Best Book by a Local Author - 2009
Washington Burning, by Les Standiford
Remember when the British were our primary foreign policy problem? It's amazing to think that Elton John and company once had the sack (pun alert!) to burn down the White House, especially since they've spent the past eight years playing Flavor Flav to George Bush's Public Enemy #1. (Their only rebuttal was the cinematic wishful thinking of Love, Actually, in which Prime Minister Hugh Grant rebuffs Billy Bob Thornton's W. at a press conference, not for political reasons, mind you, but because he tried to feel up Grant's secretary. Is that what it takes to light a fire under you, Britain? Message received. The next time our leaders won't listen to us, we'll just send Chris Brown to rough up Lily Allen.) But back to Pierre Charles L'Enfant. Written with the heart-racing pace of Standiford's John Deal mysteries, Washington Burning: How a Frenchman's Vision for Our Nation's Capital Survived Congress, the Founding Fathers, and the Invading British Army tracks inside the Beltway from when it was a controversial pick for the nation's capital, to a heap of rubble after the War of 1812, to one of the most poetic municipal projects in history, all packaged in a lucid prose that would make Henry Higgins proud.