Park Hill Community Bookstore staff picks

Each week as part of SunLit — The Sun’s literature section — we feature staff recommendations from book stores across Colorado. This week, the staff from Park Hill Community Bookstore in Denver recommends a collection about “witness trees,” a Pulitzer winner and a debut from a virtuoso author.

The Witness Trees: Historic Moments and the Trees Who Watched Them Happen

By Ryan G. Van Cleave, illustrated by Đốm Đốm
Bushel & Peck Books
List Price: $19.99 hardcover; PHCB Price: $3 PB/$5 HC if available
May 2023
Purchase: In store only

From the publisher: In evocative verse and stunning artwork, “Witness Trees” is the story of the world’s most enduring witnesses: the trees. From the Flower of Kent apple tree still standing in Sir Isaac Newton’s yard, to the English oak given to Jesse Owens after facing down Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, to the California redwood saved from destruction by July Butterfly Hill, to the Callery pear tree still miraculously alive after the World Trade Towers fell, “Witness Trees” is a moving tribute to the world’s most famous trees, many of which still need humanity’s protection. For each tree depicted, there is information about that tree and the events it witnessed. Among the trees lovingly discussed are 20 trees you can visit today.

From Linda Baie, Volunteer Coordinator: Each page is a wonderful illustration of a “witness tree,” some of which have now gone through sad events, and some remain. The opposite page shows a small illustration of one of the events that the tree witnessed. I imagine you’ve heard of the Callery pear tree which survived after the World Trade Center fell on September 11. Others saw older history, like Major Oak, which was the rumored hideout of Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest, and in the 5th century, Siddhartha “gained enlightenment after meditating for seven days beneath the Bodhi Tree”. There are a few trees also noted in the opening covers, then in Ryan G. Van Cleave’s note at the back, he tells of visiting a 4,800-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine called Methuselah. There is added info in the backmatter. It’s a very special book! It would be awesome to find trees in one’s own area to discover their stories and what they have witnessed!  


By Hernan Diaz
Riverhead Books
List Price: $28 HC; $17 PB; PHCB Price: $3 PB/$5 HC if available
May 2022
Purchase: In store only

From the publisher: Even through the roar and effervescence of the 1920s, everyone in New York has heard of Benjamin and Helen Rask. He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the daughter of eccentric aristocrats. Together, they have risen to the very top of a world of seemingly endless wealth — all as a decade of excess and speculation draws to an end. But at what cost have they acquired their immense fortune? This is the mystery at the center of “Bonds,” a successful 1937 novel that all of New York seems to have read. Yet there are other versions of this tale of privilege and deceit.

Hernan Diaz’s Trust” elegantly puts these competing narratives into conversation with one another — and in tension with the perspective of one woman bent on disentangling fact from fiction. The result is a novel that spans over a century and becomes more exhilarating with each new revelation.

From Babette McQueen, Volunteer: If you are intrigued by multiple meanings for words and stories within stories where the truth is challenging to discern, “Trust” is the book for you. As a co-winner of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and winner of the Kirkus Fiction 2022, a reader can easily perceive what garnered these accolades.

As a person who has read more than half of the Pulitzer Fiction winners, I enjoyed this read more than most. Its clever play on words, and uniquely and intricately woven tales, display the author’s skill with the written, and unwritten, word.

If you enjoy just plain old good writing, this checks the box. If you like an intricate story, check again. If you like to learn something while wrapping yourself up in some good fiction, check again. I highly recommend this award winning read which one of my book club members deemed was the “best book we’ve ever read!”

Shuggie Bain

By  Douglas Stuart
Grove Press
List price varies by seller; PHCB Price: $3 PB/$5 HC if available
February 2020
Purchase: In store only

From the publisher:Thisis the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drug epidemic is waiting in the wings.

A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, “Shuggie Bain” is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction. Recalling the work of Édouard Louis, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist who has a powerful and important story to tell.

From Babette McQueen, Volunteer: For a debut novel, “Shuggie Bain” is an amazing accomplishment. Be forewarned: the book is not light or easy, but it is a captivating and engaging story that paints three different landscapes with accuracy and subtlety.

First, it delivers a loud and clear political and cultural statement about Margaret Thatcher’s policies without ever being in the least bit political. It depicts a heart wrenching and heartwarming story about familial love that rings true without being sappy or predictable. And lastly, it draws an accurate picture of a boy who doesn’t fit in, but finds his place in a world that doesn’t understand him even when he doesn’t understand himself.

At one point in the story telling, I cannot put the book down because the author has hooked me into believing (hoping) the end will be different than I know in my mind it will be. Spoiler alert: it ends as my mind knew it would but my heart still continued to hope for a different outcome as he weaves his tale.

I recommend a read to anyone who is willing to look beyond the heavy sadness of the story to enjoy a virtuoso author wielding his craft in astonishing ways.


Park Hill Community Bookstore

4620 E 23rd Ave, Denver

(303) 355-8508

As part of The Colorado Sun’s literature section — SunLit — we’re featuring staff picks from book stores across the state. Read more.

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