A Pocatello author’s fish book that sold roughly 300 copies was recently ranked along with two New York Times Best Sellers as one of the three best Idaho books of 2018.
John Sigler, who co-authored the 830-page illustrated tome “The Fishes of Idaho” with Don Zaroban of Boise, earned an honorable mention in the annual Idaho Book of the Year Awards.
The other two winners in the Idaho competition are both staples on national lists of top books: “Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover was the other honorable mention winner, and “Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens, was recognized as the state’s best book of the year.
Sigler and Zaroban received their award Oct. 3 during a ceremony in Caldwell, hosted during the annual Idaho Association of Libraries meeting.
“When I found out who the company was, I was stunned,” Sigler said.
Zaroban previously published a book on native fishes in the spring of 2013, but the recent book is far more comprehensive and includes every fish species in the state, as well as illustrations.
“There hadn’t been a complete fishes of Idaho book in four decades,” Sigler said.
Their book also lists Idaho’s top fishing spots. The South Fork of the Snake River, Palisades Reservoir, the Henry’s Fork and Bear Lake rank high among their picks for best fishing destinations.
Sigler said he and his coauthor were concerned the book would be too technical.
Kathryn Poulter, who works as youth services supervisor at Marshall Public Library and chairs the Idaho book of the Year Award Committee, said she was pleasantly surprised by how interesting and easy to read the fish book proved to be.
“I was a little daunted when it landed on my desk, and then I opened it and it had all of these beautiful illustrations and paintings of fish, and then I started to read,” Poulter said. “It talked about habitat and secret fishing spots.”
Poulter has a new appreciation for fish in general, especially the fishes of Idaho.
“The other (two winning books) received a lot of accolades, but I think ‘The Fishes of Idaho’ ranks right up there with the quality of research,” Poulter said.
Poulter personally reads every book that is entered in the contest. There were 17 books in the running in 2018. The contest is open to books about Idaho or authored by an Idaho writer during the calendar year.
Poulter said she and the two other judges on the committee often select nationally acclaimed novels as winners. For example, a past winner, “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Idaho author Anthony Doerr, also won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. But a textbook on Idaho microbes has also won, Poulter said.
“There is such a variety,” Poulter said. “We do have really good books written here in Idaho.”
“Educated: A Memoir” details the upbringing of the author, Westover, who was born to survivalists in the mountains of Southeast Idaho. “Where the Crawdads Sing” profiles a girl who lives in a marsh along the North Carolina coast. The character is suspected of a 1969 murder. The author, Owens, is from Boundary County, Idaho.