So much to say about Lincoln’s Grave Robbers. First, on the subject matter–yes, despite the fact that it shouldn’t make any difference as far as the awards committees are concerned, I do think that the fact that this is about a relatively minor event will negatively affect this book, at least so far as buzz is concerned. It also doesn’t help that the book has come out so early in the year, before we’re even done talking about Bomb, since awards haven’t been named yet. It’s almost like Sheinkin (or Scholastic) is trying to sneak this one in.
All that being said, I agree with you that it contains all of the same strengths that we’ve come to expect in Sheinkin–great narrative style, excellent use of sources, a great story, etc. If we are judging the book solely on its literary merits, I see no reason why this one shouldn’t be high on the list of 2013 titles to watch for. Also, it should be said that despite the title, a fair portion of the book is devoted to the history of counterfeiting, which is surely not as “important” a topic as the atomic bomb, but definitely has some weight to it. My personal interests were much more towards the counterfeiting sections than the grave-robbing stuff, so I was glad he spent so much time on it.
Sourcing. I don’t know if I’ve actually said this out loud (or in print) anywhere, but I suppose I should say for the record that I personally don’t much like Sheinkin’s sourcing habits. In my perfect world, every single fact in a nonfiction book has a footnote or and end note explaining how it got there. I’ve been defending Sheinkin and Bomb in spite of this because I think that there are many different ways of using sources, and it is not at all clear to me that there is any particular “standard” in his field (or in popular adult nonfiction, for that matter). So, yes, I noticed many occassions in Lincoln’s Grave Robbers where I wondered how Sheinkin could have the level of detail he had, and I basically decided that I had to trust him. Is this going to continue to haunt Sheinkin? I guess it depends (in part) on how Bomb does on January 28.
Finally, I’m fascinated by our commenter Alys’s discovery that many libraries, including New York Public, have shelved this in fiction. I noticed on at least one library’s page that even the LC Subject Headings included the “juvenile fiction” tag, and another had an LCSH of “Historical Fiction.” Something has obviously gone terribly wrong, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it had to do with some bad copy-cataloging. Obviously, if you looked at the book at all, you would know that it was nonfiction, but if you’re just copying the catalog record someone else wrote up, it’s easy to replicate a mistake. I wonder where that happened, though, since many libraries (including San Jose and Santa Clara, in our neck of the woods) managed to get it right. I happen to love cataloging issues, and very rarely get to indulge in them in my daily duties, so this is a fun one to look at.