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 both engaging fiction and an award winning nonfiction book set right in the store’s neighborhood. Note: All titles subject to availability.

Hello Beautiful

By Ann Napolitano
Random House Publishing Group
PHCB Price: $3 PB/$5 HC if available
March 2023

Purchase: In store only (if available)

From the publisher: William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him — so when he meets the spirited and ambitious Julia Padavano in his freshman year of college, it’s as if the world has lit up around him. With Julia comes her family, as she and her three sisters are inseparable: Sylvie, the family’s dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book; Cecelia is a free-spirited artist; and Emeline patiently takes care of them all. With the Padavanos, William experiences a newfound contentment; every moment in their house is filled with loving chaos.

But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable devotion to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most?

From Babette McQueen, Volunteer: Here’s why you should read this book: It is beautifully written, its characters are well-developed, and the story is captivating. About three-fourths of the way through, I couldn’t put it down, and read the final quarter in one sitting. Maybe it isn’t great literature, and it isn’t going to win high level prizes (or maybe it will), but it will entertain you and keep you interested from the beginning. My book club described it as “a well-written beach read with great characters.”

And although it has been touted as a “modern ‘Little Women’”, I beg to differ. When I finished the book, I re-read the original “Little Women,” which I hadn’t read since childhood (and is over 700 pages long!), and I think the comparison ends with the fact that both books are about four sisters. So don’t let that description scare you off. It is a modern story that stands on its own whose characters will stay with you long after you finish reading.

The Dutch House

By Ann Patchett
Harper (imprint of Harper Collins)
PHCB Price: $3 PB/$5 HC if available
September 2019

Purchase: In store only (if available)

From the publisher: At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades,  “The Dutch House”  is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

Babette McQueen, Volunteer: A runner up for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2020, “The Dutch House” is one you should not miss. It is haunting and deep and complex and is fodder for great book club discussions. 

Take for example, this one quote: “But we overlay the present onto the past. We look back through the lens of what we know now, so we’re not seeing it as the people we were, we’re seeing it as the people we are, and that means the past has been radically altered.” Can you ever trust your memory? What a great discussion question! This book will make you think long and hard about life, and choices, and love, and family, and forgiveness. What a treasure trove!

If you’re still not convinced, Google “The Dutch House” quotes and read just a few you’ll find there. I’d be greatly surprised if that doesn’t hook you immediately!

The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun, and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood

By Julian Rubinstein
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
PHCB Price: $3 PB/$5 HC if available
May 2021

Purchase: In store only (if available)

From the Publisher: On the last evening of summer in 2013, five shots rang out in a part of northeast Denver known as the Holly. Long a destination for African American families fleeing the Jim Crow South, the area had become an “invisible city” within a historically white metropolis. While shootings there weren’t uncommon, the identity of the shooter that night came as a shock. Terrance Roberts was a revered anti-gang activist. His attempts to bring peace to his community had won the accolades of both his neighbors and the state’s most important power brokers. Why had he just fired a gun?

In ”The Holly” the award-winning Denver-based journalist Julian Rubinstein reconstructs the events that left a local gang member paralyzed and Roberts facing the possibility of life in prison. Much more than a crime story, “The Holly” is a multigenerational saga of race and politics that runs from the civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter.

Babette McQueen, Volunteer: Here’s an award-winning book that takes place right here in our own Denver, Park Hill to be specific. The author made a documentary based on the book, and it has officially qualified for Oscar consideration!

I think everyone in Denver should read this book. I had no idea that this was happening right here in my neighborhood. The book is well-researched and sheds light on things both blatant as well as behind the scenes that we should all know about. It’s a story that brings an awareness that we all need. It’s a story we should not turn a blind eye to. Read the book; be informed! And entertained. And maybe shocked. I certainly was.


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.

Originally known as the Park Hill Cooperative Bookstore, the Park Hill Community Bookstore was incorporated in 1971 with the goal of expanding literacy within the community.  The store is the oldest continuously operated not-for-profit...