Books in the Park

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

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2016 Adult Summer Reading at Barbara S. Ponce Public Library

2016 SloganAre you age 18 or older, eligible for a Pinellas County Public Library card, and want to win some great prizes? Then read on.


Grand Prize: Fitbit Charge HR
1st Prize: Trader Joe’s Gift Basket
2nd Prize: 2 tickets to the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg
3rd Prize: $15 iTunes gift card
Plus, weekly drawings for a goody tote bag.

How to Win

Entrants must be age 18 or older and eligible for a Pinellas County Public Library card.

Raffle tickets will be given to eligible participants for:

  • Attending any adult or inter-generational library-sponsored program through July 30.
    – See our Adult Programs & Events page for a full list of programs.
    – Program attendees will also receive a voucher for an extra raffle entry when they check out any item from Barbara S. Ponce Public Library ONLY.
  • Posting a selfie to our Facebook or Twitter page showing how you exercise your mind with #BSPLReads and/or #BSPLSummer.
  • Reviewing a book or movie. Submit reviews in person, on our Facebook, or email bsplibrary at Outstanding reviews will be published here on our blog, with the submitter’s permission.

When to Win

Weekly prize winners will be contacted on June 24th and July 8th, 15th, and 22nd. Winners will have two days to respond before we choose another winner.

All other prize winners will be drawn and announced at our Adult Summer Wrap-Up Party on July 30th. Winners need not be present, but attendees to the party will get seven extra entries to tip the odds in the favor.

Good luck, and happy reading!

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War, by Sebastian Junger

war jungerMemorial Day comes and goes every year, and on this day we recommend a book that will, in the only way possible, show us what sacrifices are made for us by our military. It will remind us that while we may or may not agree with the battles fought, the men and women who did the fighting deserve our recognition, honor, and help when they return—well, if they return.

If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to be under fire, there is no better book to read than Sebastian Junger’s War. Covering the fifteen months the author was embedded with a cameraman in a platoon based at Restrepo, a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan, War conveys the fear, the adrenaline, the camaraderie, and the sorrows of men surround by the enemy for months at a time.

Junger writes early on of his objective: to try and convey what war really feels like. Few of us, thankfully, will ever experience what these men went through. We learn about the backgrounds of each of the members of the platoon, why they enlisted, what their training was like, and how they got to Restrepo. He writes movingly about the deep trust each man has in each other. While sometimes they don’t get along, there is a deep love between them and understanding that all of them will perform at their very best, because anything less puts others at risk.

Junger writes with a stark, clean voice which can both analyze and experience events which are almost impossible to contextualize for a citizen’s perspective. While chronicling the bravery of these men, he is also able to articulate his own fears in a clear manner which shows both a sense of wonder and the commitment to continue his work. Tellingly, he writes articulately about his decision to not be armed in a war zone, and talks about what he would do if he had no choice but to arm himself. He also writes, agonized, about how you feel when you lose a member of a fighting team.

*Note: the documentary, Restrepo, which won the Grand Jury Award at Cannes, was written and directed by Junger and his cameraman, Tim Hetherington. In 2011, Hetherington died in a mortar blast covering the Libyan Civil War. Restrepo was also nominated for “Academy Award Best Documentary – Feature” at the 83rd Academy Awards.

Check the PPLC Catalog for War.

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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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Erin Brockovich (2000)

erin brockovichFew movies capture the spirit of Women’s History Month like Erin Brockovich. Based on a true story, the film centers around an unemployed single mother who, despite having no formal legal training, investigated and helped prosecute a major California energy company for poisoning a small town’s water supply.

2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark settlement.

As if raising three children on her own isn’t difficult enough, Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts), is also out of work and injured from a car accident. Brockovich hires a lawyer, Ed Masry (Albert Finney), to sue the man who injured her, but her case is unsuccessful. Because she now doesn’t have any money or a job, she strong-arms her way into a file clerk position with Masry’s firm. It doesn’t take long for the shrewd woman to discover an insidious environmental conspiracy orchestrated by the California energy giant, Pacific Gas and Electric. For decades the company has been illegally dumping waste containing the highly carcinogenic compound hexavalent chromium into the ground water of the small town of Hinkley, and now many of the residents have developed aggressive cancers.

