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 two international dramas and a rumination on dogs with human intelligence.

Fifteen Dogs

By Andre Alexis
Coach House Books
Prices vary by seller; PHCB Price: $3 PB/$5 HC if available
November 2015

Purchase: In store only

From the publisher: It begins in a bar, like so many strange stories. The gods Hermes and Apollo argue about what would happen if animals had human intelligence, so they make a bet that leads them to grant consciousness and language to a group of dogs staying overnight at a veterinary clinic.

Suddenly capable of complex thought, the dogs escape and become a pack. They are torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old “dog” ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into unfamiliar territory, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.

Engaging and strange, full of unexpected insights into human and canine minds, this contemporary take on the apologue is the most extraordinary book you’ll read this year.

From Sheryl Hartmann, Volunteer: This is not a light read; in fact it is quite sad although not depressing. The book asks whether these dogs will, having been granted human-like consciousness and language, have “good” lives. The dogs seem very dog-like and are in no way cartoonish.The book poses questions, both philosophical and existential, in lyrical poetic prose that demonstrates the power of literature to challenge perceptions and foster introspection. 

My Uncle Napoleon

By Iraj Pezeshkzad; Dick Davis  (Translator)
Random House
Prices vary by seller; PHCB Price: $3 PB/$5 HC if available
Iran 1973

Purchase: In store only

From the publisher: “God forbid, I’ve fallen in love with Layli!” So begins the farce of our narrator’s life, one spent in a large extended Iranian family lorded over by the blustering, paranoid patriarch, Dear Uncle Napoleon. When Uncle Napoleon’s least-favorite nephew falls for his daughter, Layli, family fortunes are reversed, feuds fired up and resolved, and assignations attempted and thwarted…”My Uncle Napoleon” is a timeless and universal satire of first love and family intrigue.

From Sheryl Hartmann, Volunteer:  I love reading books that give me insight into other cultures and other times. And, if the book is as funny and satirical as this one is, so much the better. The book is set in 1940s Iran and Uncle Napoleon is convinced that Iran’s friendliness with Great Britain and Russia is a source of evil in that these two nations are separately scheming to gain control of Iran’s oil resources. “My Uncle Napoleon” is uproariously politically incorrect and is a window into Iran, its culture and traditions, its present conflicts and past history, and its paradoxical relation to the west.

The Death of Rex Nhongo

By C. B. George
Little Brown
Prices vary by seller; PHCB Price: $3 PB/$5 HC if available
July 2016

Purchase: In store only

From the publisher: Set in Zimbabwe’s sweltering stewpot of poverty, violent crime, and rampant corruption, George’s debut novel is a tragic tale of five crumbling marriages and the gun that unites them. That fateful weapon may or may not have been used to kill Rex Nhongo, the nom de guerre of Gen. Solomon Mujuru, whose remains were found inside a burned farmhouse in the village of Beatrice in August 2011 (the nonfictional event explained in the author’s preface). George is a brilliant storyteller, carefully weaving together Zimbabwe’s political instability in 2011–2014 with unhappy husbands and wives locked in marriages of resentment and indifference.

From Sheryl Hartmann, Volunteer:  In this political thriller the diplomatic and expat communities game the system that perpetuates corruption and factionalism. The book never answers the question of its title but instead uses the speculation about Rex Nhongo’s death to develop the drama and set the context for what is to come. I loved this book and never wanted to put it down. I tried to find out more about the author, C.B. George, but there’s not much out there — only that he (guessing on “he”) has worked for many years in South Africa and now lives in London. It might be a pen name or there might be clues to his real identity throughout the book.


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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