Books in the Park

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

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Medicine Walk, by Richard Wagamese

medicine wagameseA deep book needs plain language, and the beauty of Medicine Walk is the measured manner in which the events of this book are related. While his protagonist works his way through his walk with his father, the power of family history and feelings are made that much more intense by the unfettered tone of the prose. In the end, you feel like you were a fellow traveler.

The book begins when Frank’s father, Eldon calls for him. Frank is a young Indian boy who was abandoned by his father, leaving Frank with a local farmer named Bunky. Bunky is white, and does his best with Frank, but recognizes the difference in cultural heritage and how Bunky’s mentoring lacks Native American knowledge. But the faithful day comes when Eldon comes calling for his son. Bunky encourages Frank to find out what his father wants, despite the abandonment.

It turns out that Eldon is dying, and he asks Frank to take him on a days-long journey so he can die as a warrior. What follows is as much a journey as a meditation on family, life, history, and what it means to be a man. While they travel, Eldon fills in Frank on what he missed: Eldon’s history, his mother, the tragedy that forced Eldon away, and the details of his life, ruined by drink. The journey takes them through both the sparse back country and the past. Frank’s skills, learned at Bunky’s knee, overcome obstacle after obstacle as they approach what will be Eldon’s final resting place.

Author Richard Wagamese is no stranger to Native American issues, both current and past. What Eldon has had inflicted on him gets, heartbreakingly, passed through his son through tales of love, tragedy, and neglect. Frank’s quiet stoicism and steady competence point the way to a kind of reconciliation between father and son, past and future. The neat, blunt prose is Wagamese’s gift to the reader.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Medicine Walk.

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H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald

hhawk macdonaldThis genre-blending memoir/biography/nature story was published in 2014, and now, nearly two years later, the waiting list for it at our library has just started to taper off. So if you haven’t read this critically-acclaimed book yet, now is a great time to place a request. And if you have already read it, feel free to tell us what you thought in the comments.

Helen is still reeling from the unexpected death of her father when she decides to purchase and train a goshawk: a large bird of prey prized in the ancient art of falconry for its remarkable hunting ability. Although Helen is an experienced and accomplished falconer who has trained many hawks, she has never attempted to train one as big and wild as a goshawk. The book documents Helen’s trials and tribulations as she trains her hawk and, slowly, finds meaning in life again. Interleaved with Helen’s own falconer story is that of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, a troubled man who also trained a goshawk.

H is for Hawk is critically acclaimed for a reason. It was so beautifully written and complexly told that, when finished, it was difficult for this librarian to move on to another book. Even if you’re not into falconry, or dealing with grief, or you’ve never heard of T.H. White, this book will regardless strike a nerve. Highly recommended.

Check the PPLC Catalog for H is for Hawk.


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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.

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A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

a walk in the woodsWhenever A Walk in the Woods was open in my hands, it would not be long before I burst out laughing.  But despite the fact that so many portions of the book are downright hilarious, it is not written as a humor book.  It is part travel log, part U.S. history, part natural history, part biography, part a study of human nature, part adventure, part drama, and yes, part comedy.  This book has something for everybody.  I think that is what I like so much about it.

A Walk in the Woods is the story of Bill Bryson’s trek along the Appalachian Trail.  After 20 years of living in England, he moves back to the U.S. and there, almost in his back yard, was a trail through the New Hampshire woods.  Upon further investigation he discovers that it is part of the 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine.  Seeing this as a challenge and a way to reacquaint himself with America, not to mention a source of writing material, he publically declares his intensions to hike the AT.  After a little research, however, he discovers that he may be in a little over his head.

Nevertheless, he recruits a partner (his old friend Katz, who is the only one who lacks the sense to say no) and prepares for a 5 month ‘walk in the woods.’ His experience with a salesman at the hiking outfitters is priceless and the way he describes his fear of bears left me in tears and gasping for breath. Along the way he interacts with a myriad of truly unique people, encounters a vast array of wildlife, has a few adventures and narrow escapes, and discovers he is made of sterner stuff that he thought.

I have to say that A Walk in the Woods is one of, if not the funniest book I have ever read.  Very few of us will ever actually hike even a part of the Appalachian Trail, but we can all read Bryson’s book and through it take that walk in the woods with Bill and Katz.

Check the PPLC Catalog for A Walk in the Woods.