I realize Steve Sheinkin’s books are for kids, but I totally, 100% don’t care. Non-fiction? More like non-stop thrill ride.
I love how he writes about history as if it’s urgent. Increasingly, I’m becoming aware that it is indeed urgent for average Americans to understand what’s happened in the past, so we can avoid living in a Groundhog Day-type loop of bad political and humanitarian decisions in our present.
With Most Dangerous, Sheinkin turns his attention to the Vietnam War: what started it, and most interestingly, what eventually ended it. A Washington insider named Daniel Ellsberg chose to leak a massive top-secret document to expose years upon years of lies and deception by American presidents. Those in power labeled him a traitor and put him on trial. Looking back now, a strong argument could be made that he was a hero.
I especially enjoyed how, in the afterword, Sheinkin connects the dots from Ellsberg’s decision to a much more recent one, specifically the case of Edward Snowden, who exposed the NSA’s spying on law-abiding citizens. Physically, at least, Snowden’s task was very different from Ellsberg’s thanks to advances in technology since the 1960s. Ellsberg labored for weeks on a Xerox machine to make copies of the thousand-page document, and it had to be transported in suitcases. Logistically, a bit more complicated than saving everything to a flash drive the size of a baby carrot and sticking it in your pocket.
Having never studied the Vietnam War in school before, it was gratifying to fill in that particular hole in my education. For example, I had NO IDEA how absolutely terrible a person Richard Nixon was. I knew he was the only president to ever resign, and I figured whatever he did must have been bad for him to do that, but good Lord, that guy was awful.