Books in the Park

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

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Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli

asterios polyp coverAsterios Polyp is an architect who has never built a building, and yet he is a famous name in his field, or at least he was. He currently finds himself divorced, out of work, and homeless after his apartment catches on fire. As Asterios rebuilds his life, we see his past unfold, from his birth, to his childhood, to his years of womanizing, to his marriage, and to his divorce. We meet a diverse cast of characters including Hana, Asterios’ ex-wife and his polar opposite. Most importantly, we meet Asterios himself.

This graphic novel is constantly switching between past, present, and imaginary realities, which I found off-putting when I first tried to read it. However, when I picked it up the second time I couldn’t put it down. This is, at times, a densely intellectual novel, referencing philosophical theories and ideas throughout the story. It is based on Homer’s Odyssey, and makes frequent references to Greek mythology, which could make the story even more esoteric. However, it is also a very human book of how two people fall in and out of love. It is ultimately a touching, and tragic story that I adored.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Asterios Polyp.

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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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Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link

pretty monsters coverKelly Link is a fantastic writer whose young adult stories are at once entertaining and meaningful. This collection of nine short stories contains some of Link’s best writing, including a Hugo Award winner as well as a Nebula Award winner.

All the stories have a vaguely creepy, dreamlike quality that is typical of the magical realism genre. In The Wrong Grave, a boy named Miles meant to dig up the grave of his girlfriend to retrieve the poetry he put in her coffin, but it’s the wrong grave and the girl who’s in there is less dead than he expected. In The Faery Handbag, a high school girl struggles with the disappearance of her boy friend (not boyfriend) and thinks he may have been swallowed by her grandmother’s weird handbag. In Magic for Beginners, a boy’s obsessive love for a TV show begins to encroach on his real life as his parents head for divorce.

While these stories are very strange, they have a vein of truth in them that will resonate with the reader. The characters deal with typical young adult problems like their parent’s divorce, the death of an older loved one, and their fumbling attempts to build a love life, but the problems are highlighted and compounded by the odd circumstances in which the characters find themselves. The juxtaposition between magical and mundane is what made these stories stay with me long after reading them.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Pretty Monsters.

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The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

* This suggestion is part of our National Library Week 2015 series. To celebrate libraries everywhere, we are posting a library-related suggestion every day this week. *

the strange library coverI was told that if I couldn’t finish this book in thirty minutes I should be embarrassed. So because I refuse to be made a fool, I took it on my thirty minute lunch break. If you have ever read anything by Murakami, you know that his plots usually tend to be elaborately odd, but The Strange Library definitely takes the cake. The physical book opens with flaps in the front, making the first page technically part of cover—which is Murakami’s way of letting you know immediately that this story will be different.

The main character is a school-aged boy visiting his local library to read about tax collection in the Ottoman Empire. Upon arriving he notes that the librarian sitting behind the desk is unfamiliar and abrupt when telling him he must go to a room he did not know existed before. Without giving too much of this short novel away, the young boy becomes trapped in the library. His short but creepy adventure includes several bizarre characters and a labyrinth within the library from which he must escape.

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