This is his sixth book. A longtime whitewater canoeist and an active member of both the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association, Sims has a small collection of antique Morris wood-and-canvas canoes.

Rave Reviews:

“A fascinating cultural and technological history that, with its hundreds of color and black-and-white images, including many by renowned artists, is a visual as well as informative feast.” Booklist

“Browsing these pages, one senses what the naturalist Sigurd F. Olson called the “magic in the feel of a paddle.” That’s magic that Neuzil and Sims know well.” Washington Post

“Deep history…from the crudest dugouts through the most elegant cedar strips to featherweight polymers of today, with hundreds of color photos and a score of profiles of the people who made and paddled them.”        Star Tribune

3 canoe camping equipment




Typical canoe camping equipment illustrated in the 1915 book, Canoeing and Camping, by James A. Cruikshank.
From Chapter 8: Canoe Tripping






Beyond the Book:

Explore more than 300 images from the book here.

Article: “10,000 Years of History Captured in One Book,” by Amy Goetzman, MinnPost

Article: “Writing the Book on Canoes,” by Kelly Engebretsen, St. Thomas Magazine


Paddle Minnesota interview with Jim Gallagher, KAXE Radio, Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Dec. 9, 2016


KARE-11 Morning Show with Bryan Piatt, Jan. 16, 2017