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AWARD WINNERS: Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year.

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Most dangerous : Daniel Ellsberg and the secret history of the Vietnam War

Sheinkin, Steve, author.


Sheinkin’s latest is a thrilling journalistic account of government insider Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers and exposed the questionable decisions that led to the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. This cinematic work simultaneously recounts a history of the Vietnam War, details the complete reversal of one man’s loyalties, chronicles the downfall of a presidential administration, examines First Amendment rights, and explores honor and morality. A timely exploration of American history that crackles with tension and excitement.

2016 Winner

Symphony for the city of the dead : Dmitri Shostakovich and the siege of Leningrad

Anderson, M. T., author.


Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony was completed during the horrors of the 900-day Siege of Leningrad during World War II. Anderson’s sweeping history of the first half of the twentieth century in Soviet Russia and his focus on the life of the slight, bespectacled composer is dramatic, challenging, and immersive. Political and cultural revolutions and upheavals enveloped Russia over the decades during which Shostakovich grew into one of the West’s most celebrated composers. Meticulous research and a captivating narrative celebrate courage, perseverance—and music.

2016 Finalist

Enchanted air : two cultures, two wings : a memoir

Engle, Margarita.


Cuban? American? Lush island paradise or fast-paced city living? These are the two worlds that Margarita Engle eloquently describes through lyrical, free-verse poems as she attempts to define herself, her family, and her country within the context of being biracial during the United States’ invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The power of this book lies in the emotional connections and vivid imagery evoked by observing the simple differences between Engle’s two families as she deftly explores both cultures’ customs and traditions.

2016 Finalist

First flight around the world : the adventures of the American fliers who won the race

Grove, Tim, 1967-

J 910.41 GROVE

In 1924, a team of American aviators embarked on a race to circumnavigate the globe. During their 150-day journey, the crew faced hostile weather, pesky reporters, mechanical failures, and agonizing disappointments. Drawing on archival materials, Grove enlivens this story of historical achievement with humor and fascinating travel anecdotes, while portraying the perseverance and dedication of the crew. This suspenseful tale is a visual feast with heart.

2016 Finalist

This strange wilderness : the life and art of John James Audubon

Plain, Nancy, author.


John James Audubon traveled the length and breadth of North America in service of his monumental Birds of America, the work that marked his lasting reputation as a naturalist. Plain’s account, drawn from Audubon’s journals and letters, conveys the artist’s determination (some regarded him as a madman) to document the continent’s rich variety of birds and other wildlife. This elegantly designed book deftly blends art and ornithology, and includes lovely reproductions of Audubon’s work.

2016 Finalist

Popular : a memoir : vintage wisdom for a modern geek

Wagenen, Maya van.


Maya Van Wagenen’s memoir, Popular, is one part 1950s popularity guidebook mixed with two parts courage and one truly modern geek girl. Van Wagenen takes on the social hierarchy of middle school and through the use of Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide manages to achieve acceptance and understanding. Her memoir is charming, funny, and shaped by the tools every ‘50s girl used to secure her standing in the social order—girdles, hats, makeup, diet, and a properly erect posture.

2015 Winner

The Nazi hunters : how a team of spies and survivors captured the world's most notorious Nazi

Bascomb, Neal, author.

364.151 BASCOMB

At the end of World War II, Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi leader responsible for organizing the deportation and imprisonment of millions of Holocaust victims, went into hiding under an assumed identity. Eventually he fled to Argentina where he lived and worked under a false name for 10 years. Bascomb tells the story of Eichmann’s crimes, his years in hiding, and his eventual capture and trial with rich detail and riveting suspense. At the same time, Bascomb introduces readers to the courageous Israeli agents, Holocaust survivors, and their families who worked together to track down, capture, and bring Eichmann to justice.

2014 Winner

Bomb : the race to build-- and steal-- the world's most dangerous weapon

Sheinkin, Steve.

J 623.4511 SHEINKI

In this suspenseful combination of science and history, Sheinkin masterfully exposes the international race to develop an atomic weapon and bring an end to World War II. This true-life spy thriller features an international cast of characters and will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Period photographs of key players and an abundance of primary sources bring this well-researched story to life. Sheinkin gives readers insight into what happened with all of the major players after the end of the war. A thought-provoking epilogue on the long term implications of atomic weaponry reminds readers that the results of scientific inquiry have long term implications for everyone.

2013 Winner

The notorious Benedict Arnold : a true story of adventure, heroism, & treachery

Sheinkin, Steve.


Treating history as mystery, Sheinkin takes readers through means, motive, and opportunity as he outlines Arnold’s path towards treason. This well researched (with liberal use of primary sources) cradle to grave biography emphasizes the political, social, and military issues within the Colonial army and how Arnold ambitiously maneuvered his own career through grit and determination.

2012 Winner

Janis Joplin : rise up singing

Angel, Ann, 1952-


From her humble beginnings in a small town in Texas to her marquee life as a superstar of '60s rock, Janis Joplin remains an icon of music. Despite her short life, she left an indelible impression on the music of an era.

2011 Winner

Charles and Emma : the Darwins' leap of faith

Heiligman, Deborah.


After creating a list of the pros and cons of marriage, science-minded Charles Darwin chooses to marry his strictly religious first cousin. Little does he know that he is about to embark upon the most loving, creative, and intellectually important relationship of his life.

2010 Winner

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