Typically, we try to make sure that no two staff members recommend the same book for this list in a given month. In reality, of course, it’s often the case that several of us love a book equally. This time, we lead off with Hold Still by Sally Mann, enthusiastically recommend by both Ann and Karen. (They do own the store, after all. They can break the rules.) That and many more great reads for June — plus the latest picks for the Parnassus Book Clubs, First Editions Club, and YA First Editions Club — right here:
I’ve been a huge admirer of Sally Mann’s photography for over two decades. I was so happy to discover that she is also a brilliant writer. The icing on the cake though, is that she has story after amazing story to tell. Hold Still is the book to get lost in this summer. — Karen Hayes
It doesn’t seem possible that Sally Mann could be as good a writer as she is a photographer, but it’s true. — Ann Patchett
The movie was coming out and so I felt compelled to read the book. I had missed it on a previous Hardy binge. Since it was originally published in serialized form the chapters are fast moving and (by Victorian standards) action packed. — Ann Patchett
Mary Norris, a long time copy editor at the New Yorker, has written a tough and funny take on her life in the grammar trenches. The chapter on gender pronouns alone is worth the price of the book. I loved it. — Ann Patchett
I’ve been making a concerted effort to eat more vegetables, most of which I find bland or boring. Satterfield, chef at Miller Union in Atlanta, has changed all of that with this fabulous cookbook. His asparagus recipe, in particular, is incredible. — Niki Coffman
A wildly cute dog giving life advice — what could be better?! — Niki Coffman
A World War II novel based on historical fact about a little-known spy agency, operating in England and France surrounding the time of the D-Day invasion, unique in its use of many women who were trained for dangerous undercover missions. Of course, the title character becomes the love interest of the narrator with unexpected results. WWII intrigue mixed with romance. — Mary Grey James
I’d not read any of Judy Blume’s novels for adults, so I didn’t know what to expect when I started this one. “Will she keep me as enthralled as she did thirty years ago? Is she … good?” She’s still awesome. I really loved these characters and did not want the story to end. — Sissy Gardner
An enjoyable read. Interesting characters and a setting that reminds me of Sewanee. — Sissy Gardner
More than just a beautiful coffee table book. This volume contains descriptions and information about golf courses throughout the United States.Oliver provides intelligent critques of the design of the nation’s most notable private and public courses. A fantastic addition to any golfer’s library. — Andy Brennan
For food lovers and seekers of love alike, Ansari’s humorous and academic take on the pleasures and perils of modern romance will leave you hungry and hopeful. Who doesn’t love food as a metaphor for love? This book will be the hot chicken to your waffle (or for the vegetarians out there, the PB to your J)! — Mythili Sanikommu
A striking collection of feminist essays: insightful, witty, and essential. — Mythili Sanikommu
It can be hard to know where to begin when commenting on a new volume of Ashbery poems. His poems run in so many directions. He writes about everything. What impresses me most about this collection is the intensity and compression of language. This book is riddled with humor too. The sentence that most has me falling out of my chair: “Your napkin ring is bitch-slapping America.” — Nathan Spoon
This follows Atkinson’s bestseller, Life After Life, although it isn’t exactly a sequel. You could enjoy the gorgeous writing and thoughtfully crafted characters (the same family featured in Life After Life, years later) on their own here. But Atkinson is so good, it’s absolutely worth reading both. Plus, there are little references that you’ll pick up on if you read one after the other. — Mary Laura Philpott
Here’s what I’m saying about this one: I couldn’t put it down. I’m not saying I liked the characters — I didn’t, really. Yet I neglected everyone in my household for hours while I turned pages to find out what happened. I want to discuss this with someone — let me know when you read it. — Mary Laura Philpott
A widow asks her neighbor to sleep with her. “No, not sex,” she tells him. “I’m talking about getting through the night.” This little slip of a novel is about two people making the most of love late in life — family and animals and townfolk notwithstanding. Bone-clean and honest, it’s a fitting farewell from Haruf to the world. — Miriam Mimms
What do you say when you bump into a crocodile on a crowded street? Rise to the occasion with this children’s guide to impeccable manners when faced with pressing–if wildly impossible–social dilemmas. A Caldecott Honor book in 1959. — Miriam Mimms
If you ever imagined yourself as Belle from Beauty & the Beast buy this book right now. If you need more convincing: Uprooted is a delicious new take on several classic fairy tales. You will recognize them as you read but you will still never see the twists and turns coming. — Grace Wright
When I was a kid, I used to squirrel away with a big book and a flashlight so I could read into the wee hours of the night. Recently I’ve felt concerned that I might never in my adulthood find a book so enthralling that I could do that again — until I came across Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. This book pulled me right back into stay-up-all-night-don’t-tell-your-parents mode. So, grab a flashlight, build a fort: this is a good one. — Lindsay Lynch
Great news, the Coen brothers have finally decided to make the dark satirical old Western film you always wanted! Except instead of a film, it’s a book. And instead of the Coen brothers, it’s Patrick Dewitt. Trust me, it’s better this way. — Lindsay Lynch
If you consider yourself a reader you need to get this book. Pick it up and put it down like you would short stories. Mendelsund is a genius at describing what goes on in our minds in a truly artistic way. — Catherine Bock
This is a fantastic coming of age story that is great for its intended YA audience and for adults as well. A perfect beach read that isn’t just fluff. — Catherine Bock
A compelling story of the last days of the Ottoman Empire and of one Armenian family’s secrets which touch a young Turkish man’s life today. It’s a tale of love and war and of the resilience of human beings in the face of great odds. Anyone who liked And the Mountains Echoed or Between Shades of Gray would love this one. — Kathy Schultenover
Momo is an expert at hiding. Open this book to any page and get ready to be bowled over by the sheer cuteness of Momo – if you can find him. This book will cause you to make all kinds of weird noises that occur when confronted with a dog so adorable you think you’ll explode. — Ashton Hickey
How do I even begin to explain this book? It’s about a missing girl, two brothers, dying plants, whispering corn, a possibly magical horse, a faceless man, and beekeeping. It’s a story about the danger of accepting things and people at face value, and the beauty that awaits when we look deeper. I couldn’t put it down. — Stephanie Appell
And talk about “staff picks” . . . This week we celebrated the launch of a funny little illustrated humor book for grownups by one of our very own staff, writer Mary Laura Philpott. Come grab an autographed copy of Penguins with People Problems sometime!
