Books in the Park

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


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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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Do Not Sell At Any Price by Amanda Petrusich

do not sell at any price coverAs a species we seem to have a special penchant for collecting and treasuring objects, especially when those objects are rare and speak to something in ourselves. In Amanda Petrusich’s Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records, we get a unique glimpse into one of these “collecting cultures,” a community that is brimming with obsession, eccentricity, and huge personalities.

As it turns out, 78 rpm records have quietly become one of the most fiercely collected types of art on the planet. With prices that routinely rocket into the tens of thousands of dollars for rare examples, these largely pre-war recordings of country, blues, and jazz command the attention of some the most determined aficionados on the planet. And it’s when Petrusich turns her attention to these collectors that Do Not Sell fires on all cylinders. Petrusich manages to coax stories and learn from her subjects without becoming blinkered by their hobby or ridiculing their more idiosyncratic tendencies. What we end up with is a series of wild stories from people who are seriously passionate about their music. The bits about music history are also interesting, written in an introductory way that makes pre-war popular music understandable and exciting, even for people who haven’t taken a course in music appreciation.

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I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura

i kill giants coverA wiry outcast who plays too much D&D and is continuously bullied, Barbara Thorson does not look like much. This world-weary elementary kid, however, is humanity’s last hope of defeating the invading forces of evil. As the titular giants insert themselves further and further into her everyday life, Barbara finds herself fighting her strongest foe yet. And as if her life was not stressful enough, she also has to contend with a new girl who wants to be her friend.

I Kill Giants is a beautiful story about grief and terminal illness. The best part about this story is that it never preaches. It is equal parts comedy, action, and drama, which keeps it from sagging with depression or feeling too glib. I Kill Giants is an excellent read for high schoolers and beyond.


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Civil War by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven

civil war coverImagine you’re hanging out in your very nice and expensive apartment in Manhattan—watching Law and Order or something—when suddenly two hunky men smash through your windows and destroy everything you own. Now imagine it’s not your big screen that’s destroyed but your infant son.

Marvel’s Civil War is about the people and the United States government saying, “Hey! It’s really not cool that you guys get to smash everything up and endanger our kids because you gotta throw a bad guy through my bedroom window.” After a particularly tragic event in which many children are killed, S.H.I.E.L.D. works alongside Tony Stark, Mr. Fantastic, and Henry Pym to organize and unmask all superheroes. This registration program is supposed to protect those without powers and help train and regulate current super-humans so that they can save the world with limited fatalities.  Of course, not every masked hero wants to out their secret identity.

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Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

napoleon dynamiteInfinitely quotable, Napoleon Dynamite makes up for its lack of plot with heaps of hilarious dialog between zany characters.

Napoleon is a socially awkward teenager who lives in rural Idaho with his grandmother, older brother, and pet llama. In typical teenager fashion, Napoleon daydreams and doodles his way through his classes and, at home, endlessly squabbles with his older brother. After a series of changes shakes up his humdrum life, Napoleon eventually proves himself worthy of fame and affection.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Napoleon Dynamite.


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Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

dark places coverWhen Libby Day was just seven years old, she survived the unthinkable: the murders of her mother and two sisters in a ritualistic manner that resembled a satanic sacrifice. During the investigation, Libby is quick to accuse her brother of the murders. Ben Day was a troubled teenager who fancied heavy metal music, black hair dye, and hanging with older kids interested in animal murders. He was eventually convicted of the horrific crime and sent to prison.

Twenty five years later, the media attention has faded and with it the money Libby was receiving from sympathetic parties. When she receives a letter from a man interested in paying her for an interview, she finds herself drawn into the dark and mysterious world of the Kill Club. The Kill Club is a ragtag group of people who revel in hearing about the macabre details of high-profile murder cases. What starts as a way to earn some cheap cash it turns into an emotional, dangerous, and dark exploration of what really happened on the night of the Day murders.

Like Gone Girl and Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn has created an incredibly nuanced anti-hero. This book was no walk in the park and definitely makes you think about the media circus that surrounds many high-profile cases and the assumptions that are made—not just by the media but by the community as a whole.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Dark Places.


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In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

in real life coverIn Real Life sets out to tackle a few heavy subjects in a 175-page graphic novel—and is surprisingly successful at it. Anda is a shy teen who is new to town after her family moves from Arizona. Anda enjoys computer programming and video games and is content to play offline games until Liza McCombs, an Australian female game promoter, comes to Anda’s school and offers all the girls in her class a chance to be in her guild. Liza the Organiza, as she likes to be called, struggles with the reality of the gamer world’s disproportionately male population. Liza tells the girls if they start playing her game Coarsegold Online with female avatars they will get to play as recruits in the legendary Fahrenheit guild.

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