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YALSA’s 2013 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge Check In #1

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2013 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post.

I love the Morris Award because really, what’s better than finding a new author to love? Especially an author at the start of (what one hopes is) a long and wonderful career wherein they write a whole lot of brilliant books for us to adore. The Morris has already highlighted a whole slew of amazing writers in the four years it’s been around, including some personal favorites like Kristen Cashore, Elizabeth Bunce, Malinda Lo, Lish McBride, Karen Healey, and Rae Carson, and that’s why it’s one of my most-anticipated awards. I usually end up reading all the titles on the shortlist, but this year I’m going to try really hard to read them all during this challenge, rather than spreading them out over the coming months. And I’m starting with S.D. Crockett’s After the Snow, partly because reviews and advance praise piqued my interest, and partly because I enjoyed reading her blog (not to mention her choice of website graphics.)

The other finalists look equally intriguing; it’s going to be a good month for reading, I can tell.

But what about the Award for Excellence in Nonfiction? It’s only been recently that I’ve developed a real taste for nonfiction, I confess. I dipped in now and then, when something caught my eye and held my attention long enough, but it wasn’t until I spent some quality time with another nonfiction award (the Robert F. Sibert Award, for the record) that I really learned to appreciate nonfiction and realize that I enjoyed reading it too. Jennifer Larson’s recent Hub post noted that nonfiction is a great way to help make sense of the vast and confusing world we live in. Of course, that’s what the best fiction does too, so making a concerted effort to include nonfiction in my literary diet makes absolute sense to me.

To that end, I’m already halfway through Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin and it’s absolutely fascinating. I chose to start the Nonfiction Award part of this challenge with Bomb basically because I loved Ellen Klages’s Green Glass Sea, and the sequel White Sands, Red Menace, not to mention many of the other fiction readalikes the Nonfiction Award committee has already highlighted. Plus I love the idea that Steve Sheinkin used to write textbooks and now tries to write “history books that people will actually read voluntarily.” I think he’s succeeded in that aim, given that last year’s Excellence in Nonfiction Award went to his The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery. There’s a great interview with Mr. Sheinkin in School Library Journal; read it, and then give Bomb a try, if you haven’t already.

If you’ve whipped through all five books one of the shortlists already, fill out the form below to let us know you’ve completed the challenge — and then get started on the other half! Otherwise, leave us a comment and let us know what you’ve been reading and how you liked it.

— Julie Bartel, currently reading Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon and Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge


  1. I’m reading Wonder Show! Hope to finish this week and get started on The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

  2. Shari Waterworth Shari Waterworth


    Titanic: Voices from the Disaster

    Starting Wonder Show

  3. Slow progress this week – way too many books waiting to be read. But I did finish We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March. Posted my comments on my blog:

    Another Challenge

  4. Sara Ray Sara Ray

    I’m off to a slow start with being halfway through my first choice, Titanic: Voices from the Disaster. Non-fiction usually moves slow for me but this is more of a story to me than a factual book and I’m enjoying it. I’m hoping to have some time to whip through the non-fiction selections and then move onto a couple of Morris finalists.

  5. Sean Ehrlich Sean Ehrlich

    Im in the middle of Seraphina, and i have started After the Snow. RATINGS Seraphina: 5/5 After the Snow:4/5

  6. Penny Johnson Penny Johnson

    I have finished Titanic and I am partway through We’ve Got a Job. A pretty good start to the challenge considering I am also working through two other books sitting on my bed stand!

  7. Emily Calkins Emily Calkins

    Getting a slow start – I’m about half-way through After the Snow. Like it so far, although I have one big issue with it (but you’ll have to wait until I finish it, I guess, to find out what that is…)

  8. I got a slow start as well. I’m about halfway through the Steve Jobs book and I’m enjoying it a lot. I’m hoping to finish it tonight and start After the Snow.

  9. Can I join the slow-start club? I’m about 3/4 of the way through Moonbird. I LOVE IT! I keep recommending it to people like a crazy person.

  10. Kim Kim

    I’m currently reading After the Snow and hoping to finish by this week.

  11. I’ve started several of the non-fiction, including “Moonbird” and “Steve Jobs”. Everything, including the Morris nominnees, are sitting on my self, waiting for me to start them. I have previously read “Seraphina” and really look forward to reading it again!

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