National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin

Posted November 13, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, Read in 2015 / 2 Comments

National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve SheinkinMost Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War on September 22nd 2015
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


This captivating nonfiction investigation of the Pentagon Papers has captured widespread critical acclaim, including features in The Washington Post and on NPR, and selection as a 2015 National Book Award finalist.

From Steve Sheinkin, the award-winning author of The Port Chicago 50 and Newbery Honor Book Bomb comes a tense, narrative nonfiction account of what the Times deemed "the greatest story of the century": how whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg transformed from obscure government analyst into "the most dangerous man in America," and risked everything to expose years of government lies during the Nixon / Cold War era.

On June 13, 1971, the front page of the New York Times announced the existence of a 7,000-page collection of documents containing a secret history of the Vietnam War. Known as The Pentagon Papers, these files had been commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Chronicling every action the government had taken in the Vietnam War, they revealed a pattern of deception spanning over twenty years and four presidencies, and forever changed the relationship between American citizens and the politicians claiming to represent their interests. The investigation that resulted--as well as the attempted government coverups and vilification of the whistleblower--has timely relevance to Edward Snowden's more recent conspiracy leaks.

A provocative and political book that interrogates the meanings of patriotism, freedom, and integrity, Most Dangerous further establishes Steve Sheinkin as a leader in children's nonfiction.

‘Perspective is everything.’

Daniel Ellsberg was a military analyst at the Pentagon in 1964. He worked under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and had access to confidential documents which were never reported to the American people, but it was a part of his job to keep that information contained. He visited Vietnam personally and seeing the war firsthand irrevocably changed his understanding and opinion of the United States’ fight with Vietnam. Upon his return, his help was enlisted in compiling a top secret document of which the president wasn’t even made aware of on the conduct of the Vietnam War. The 7,000-page document was a wake-up call for Ellsberg as he resolved to make the American people aware of the vast conspiracy of lies that had been going on for several decades.

The story is a most shocking one, detailing the years of deception from not just a single president but four including their administrations over the course of twenty-three years. Going into this story, I was fairly oblivious to the history of the Vietnam War. I am not normally a non-fiction reader, however, I welcomed the prospect of being able to familiarize myself with something that is such a huge part of American history. My sole reservation (which is the same reservation I have for all non-fiction stories) is that it’ll end up reading like a dull textbook. Well, rest assured, Sheinkin has transformed the history of the Vietnam War while interlacing it with Daniel Ellsberg’s involvement to create one well-researched thriller that is both informative and captivating.

I was curious about the fact that this is a non-fiction story targeted to young adult readers, but it makes sense now. Most young adult readers these days won’t be well versed in this time period (as I am/was) and I almost think that going into this story knowing very little about the history is a benefit. The way this story is told will undoubtedly kindle an interest in this time period leading readers to pick up additional books that will further elucidate. Interestingly enough, in the epilogue, the connection is made between Ellsberg’s actions and that of Edward Snowden’s who in 2013 released details of classified United States government surveillance programs. Decades separate the two incidents, yet it’s clear that the government is still far from candid. Ellsberg’s story not only illuminates an important part of American history but it helps to illustrate how our government and society became how it is today.


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