Books in the Park

suggestions from the Barbara S. Ponce Public Library at Pinellas Park

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I Crawl Through It, by A.S. King

i crawl through it kingKing’s novel touches on some very important aspects of teenage life in a very interesting and unique way. Rather than expressing her characters’ mental anguish through internal dialogue, she chooses to give physical life to their pain.

China is a walking digestive system, red and pulsating. She has swallowed herself for her own protection. Her friends and family have come to terms with the fact that they only are able to see China’s insides. Stanzi is a character which has literally been split in two, one part of herself feeling one way and the other part feeling something completely opposite. Lansdale tells lies to deal with her pain; each lie giving length to her beautiful blonde hair. Gustav is building a bright red helicopter which no one can see, except for Stanzi on Tuesdays.

King’s surreal prose is at once heart-wrenching and intriguing. The book begins with just a few pieces of a puzzle, and as the reader progresses, more pieces are found along the way. The completed puzzle is one of perseverance, friendship, loyalty, and hope.

Check the PPLC Catalog for I Crawl Through It.

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Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

rgb carmon“Laws which disable women from full participation in the political, business and economic arenas are often characterized as ‘protective’ and beneficial. The pedestal upon which women have been placed has all too often, upon closer inspection, been revealed as a cage.”

The Internet phenomenon that is Notorious RBG has given Ruther Bader Ginsburg (the second woman to ever be appointed to the Supreme Court) some well-earned popularity and respect. After one of her famous impassioned dissent speeches, feminists flocked to the Internet to discuss just how awesome RBG is.  This book not only chronicles her life, education, and career but it also explores the many Internet memes surrounding her and her opinion towards them.

RBG attended Harvard Law School in 1956 with just nine other women. She was wildly successful, but when her husband, who had recently recovered from a very serious bout with cancer, obtained a job in New York, she transferred to Columbia Law where she graduated at the top of her class. RBG faced constant unequal treatment due to her gender and career choices. With the support of her husband, her hard work, and excellent intellect, she was eventually appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.

While RBG claims to be a moderate, she always votes for equality. Often, voting against her fellow peers and fighting for justice alongside movements that are typically aligned with the left. Despite efforts and calls for her retirement, RBG has remained on the bench making solid decisions. Sandra Day O’Conner and Ruther Bader Ginsburg paved the path for future female justices and are an inspiration to equal rights movements across the country. Oh and check out the sweet blog that started it all:

Check the PPLC Catalog for Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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Still Alice by Lisa Genova

still alice coverThis book is essentially the opposite of my reading tastes. Any sort of classic family drama I avoid like the plague. I picked it up solely because lately I’ve been reading a lot on Alzheimer disease and how it affects the brain. Lisa Genova does a great job describing doctors’ visits, medical trials, and brushing scientific innovations while still telling a compelling personal tale. I was glad I picked it up and I think you would be too.

The protagonist in Still Alice has early onset Alzheimer’s and, unfortunately, it’s the genetic kind– giving her children each a 50% chance of suffering the same fate. Obviously, this book is very emotional and filled with heartbreak as Alice, her husband, and children come to terms with their new reality.

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The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

crying of lot 49 coverThe Crying of Lot 49 was… weird. I read it for a book club I’m running that purposefully aims for off-beat reads, and I was still surprised at the strangeness that packed every page. The book is only about 150 pages but Thomas Pynchon really squeezes the most out of every sentence. There is no filler story which means you shouldn’t read this before bed, because each paragraph changes the plot.

Oedipa Maas (what a name) is thrown into a chaotic, conspiracy theory-fueled expedition to carry out a dead ex-boyfriend’s last requests. What starts as a moderately interesting mystery quickly leads to Oedipa questioning the United States Postal Service and talking down her LSD prescribing psychiatrist, Dr. Hilarius. Teenage musicians, failed child stars, play actors, professors of literature, talk radio DJs—Pynchon throws them all in, with each character more interesting than the last. This is the kind of book that you’re suppose to read with a group; when it’s over you’ll need to speak to someone about it. If you like books that make you scratch your head, books that plead with you to read them again, then check out The Crying of Lot 49. The plot is simple; the story is not.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Crying of Lot 49.

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Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King

green grass running water coverLionel Red Dog, Latisha Morningstar, Charlie Looking Bear, Alberta Frank, and Eli Stands Alone are Blackfoot Indians from the city of Blossom in Alberta, Canada. As the Blackfoot Community gathers for the annual Sun Dance, mysterious forces conspire to force all five of these Indians to take part in their cultural heritage. Elsewhere, four other Indians escape from a mental hospital in order to “fix the world”. Woven into this narrative is a completely different story starring the trickster Coyote.

This book is not for everyone; it is admittedly weird. There are no chapters, and the point of view changes between characters a lot—sometimes from page to page. However, readers brave enough pick up this book will be deeply satisfied. The story is full of religious and cultural references, but one does not need to understand each reference in order to enjoy the story. There are two different narratives: one set in reality about the Sun Dance, and another structured like a myth set firmly outside anything real. As the novel progresses, King weaves both plots together beautifully.

One thing I really enjoyed about this novel is that it relentlessly pokes fun at white people and white culture. Green Grass, Running Water serves as a gentle reminder that my cultural worldview is not universal.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Green Grass, Running Water.

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Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

tropic of cancer coverHaving recently turned 50, I’ve been looking for projects that are “50” related. One thing I’ve always wanted to do is to fill in my reading list with American and English novels I haven’t read. Enter the Modern Library’s top 100 novels  list.  When this list was published in 1998, it garnered a flurry of activity in the literary world, leading to counter lists, cries of “How could you exclude XXXXX, my favorite book?” and even a reader poll of best titles.  Despite the criticism, this is a great list filled with works that, as a French major in college, I never got assigned to read.

My “50” project is to read the top 50 of the top 100 titles on this list, starting with number 50 and working my way to number one. We’ve created a tag for “Dave’s 50 After 50”, and you are welcome to read along with me.

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller is where my reading begins.  This book has a sordid history, having been excluded from publication in the United States for obscenity for twenty-seven years after its first publication in Europe in 1934. It was the 1961 Grove Press edition which led to obscenity trials and the eventual ruling by the Supreme Court in 1964 that it was not obscene. Continue reading

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The Bees by Laline Paull

cover - the beesCaution: after reading this book, you’ll never look at honey the same way again.

Flora 717 is a bee apart from the rest of her countless sisters. Despite being born a sanitation worker, which puts her squarely in the lowest echelon of hive hierarchy, Flora possesses talents that make her special. But uniqueness is not a quality that bees value, and so Flora is regarded with wariness and scorn wherever she goes.

The tension is compounded by the fact that all is not well in the hive. The summer has produced a meager bounty and, worse, bees are being born with physical deformities. These deformities mean instant death, and the hive police are all too eager to carry out the morbid task. Meanwhile, the Sage priestesses, keepers of all the hive’s knowledge and rituals, seem preoccupied and cagey.

The only thing keeping the hive together is the all-pervading scent of love that flows from the exalted Queen. Flora worships the Queen just as much as any of her sisters, but she can’t shake the feeling that something is very wrong. When push comes to shove, Flora will do anything to ensure the prosperity of her hive—even if it means breaching her people’s greatest taboo.

Author Laline Paull has taken the fascinating world of honey bees and woven it into an intricate and intriguing narrative. I recommend this book to nature lovers and those looking for a serious story with a unique point of view.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Bees.