Books Spring Eternal


Have you taken a look at the Parnassus events calendar lately? Things are starting to get really busy around here. It’s a great time to be in Nashville, as the chill is just about out of the air, and everything is in bloom. We hope you’ll come in soon to meet the authors of some of your favorite books, or just pick an event that sounds good and come discover something new. Meanwhile, our staff would love to share what they’ve read and loved lately. Check out the list below, or stop by and let’s swap suggestions! (Don’t miss Ann’s latest recommendations in her last note, including Tiny Beautiful Things, Being Mortal, Get in Trouble, and The Whites.)

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Now out in paperback! This accomplished debut novel is written from the point of view of Pete Snow, a social worker who is separated from his wife and rarely sees his daughter. While his life is falling apart, he continues to try to help the lives of others. This is how he encounters Benjamin Pearl, an undernourished, feral eleven-year-old boy living in the Montana wilderness. Pete becomes deeply involved in his life and the life of the boy’s radical fundamentalist Christian father, Jeremiah, whose activities are attracting the interest of the FBI. While the story and setting are sometimes bleak, the author is a master storyteller and the characters slowly reveal themselves in often surprising ways. (Read our 2014 interview with Smith Henderson here.) – Karen Hayes

Jon Ronson has examined extremists, secret military organizations, psychopaths, and other wacky topics. Now, he turns his eye to an infinitely more horrifying subject: public shaming in social media. He explores questions such as: Why do “good” people take such glee in public shamings? What happens to those we’ve shamed after we’ve moved on? As usual, Ronson’s book is riddled with humor, but it’s his genuine empathy that makes it special. It’s impossible to pick the best Ronson book, but this one might be his most important. – Ashton Hickey

This fascinating exploration of Scientology is so compelling that it feels like fiction. A perfect read in advance of the documentary airing on HBO this month. – Niki Coffman

This extrordinarily researched, fast-paced literary thriller races through 2,000 years of history in an attempt to solve one of the biggest mysteries in Christianity — the Shroud of Turin. – Niki Coffman

A literary thriller whose tension comes not from the missing girl, but from within her Chinese-American family. Ng explores their well-guarded secrets and complicated relationships as they search for their missing Lydia. – Kathy Schultenover

A story of three intertwined lives across decades and continents, with love and heartache, war and peace . . . so delightful and heartwarming. A good antidote to heavy and dark! – Kathy Schultenover

Have you read this yet? If not, please rectify that situation immediately, so you’re ready for Atkinson’s followup, A God in Ruins, when it comes out in May. (In fact, even if you did read it, consider re-reading it before May.) This was the best novel of 2013, I think. I don’t usually like historical fiction, and I adored it. – Mary Laura Philpott

Don’t let the initial description of the plot deter you from this book. It is amazing. An elderly couple in post-Arthurian England venture from their village to visit their estranged son. The problem: a “mist of forgetfulness” has enveloped their land and the past is all but forgotten. This is a story of how history is essential, love can triumph in the face of adversity, and hard truths must be reckoned with. – Catherine Bock

Bjorn is an office worker who has been moved to a new department. In this new space he discovers a room where his productivity soars and he can work through problems. But no one else can see the room. Conflict and tongue-in-cheek humor abound. – Catherine Bock


Jeremy is a Nashville chef (and Chopped champion) who is HELL BENT on making us change the way we choose what to eat. A local chef with a local book. Eat and shop local! – Sissy Gardner

This is a dark one, friends. Dark. Essbaum’s style is as haunting (in my opinion) as Edith Wharton’s. This is my favorite novel of the year. – Sissy Gardner

Did you wake up this morning with the harrowing feeling that the single thing missing from your life was an 800 page account of murder and intrigue among gold prospectors in 1860s New Zealand? Then, boy, do I have the book for you! Even if you somehow didn’t wake up with this realization, I wholly and completely endorse getting lost in the world of The Luminaries for an indefinite period of time. – Lindsay Lynch

I never knew I’d been desperately waiting for this book until I read it. It’s basically Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a Southern belle. What more could you want?? – Grace Wright

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel

This classic title needs no introduction. The graphic novel adaptation takes the thrill and gorgeous language of the original novel and creates a breathtaking narrative. It was almost like reading this book again for the first time. Even better, Larson was able to consult with L’Engle on the project. – Grace Wright

A must-read for any admirer of the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald, this deals with the last three years of his life as he struggled to be a screenwriter in Hollywood while writing what was to be his final novel. Fitzgerald’s alcoholism and love affair with the flamboyant gossip columnist, Sheilah Graham, were disarming impediments to his financial success on which his daughter and institutionalized wife, Zelda, depended.  To read in tandem with the unfinished The Last Tycoon, is to experience the heartaches of one of our finest writers while paying homage to his brilliance. – Mary Grey James

Mind-boggling stories about marvelous and frightening things happening to desperate people in New Mexico. Quade’s writing is astonishing. Do not miss this debut. -Miriam Mimms

If you’re looking to have your mind blown in an epic way, start here. This novel traces the journey of four college classmates who evolve into fully-fledged, flawed men, and who revolve around Jude, a brilliant lawyer harboring a devastating secret. This one is unforgettable. – Miriam Mimms

This novel’s priest is a precursor to Marilynne Robinson’s John Ames. Bewildered and defenseless, he suffers doubt and rejection, as he weighs his responsiblity toward his ordinary, mysterious, exasperating parishioners. Above all, this is the most profound meditation I’ve ever read upon the way different kinds of poverty shape a soul. – Margy Roark

A great pick for National Poetry Month, recommended by one of our very own staff poets!

In these wonderful versions of Petrarch’s sonnets, Peter Hughes shows tremendous skill, by casting the complex delights of the originals into a English as surprising as it is entertaining! – Nathan Spoon

This book brilliantly unravels the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (a term that is itself something of a misnomer), as it defends the idea that, despite superficial differences, the world is fundamentally the same regardless what language we may speak. – Nathan Spoon

Nova Ren Suma’s gorgeous, lyrical, and haunting third novel is a mystery, a ghost story, and a no-holds-barred exploration of guilt, innocence, and girlhood. I read it in one breathless sitting. – Stephanie Appell

Mim Malone, the protagonist of Nashvillian David Arnold’s debut novel, is brash and bold, hilarious and honest, and determined to get from Jackson, Mississippi, to Ashland, Ohio, no matter the obstacles in her way — and you, reader, get to go along for the ride. The voice of Mim Malone will stay with you long after you finish reading her story. – Stephanie Appell

It’s April, so it’s time for the Masters. Gil Capps does a great job recounting the most exciting Masters tournament ever — Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, and Tom Weiskopf all in the hunt. I can still remember the whole pro shop erupting as Nicklaus left bear tracks across the 16th green. – Andy Brennan

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Happy spring!