‘Parks and Recreation: Pawnee’ book review

Let’s not beat about the likely raccoon-infested bush. As Rob Lowe’s Chris Traeger might say, ‘Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America’ is, literally, the best TV tie-in book ever written.’ Or, if you’d like it put in a more Ron Swanson style of succinctness, ‘It is a book. It is good. Read it.’

If you’re a fan of Parks and Recreation – the 3rd season of which the BBC is currently hiding airing on BBC Four – then chances are you wish that the town of Pawnee, Indiana was a real place. Because who wouldn’t want to live in such a funny, friendly, cynic-free slice of America that definitely has its raccoon problem under control, jamming with Andy, or partying at The Snakehole Lounge with Tom and Jean-Ralphio?

‘Pawnee’ is your chance to get one step closer to that dream. It’s a real book about the town, its people, and history, written (and run through spell-check) by Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) that features as the main plot in the terrific Season 4 episode ‘Born and Raised’. So yes, this is a real book, written by a fictional character, that really appears in a fictional programme. Metafiction fans rejoice. You can ‘literally‘ own a piece of the show.

And rejoice you will, and chuckle, and guffaw, because it is genuinely funny, in that down to earth folksy way that Parks and Rec is. Of the 240 pages there is not one that will fail to draw laughter from fans. It’s written with an appreciation of detail bordering on the obsessive, expanding on and adding to the already rich and hilarious background scenery and history of Pawnee that makes the show so inviting and real.

You’ll learn all about the incredibly racist history of the town, its many raccoon infested parks, and the life and death of Lil’ Sebastian. Not only that, but there’s contributions from the town’s most famous residents. And, unlike some TV tie-in books, there’s no space wasted. Actual love and work has been put into this, and the results are writ bold and jovial on every page. This is a book that, if anything, will heighten your enjoyment and appreciation of the show.

Highlights abound, but our favourites include an ‘advertisement section’ that shows off Pawnee’s local businesses (the ad for Food N’ Stuff is particularly good); Andy’s list of previous band names, including ‘Beatles McJagger’ and ‘Ninja Dick’; and the detailed history of the Sweetums Corporation and their products. If you’re not left hungry for ‘Taffy for Hispanics’ after reading it, then you’ve clearly already filled up on ‘Nutz N’ Stuf’.

This book isn’t just an accompaniment to the show, it’s part of the show. It’s as if it’s fallen through your TV screen and into your living room. Or maybe Pawnee really is real, like we all wish it was, and Leslie Knope has mailed it to you herself. Oh, if only. That would, as Chris Traeger would say, ‘Literally, be the best thing ever.’

5star

Published on Thursday 13 February 2014 by BBC Books.

> Buy the book on Amazon.

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