Though nothing will ever fill the hole in our hearts left by “Parks and Recreation,” the fake books that appeared throughout the series may take the edge off the pain. Here I’ve assembled a “P&R” bibliography – complete with two in-office pamphlets and a handful of real books embraced by key characters.
A History of Pawnee, Indiana
In Season 3, the “Parks and Recreation” gang compiled a time capsule containing this handy pamphlet, complete with a list of the town’s former slogans. “Pawnee: The Paris of America.” “Pawnee: Welcome, German Soldiers.” “Pawnee: Engage With Zorp.” “Pawnee: Zorp Is Dead.” “Pawnee: Birthplace of Julia Roberts.” “Pawnee: Birthplace of the World-Famous Julia Roberts Lawsuit.” “Pawnee: First in Friendship, Fourth in Obesity.”
It’s Not the Size of the Boat: Embracing Life with a Micro Penis
When a Pawnee Public Library clerk announces Ron Swanson owes fines for this book, we know the “Parks and Recreation” director’s ex-wife, the nefarious Tammy 2, is once again on the prowl.
Mysteries of the Female Orgasm
When Leslie Knope is forced to step into the evil chambers of the library, a clerk informs her she has a forty-dollar late charge for this book. Leslie’s response? “You punk-ass book jockeys!”
The Nutmeg of Consolation
Okay, this is a real book. But when read by Ron while everyone around him prepared for Harvestfest, didn’t it seem like another one of those fake “P & R” books? It’s as if author Patrick O’Brian knew a fictional character named Ron Swanson would one day require such a goofily titled historical novel.
Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World
Full of advice for aspiring female leaders and tales of broken glass ceilings, Kirsten Gillibrand’s real memoir is so tailor-made for make-it-happen Leslie that it also seems fabricated. Eventually the New York senator even appeared on an episode of the show.
Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America
With a tagline of “More Exciting than New York, More Glamorous than Hollywood, Roughly the Same Size as Bismarck, North Dakota,” Leslie’s memoir-cum-historical guide is perfect save one unintentionally inaccurate detail unearthed by talk show host Joan “Gotcha” Callamezzo: Leslie was actually born in rival town Eagleton, a fact her mother reluctantly confirms.
The Time Traveler’s Optometrist
This “heartwarming story about a caveman eye doctor who travels to present-day Cincinnati and can see everything but love” is authored by “Pawnee’s own Penelope Foster.” It doesn’t become a local bestseller until “literary tastemaker” Joan Callamezzo includes it in her book club.
A how-to book written by office supply salesman Lou Presodivich, who went on to become the beloved leader of a Pawnee cult.
Organize It! 2: Engage with Zorp
Presodivich’s much-hallowed sequel, focusing on a twenty-eight-foot-tall lizard with a volcano for a mouth who controls the universe.
The Thing About Me Is, I’m Perd Hapley
A memoir by Pawnee’s most inarticulate television journalist. (“The statement this reporter has is a question.” “Also joining us today is a different person.”) A copy is auctioned off at a benefit to defray Jerry Gergich’s “fart attack” medical bills.
Auto Repair Manual-1982
When Tom Haverford is legally sentenced to a “week without screens” after he drives into a fire hydrant while tweeting, Ron Swanson presents him with this tome: “I’m giving you a non-electronic book made of paper from a tree. It is called Auto Repair Manual-1982. You will read this book from cover to cover, then you will assist me in repairing the damage to my car. If you slip up you will have much more to fear than some feeble government employee in a robe.”
Groffle the Awful Waffle
The industrious Knope wrote this children’s book, which she reads in classrooms while campaigning for city council. In Pawnee, all roads lead to breakfast foods.
Limb-Itless: A True Tale of One Woman’s Ridiculous Courage
While depressed, Chris Traeger reads this allegedly inspirational biography. “It is about a young woman born without arms and legs who tried to swim the English Channel and drowned immediately.”
Mulch Ado About Nothing
A pamphlet about Indiana top soil that Ron assigns Leslie when she is underfoot.
Are You Gonna Crawl My Way?
A parenting book by Lenny Kravitz that Chris Traeger consults during Ann Perkins’ pregnancy. This is not to be confused with…
Another parenting book that the anxious father-to-be consults, this one co-authored by Apolo Anton Ohno and Shaun White.
Barely a President: William Henry Harrison’s Thirty-Two Days in the White House
For better or worse, Pawnee citizens claim Harrison as one of their own. Author Bill Haggarty even creates a museum in his honor.
Genius A’flame: Game of Joans: Joan Callamezzo: a Portrait in Words
The exceptionally wordy title of Callamezzo’s ninth memoir doesn’t stop April from eagerly requesting a signed copy.
Failure: an American Success Story
Tom Haverford’s best seller, introduced in the series finale. Tagline: “The American story isn’t about second chances. It’s about fiftieth chances.” In it, he introduces seven types of successful people: Andy, April, Ben, Leslie, Ron, Donna, and Tom. Above all, he advises readers “not to be a Jerry.”
Failure to Fail: Failure 2.0
Tom’s sequel, which doubles as a perfect ending for “Parks” itself.
This was originally published in Word and Film.