Although Brockovich was hired as a simple file clerk, she upends her life to investigate and prosecute the PG&E, bringing justice and financial compensation to those affected by the company’s negligence. PG&E eventually settled for 333 million USD, making it the largest toxic tort injury settlement ever paid in U.S. history. Brockovich’s involvement was pivotal in this major settlement, which paved the way for her successful career as a legal consultant.

Julia Roberts won an Academy Award for her role as Erin Brockovich, and it’s easy to see why: Roberts’ acting is superb in this film. And it’s even more amazing when we remember that this character is based on a real woman whose tenacity and perseverance is truly inspiring not just to women, but to anyone who refuses to let sleeping dogs lie.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Erin Brocovich.

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5 English Grammar Rules You Can Safely Ignore

grammar-rules-you-can-ignoreMarch 4th, the only date that is also a complete sentence, is National Grammar Day. And while we love and respect grammar here at Barbara S. Ponce Public Library, there are some rules that seem to be around just to make English more complicated than it already is.

In most casual writing, you can freely ignore these extraneous English grammar rules.

So the next time someone gripes about these petty so-called “rules”, tell them they’re just old school.

1. Don’t split infinitives. 

In English grammar, an infinitive is the word “to” coupled with a verb. Examples: “to read”, “to jump”, “to see”. A split infinitive happens when a word gets in between, or splits, “to” and the coupled verb.

Perhaps the most famous split infinitive is in the opening theme of Star Trek: the Next Generation when Captain Picard declares:  “…to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

That sentence is perceived as grammatically incorrect, because the adverb “boldly” should not be placed between to and go. The grammatically correct sentence is, “to go boldly where no man has gone before.” Now, doesn’t that sound odd?

This idea that you shouldn’t split infinitives has been around for a long time, but it was only specifically mentioned by Henry Alford, the Dean of Canterbury, in his 1864 book The Queen’s EnglishYou can see the entry in Google Books right here.

Although Alford didn’t state it as a grammar rule, he did say that he saw “no good reason” to split the infinitive. Well, that’s just one man’s opinion, and plenty of people at that time were using split infinitives according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

In fact, many respected writers have used split infinitives, including Benjamin Franklin, Lord Byron, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Don’t sweat the split.

2. Never end a sentence with a preposition.

A preposition is a word that defines the relationship between two other words in a sentence. Examples of prepositions are “to”, “in”, “over”, “by”, “on”, and “for”. In the sentence, “He is on the mountain,” the preposition “on” tells you where the man is in relation to the mountain.

This silly rule about never ending a sentence with a preposition comes directly from Latin grammar. In Latin, prepositions always come before the prepositional phrase. Not so in English. How dare Latin try to impose its stuffy rules on English! Well, it wasn’t really Latin itself that did it, of course; it was a bunch of influential, Latin-obsessed 17th and 18th century writers. I say this rule needs to be done away with once and for all.

Don’t let Latin grammar rules get you down.

3. Never start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.

A coordinating conjunction is a word that connects two independent clauses in a sentence. The most common coordinating conjunctions are “or”, “and”, “nor”, “but”, “yet”, and “so”. A working example is: “She rushed to the store, but it was already closed when she got there.”

Although you were probably taught in elementary school to never start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction, the rule has no basis as far as English grammar is concerned. So why do so many people think this is a rule? Get It Write has an intriguing theory:

When grammar teachers teach youngsters the essentials of sentence structure, they most likely explain that coordinating conjunctions are used to hold together elements within a sentence. Therefore, they may discourage students from starting sentences with coordinating conjunctions because they are trying not only to explain conjunctions but also to help their students learn to avoid sentence fragments like this one:

She was a nice girl. And smart, too.

Don’t be afraid to use conjunctions at the beginning of a sentence.

4. Use a double space after a period.

Okay, so this might not be a grammar rule per se, but it’s worth mentioning here. Don’t use a space after a period! It just makes more work for your editor who must painstakingly go through your entire document and remove all the extraneous spaces.

