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Bomb

Guest blogger Joy Piedmont is back (and I think we’ll be taking advantage of her at least once more before the season is done!), covering another major nonfiction title of 2012.

Bomb1 397x500 BombBomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, Steve Sheinkin
Flash Point, September 2012
Reviewed from final copy

When I say, “World War II espionage” which 2012 young adult title comes to mind?

Yeah, I know Code Name Verity is the big name in this conversation, but Bomb is a gripping spy story in its own right.

There are three main threads of Steve Sheinkin’s book: the American effort to build the atomic bomb, the Allies attempts to sabotage German advances towards the atomic bomb, and the Russians’ work to steal the plans for the atomic bomb. Sheinkin has taken something sprawling and complex and molded it into a nonfiction title that reads like an epic action movie. (Seriously, read the chapter on the destruction of the German heavy water plant in Vemork, Norway and tell me you don’t imagine this scene from Inception.)

Sheinkin nails action pacing and easily incorporates real quotes from the people involved. He also makes physics and atomic theory, which would normally make my brain hurt digestible by introducing the theory in the context of actual experiments conducted prior to and during the Manhattan Project.

That juxtaposition of fiction style with nonfiction content characterizes the entire book. Bomb oozes style, and it’s the book’s greatest strength — and greatest weakness. Sheinkin has a firm command of fast pacing, snappy dialogue, and multiple storylines, which create a massively appealing read. With descriptive language and clever plot juggling, Sheinkin creates the atmosphere of life as a wartime spy (or a bomb-building physicist); it’s dangerous and exciting. This effective world building and use of stylistic tools create a book that feels light.

Dare I say it? Bomb is, at times, too easy.

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Whither the nonfiction, bloggers?

 Whither the nonfiction, bloggers?

Orin Zebest / CC BY 2.0

We’ve done a lot of writing about contendas this year, but you may have noticed that non-fiction has been absent so far. As a matter of fact, our own Mark Flowers emailed wondering “whither the nonfiction, bloggers?” And just as we were turning his question right back on him in the form of an invitation to do a guest post, he wrote a thoughtful and astonishingly complete post about awesome nonfiction reads for The Hub.

We definitely depend on you guys for NF recommendations; Karyn and I both have our baggage, afterall, and need people to pick up our slack/keep us honest. Mark’s got a great line up there, and there’s some stuff I’m really looking forward to tracking down. Steve Sheinkin’s Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon and Catherine Reef’s The Bronte Sisters sound fascinating (how’s that for a unique pairing?). Oooh, and Marching to the Mountaintop by Anne Bausum has a description that’s caught my eye a couple of times. Perhaps next time I’ll remember when I’m actually at a library?

What about you guys? What stellar nonfiction have you been reading?