Vintage Books Roundup: Harding, Kimberling, & Yoshida | Spring 2014

book Harding2If you’re interested in the freedom of information, national security be damned, then Harding’s book should be on your reading list.



Luke Harding | The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man (Vintage)

Edward Snowden should be a name everyone recognizes. Whether you agree or disagree with the information he made public—the fact that the U.S. Government was keeping tabs not only on all of its citizens, but world leaders, as well—it’s an interesting read to see what led up to the revelation. Harding, a foreign correspondent with U.K.’s Guardian newspaper, shows his stripes as a journalist, performing a comprehensive literature research to obtain the backstory of America’s information leaker. What was young Edward like? How did he get into the intelligence field? Whom did he contact when he was ready to share his findings? How did those super-secret meetings go down? And how is such information shared and disseminated?

If this is all you’re looking for, then you’ll surely find it. After a first half detailing all of the action, however, Harding’s book becomes a research paper: all exposition, no dialogue. As you may imagine, it grows a little tedious, at least in terms of writing style. Before this happens, though, the book’s major shortcomings have long been apparent: There is no direct contact with its subject. Although Snowden is understandably difficult to reach, his own words are an essential part of his story; the reader definitely notices this omission. Nonetheless, if you’re interested in the freedom of information and one man’s right to reveal some of America’s dirty little secrets, national security be damned, then Harding’s book should be on your reading list.


book Kimberling2Brian Kimberling | Snapper (Vintage Contemporaries)

I’ll go ahead and say it now: I loved this book. Kimberling’s voice is refreshing and engaging in this, his first novel. The book’s protagonist is Nathan Lochmueller, an ornithologist living in rural Indiana; these traits mirror the author’s own experience in both career and residence. Kimberling relates Nathan’s quiet adventures in a way that can’t help but draw you in, whether the study of birds interests you or not. Nathan is an obvious loner, a fact made more apparent by flashbacks about the rejection of a former girlfriend who broke the then–college student Nathan’s heart. A number of other colorful characters populate the novel; in other words, the reader is always engaged, despite the fact that, well, nothing really happens.

The novel finds Nathan tromping through the Indiana wilderness, searching for birds and recording their habitats and experiences. Although the job itself is full of tedium, Kimberling’s prose is not; even the act of sitting for hours, binoculars aimed upward, engages the reader. Through it all, the text is peppered with witticisms. Describing his home state: “The Michelin Guide to Indiana by Nathan Lockmueller is real short. Everything’s flat, everyone’s fat, and you can’t buy beer on Sunday. That is all you need to know.” Detailing a lawsuit he had filed on behalf of endangered bird species: “The case did not fail on my account alone, of course. It failed because it was tried in Indiana, where science, education, and Darwin are all equally deplored—because it was tried in a state that once attempted to legislate 3.2 as the value of pi.”


book Yoshida2Shuichi Yoshida | Parade (Vintage Contemporaries)

There was one line in the short description of this novel about young Tokyo roommates that caught my attention: “[T]heir next door neighbors are up to something suspicious, and a mysterious attacker is terrorizing the neighborhood.” There were many, many things, however, that drew me in and kept me turning the pages.

The book begins with a page detailing the “Cast of Characters,” a list of the five roommates, their ages, their professions, and their current meaning of life. About Mirai Soma (24), Yoshida writes, “Illustrrator and manager of an imported goods store. Looking for the meaning of life in the bottom of a bottle.” There are five sections here, one for each character and told through his or her perspective. Some of the characters stick out more than others: Kotomi “Koto” Okochi, who stays home all day long in case her sometime-boyfriend, a popular actor, would call; and Satoru Rokubo, an 18-year-old “man of the night” who shows up mysteriously one night and never leaves.

The tales and interactions of these five are engaging and often humorous. Despite the ominous description of the neighbors and neighborhood, you will enjoy getting to know these people and hearing each of their stories. | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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