Book review: Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, by Steve Sheinkin

Sheinkin, Steve. Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. Roaring Brook, 2015. $19.99. 370p. ISBN 978-1-59643-952-8. Ages 12-15. P7Q10

For two years, Daniel Ellsberg supported the tragic “conflict” before he spent time in Vietnam as a State Department staff member and experienced the horrors that are graphically described in this book. Accompanying infantrymen into combat completely reversed his position, and in the next few years he became famous for leaking the Pentagon Papers—47 volumes of the war’s secret history. President Richard M. Nixon was so desperate to catch Ellsberg that he authorized break-ins, hoping to find discrediting information about Ellsberg’s visits to a psychiatrist. The terrifying account of the unnecessary war that killed almost 60,000 U.S. soldiers as well as millions of innocent people reads like a mystery as Ellsberg covertly copied the 7,000 pages of top-secret documents and kept them undercover until he distributed them throughout the nation’s media after courts kept The New York Times and Washington Post from completing their publication. The author shows how the Pentagon Papers revealed lies to explain unwarranted military intervention that led to deeper involvement in the war and further illegal attempts to silence opposition. The text also shows debates about publishing the papers with an epilogue about recent leaks from Edward Snowden.

Verdict: Although the events in the book started over a half century ago, the topic is timely because of recent leaks before and after the 2016 presidential election. Also an exciting read, Most Dangerous was National Book Award finalist and a winner of YALSA/ALA’s Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction. A thrilling page-turner and distillation of history, Most Dangerous is a must read.

January 2017 review by Nel Ward.

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