6 Booklist December 15, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
the security measures of 32 countries offer a
basis for comparison and for identification of
strengths and weaknesses.
This unusual survey of European internal
defense systems pinpoints the diverse nature
of ideological backgrounds and future threats.
Each contributor reveals internal elements
unique to politics and culture, for example,
Estonia’s emerging independence from Russia, Greece’s need for technological direction,
and Spain’s foreign policy in the post-Franco
milieu. The only fault in structure derives
from a simplified index lacking secondary
direction for long lists of page numbers following such extensive topics as the Soviet
Union, oversight, and NATO. A valuable text
for large public libraries and college and university collections. —Mary Ellen Snodgrass
How America Lost Its Secrets:
Edward Snowden, the Man and
By Edward Jay Epstein.
Jan. 2017. 368p. Knopf, $27.95 (9780451494566).
With a half-dozen works on espionage and
unsolved crimes under his belt, veteran jour-
nalist Epstein focuses a wealth of investigative
insight on tackling the enigma of Edward
Snowden, the self-proclaimed whistle-blower
on the National Security Agency’s domestic
spying program. Although most U.S. gov-
ernment officials deem Snowden a traitor,
with the grandiose online alias, Wolfking
Awesomefox, landed a job with the CIA (an
admiral grandfather pulled some strings) and
eventually gained top-security clearance with
the NSA (outside contractors ran a flawed
background check). Despite Snowden’s
inflated comments about himself in later in-
terviews, such as claiming he’d been a senior
defense agency adviser, Epstein emphasizes
that Snowden was at least sincere in his
conviction that U.S. security agencies were
violating citizen rights to privacy. In addi-
tion to giving a full and nuanced portrait of
the man himself, Epstein details the shatter-
ing impact Snowden’s theft and famous June
9, 2013, video announcement has had on
the agency and the intelligence community
worldwide. A riveting and informative work
for both Snowden watchers and espionage
buffs. —Carl Hays
By Neil Gaiman.
Feb. 2017. 256p. Norton, $25.95 (9780393609097).
Gaiman yields to no one else writing mod-ern-day-set dark fantasy in his use of classic
mythologies, not just European but even
West African Caribbean in the waggish, won-
derful Anansi Boys (2005). His favorite body
of myths is—and those who’ve read enough
of him don’t need him to tell
them so—the Norse batch,
the matter of Odin and
Thor and Loki, of Valhalla
and Midgard and Hel, of gi-
ants and (J. R. R. Tolkien’s
favorites) elves and dwarfs.
It’s fairly unsurprising, then,
that he’d want to tell north-
western Europe’s grandest old stories in his
own idiom. Nor, really, is it surprising that he
does a bang-up job of it. His simple, Anglo-
Saxon-canted diction, which in his original
fiction sometimes gets a little pinched and
dry-throated, couldn’t sound better to mod-
ern ears used to the clipped, the droll, the
laconic that a century of hard-boiled literary
patter has made normal. All common English
speakers should easily hear this prose in their
own voices (though they should also hear
it in Gaiman’s reading of the audiobook).
From nothing, the counter-biblical original
condition of Norse cosmology, to the total de-
struction of Ragnarok and a glimpse beyond
it, Gaiman’s retelling of these ever-striking
and strange stories should be every reader’s
first book of Norse mythology. —Ray Olson
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Gaiman’s
immense audience and all lovers of myths and
the classic fantasy novels they inspire will be
seeking this key volume.
YA: Gaiman’s YA fans, of which there are
many, will be eager to get their hands on
this volume, too. RO.
Pill City: How Two Honor Roll
Students Foiled the Feds and Built
a Drug Empire.
By Kevin Deutsch.
Jan. 2017. 288p. St. Martin’s, $26.99 (9781250110039).
In a remarkable feat of discovery, Deutsch,
The Unbanking of America: How the New
a veteran crime reporter for Newsday, exposes
the perpetrators and victims in America’s opi-
ate wars and those who are risking their lives
to undermine their criminal enterprise. He
takes a deep dive into a surprise addendum
to the riots in Baltimore that followed the
death of Freddie Gray, who
died from injuries sustained
while in police custody in
April 2015. It turns out that
a deadly cooperative venture
was formed between a drug
gang and two hotshot teen-
aged computer programmers
who took advantage of a city
seething with racial turmoil. They system-
atically looted prescription opiates from local
pharmacies and heroin from drug corners and
stash houses, which then were sold through
a technology platform that Deutsch calls the
Uber of drug delivery. Soon “affiliates” were
trafficking the stolen drugs across the country,
and drug-related deaths spiked dramatically.
Deutsch lets the authentic and powerful voic-
es of those involved reveal the ruthless tactics
employed to dominate the illegal drug markets
and the equally dramatic efforts by law en-
forcement to curtail and repair their damage.
Pill City is not for the faint of heart. With raw
language and violence, it paints a bleak and
grimly complex picture and issues a siren call
for societal changes. —Dan Kaplan
Middle Class Survives.
By Lisa Servon.
Jan. 2017. 272p. HMH, $27 (9780544602311). 305.5.
Servon has been writing and teaching about
financial and banking industries for years. In
this, her breakout book, she focuses on why
mid-to-lower-income Americans have moved
away from banks and credit cards to such alternative financial services as payday lenders.
Servon contrasts the high fees and penalties
and daunting bureaucracy at banks with the
personal service, transparent fee structures,
and accessibility of alternative services. To get
closer to her subject, she took jobs at a check-cashing store in the South Bronx and a payday
lender in Oakland. Drawing on her conversations with customers, coworkers, business
owners, and financial-services entrepreneurs,
Servon explains how traditional banking has
changed, creating the opportunity for innovation in the marketplace. She then argues for
a financial-rights movement akin to the safe-food movement to protect and meet the needs
of the changing American population and
those coping with financial instability. Servon
presents a well-researched and easily accessible book on an important subject that affects
everyone, a work that will certainly appeal to
readers interested in business, personal finance,
and consumer behavior. —Dan Kaplan
Valley of the Gods: A Silicon Valley Story.
By Alexandra Wolfe.
Jan. 2017. 272p. Simon & Schuster, $27
Inspired by her friendship with Peter Thiel,
founder of PayPal and investor in Facebook,
Wall Street Journal staff reporter Wolfe was
• Young adult recommendations for
adult, audio, and reference titles
reviewed in this issue have been
contributed by the Booklist staff and
by reviewers Poornima Apte, Laura
Chanoux, Courtney Eathorne, Kristine
Huntley, Krista Hutley, Colleen Mondor, Ray Olson, and Emily Park.
• Adult titles recommended for teens are
marked with the following symbols: YA,
for books of general YA interest; YA/C,
for books with particular curriculum
value; YA/S, for books that will appeal
most to teens with a special interest in
a specific subject; and YA/M, for books
best suited to mature teens.