So why do some people think there needs to be a space after a period? One word: typewriters.

This article in Slate explains:

In the middle of the last century, a now-outmoded technology—the manual typewriter—invaded the American workplace. To accommodate that machine’s shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do.

The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks “loose” and uneven; there’s a lot of white space between characters and words, so it’s more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. Here’s the thing, though: Monospaced fonts went out in the 1970s. First electric typewriters and then computers began to offer people ways to create text using proportional fonts. Today nearly every font on your PC is proportional. (Courier is the one major exception.) Because we’ve all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.

5. Don’t use “they” as a singular pronoun.

A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. There are many, many pronouns, but just a few of them are: “me”, “you”, “we”, “she”, “he”, “it”, and “they”. Here’s a working example: “Mr. Johnson is the new English teacher. He doesn’t give us a lot of homework.” Instead of saying “Mr. Johnson” again in the second sentence, we simply substitute the word “he”. The word “us” is also a pronoun, which is used instead of “students”. If you’re still confused, try this article on The Blue Book of Punctuation and Grammar’s website.

Pronouns can be singular or plural depending on the word they’re replacing. “Sally” becomes “she”, “John” becomes “he”, and “the United States government” becomes “they”.

But what do you do when you need to use a singular pronoun for one person whose gender is unknown? Well, if you’re sticking to traditional grammar rules, then you have to write “he/she”. But if you’re a little less strict with your grammar, you can give yourself a break and use “they”. Since English is sorely lacking in gender-neutral pronouns, “they” can be an acceptable substitute in casual language.

To help dump this silly rule once and for all, “they” as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun was declared the 2015 Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society.

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A Man for All Seasons (1966)

February 7th is Sir Thomas More’s birth anniversary. To celebrate this amazing man, here’s the review staff member Ron did for A Man for All Seasons, the classic biopic of Sir Thomas More starring Paul Scofield.

a-man-for-all-seasons.13887Do you believe in something strong enough to give your life for it?  If you do, then you have a conviction.  If you do not, then your belief is a preference or a convenience. Sir Thomas More was a man of conviction and that conviction is the key dramatic element of this movie.

A Man for All Seasons tells the true story of Sir Thomas More and his death at the hands of King Henry VIII.  More was Henry’s trusted adviser and Lord Chancellor of England. When Henry wanted to divorce his wife, Catherine, the Pope refused to grant the divorce. So Henry declared himself Supreme Head of the English Church and required everyone to swear an oath affirming that.  Since More’s conviction was that only the Pope could be the head of the church, he refused to take the oath.  The movie relates More’s attempts to remain loyal to his king while remaining faithful to his convictions.

Many have wondered what the title of the movie means.  It was written about More in 1520 by Robert Whittington, a man who knew him well. Whittington said, “More is a man of an angel’s wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A man for all seasons.”  In today’s language, More was serious when he needed to be, fun-loving at celebrations, and yet always humble and true to himself. He was the “real deal” all the time – in all seasons.  It would be a better world if more people were like that.

This is an incredibly well-acted historical drama about a man who sacrificed everything for what he believed.  This film won 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director.

More than just entertainment, this film will make you think. I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Check the PPLC Catalog for A Man for All Seasons.

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Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Merry Christmas, everyone! Enjoy this Suggestion from Christmas Past.

Holidays on IceHolidays on Ice is a hilarious collection of short stories, most previously published material, by David Sedaris.  Most of the stories are autobiographical in nature. “SantaLand Diaries”, which chronicles Sedaris’ stint as an elf at Macy’s department store, is often produced on stage during the holidays.

Other stories in the book help make light of the holidays and the stress that comes in tandem; in “Christmas Means Giving”, two neighbors fight over who has more holiday spirit, and “Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol” reviews a holiday play put on by a local school. Sedaris does a great job navigating family obligations, holiday hijinks, miscommunications, and bad weather while still keeping the holiday spirit close to the surface.

When you finish this collection of short stories you’ll wish you were a part of Sedaris’ family so you could spend the holidays with such a complicated and comedic group of people.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Holidays on Ice.