A Review: Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War

MostDangerousCover1[1].jpgMost Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War

Author: Steve Sheinkin
New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2015; 384 p.
Min/Max Grade level: Grade 7 and older

VOYA codes: 5Q, 3P, J, S

National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction
YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction
ALA Notable Children’s Books – Older Readers Category
School Library Journal Best Nonfiction Books


I don’t always like historical nonfiction, but Most Dangerous had very good reviews from Goodreads readers. The author, Steve Sheinkin, creates suspense and makes an otherwise political story  compelling and interesting.

This is a book about The Pentagon Papers, and a political back story of the Vietnam War. The plot is complex, and shifts through many times and places. The sometimes graphic details help readers engage in the intricacies of the plot, as there are many layers to understanding American history during the Vietnam War. There are a large number of characters; some mentioned only a handful of times, and some carry through the course of decades that are covered in the book. Daniel Ellsberg is an intriguing character – smart, curious, and hard-working. There is solid documentation in the indexes, and images and maps throughout the text. Most Dangerous is valuable as an example of a thoroughly researched story. There is also historical value for the reader, since it is about one of the U.S.’s most controversial wars.

This book belongs in  your teen library collection.


Forty years after Ellsberg leaked The Pentagon Papers to the New York Times (in 1971), the complete and unredacted report was released to the public. The National Archives version is posted here.


RUSA Narrative Nonfiction Appeal Factors (this is a file download link):

Genre: Biography/Politics/History
Character: Authentic, complex, fair portayal
Storyline: Thought-provoking, balanced,
Pacing: Compelling, comprehensive, index supporting documents



Read-alike from NovelistPlus (historical nonfiction disrupting government corruption):


Whistle-blowers: exposing crime and corruption

Author: Matt Doeden

Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2015; 96 p.

From NovelistPlus: Describes what drives some whistle-blowers to publicly release confidential information, and provides case studies of such high-profile whistle-blowers as Edward Snowden, Kathryn Bolkovac, and Jeffrey Wigand.









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