The first Wilde Awards Live is at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh this Tuesday (November 17) at 7 p.m., I’ve just submitted the Wilde Awards for Picture Books to the News and Observer and am putting finishing touches on my Wilde Awards for Longer Books. I’m astounded at how many books I’ve loved this year and how many I’m still reading. Getting all of this ready for publication/presentation reminds me of cramming for an exam. Thank goodness my last books are easy reads/listens. In the past week I’ve had a YA nonfiction binge, all 3 of the books great for adults as well.
Last week I listened to Steve Sheinkin’s Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the secret history of the Vietnam War (book from Roaring Brook, audio from Listening Library, ages 11 and up). It’s strange to read about an historic drama I lived through and I’ve been so grateful for Sheinkin’s gift for clarity, organization, drama and storytelling. He covers an amazing amount of ground— Daniel Ellsberg’s Cold War growing up, his horrific experiences in Vietnam, the difficult decision to leak the Pentagon Papers. These weighty quandaries are balanced with the ridiculousness of G. Gordon Liddy’s almost comedic disguise and espionage attemps. Spying, heroism and politics make for a compelling book. Narrator Ray Porter heightens tension and his periodic portrayals of the characters add dimension, as do his recounting of candid (also horrific) White House responses.
Last night I finished Gregory Mone’s kid-friendly abridgement of The Boys in the Boat: the true story of an American team’s epic journey to win gold at the 1936 Olympics (Viking, ages 11 and up). Again I was struck by the story-like quality as the author blends the strength of a Depression-era young man and the University of Washington rowing team that transformed him and fellow crew members. The theme of resilience threads throughout the book, connecting the entire tale as it plays out physically and emotionally. Descriptions of places and people are evocative and the emotional details are poignant.
I am 3/4 of the way through M.T. Anderson’s Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dimitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad (Candlewick, ages 14 and up; audio by Brilliance). The writing itself seems symphonic as Anderson seamlessly, artfully blends extensive research of Russia’s transitions from monarchy to Stalin’s Great Terror to the Nazi invasion. His descriptions sing with specific sensory details and emotional power. Throughout, Anderson peppers questions about this puzzling period and about Shostakovich’s inner life. I found questions coming alive in me as well. Who was more of a monster, Hitler or Stalin? I wondered. It is a painful book to read/listen to, but the appalling facts are somehow balanced by the vivid life and musical passions of Shostakovich.
Come see these and others at the Wilde Awards Live at Quail Ridge, or the Wilde Awards Live at Flyleaf on December 3rd at 7:00 p.m. At both their will be contests to win free books, a table laden with new titles, and the convivial gathering of those who adore stories.