There are some novels that let you get lost and forget your world and others that you read with a critical eye — not letting yourself fully submerge and give yourself over to the story. I like both kinds, but like most people I get more excited about novels that allow me to inhabit another person’s life or world with abandon. When I read Martin Clark’s The Jezebel Remedy, I started out thinking I might stay a bit disconnected from it. Before long, though, I had fallen over the edge and into the world Clark created.
The strange thing about that feeling, and why it caught me by surprise, is that The Jezebel Remedy is what you’d probably call a “legal thriller” — a genre I don’t usually associate with feelings of abandon and emotional submersion. But the characters were so wonderfully created and the dynamic between Joe and Lisa felt so real that I couldn’t help but turn pages to see how the story unfolded.
I have noticed when choosing books for the First Editions Club that we frequently say something to the effect of, “I never read this kind of book, but this one blew me away!” It’s good to get outside our comfort zones when reading, so we try to incorporate that into our choices. I felt wonderfully surprised by this book and hope you all do too. Bonus: You can meet Martin Clark here at Parnassus on June 15!
Yours in reading,
Special Sales and Office Manager
Every member of our First Editions Club receives a first edition of the selected book of the month, signed by the author. Books are carefully chosen by our staff of readers, and our picks have gone on to earn major recognition including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. There’s no membership fee or premium charge for these books; just the monthly cost of each book (+ shipping if you’d like yours mailed to you). Build a treasured library of signed first editions and always have something great to read! Makes a FABULOUS gift for dads, grads, newlyweds building a shared library — or anyone!
I think baseball is a sport that rewards patience. Last summer, I went to a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, and there was something almost spiritual about the experience. We gathered together, we broke bread and drank wine — well, hot dogs and beer — and we all focused on the rhythm of the game, the pitch, the swing, the pitch, the swing, first batter, second batter, third batter, out. Yet when things happen in baseball, like a pop fly, or a stolen base, they happen fast. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss them, and you’ll have to ask the person next to you, “What happened?”
Kelly Loy Gilbert’s incredible debut novel, Conviction, unfolds a bit like a baseball game. It has a deliberate, measured pace that belies the turmoil at the heart of Braden Raynor, Gilbert’s protagonist. Gilbert introduces Braden in the aftermath of an event that upended his life, the arrest of his father, a well-regarded evangelical radio host, for the murder of a police officer. As the only other witness to the alleged crime, Braden, a star pitcher for his high school’s baseball team, will have to testify to his father’s innocence or guilt. Although Braden’s struggle to come to terms with what, exactly, he witnessed on the night in question keeps Gilbert’s narrative driving steadily forward, Braden’s deeper conflicts of family and faith are what make Conviction such an extraordinary read.
Bart Giamatti (father of actor Paul Giamatti) was the seventh commissioner of Major League Baseball, from 1986 to 1989, but he was also a professor of English Literaure at Yale. He often turned his attention to writing about the sport he loved. Of baseball, he once mused, “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.” The same is true of Conviction, but, like baseball, the heartbreak is worth it in the end.
Yours in reading,
Manager of Books for Young Readers
Every member of our YA First Editions Club receives a first edition copy of the selected book of the month, signed by the author. There is no cost to join the club other than the monthly cost of each book (+ shipping if you’d like yours mailed to you). When the hottest new books come out, you’ll have them… autographed! Choose a 3, 6, or 12-month membership for yourself or as a gift.
June – Euphoria by Lily King
Wednesday, June 17 at 6:30pm Join us for a discussion led by the author, Lily King!
Thursday, June 18 at 10am A regular meeting (without the author) to discuss the book
July – Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes
Monday, July 13 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, July 15 at 6:30pm
Thursday, July 16 at 10am
June – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Tuesday, June 23 at 10am and 6:30pm
August – For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Monday, August 24 at 10am and 6:30pm
Are you a member of our store book club? Would you like to be? Parnassus Book Club meetings are free and open to anyone. Buy the book, read along, and join the discussion!
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“It’s All About the Book”
More great thoughts on reading from Kathy Schultenover, Parnassus Book Clubs Manager:
Plainsong, Eventide, Benediction – all wonderful books from the pen of Kent Haruf, enjoyed by people everywhere, chosen by book clubs for years. All three are set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, created by a writer who wrote what he knew and lived — small town life on the plains of Colorado. All deal with universal issues in relationships between people: parents and children, friends, neighbors, and lovers. All are told in spare, well-chosen words and sentences.
Now comes Mr. Haruf’s last book, Our Souls at Night. Also set in Holt, it opens in a rather shocking fashion, with 70-year-old Addie Moore knocking on her longtime neighbor’s door and asking him if he would be interested in sleeping with her. Both widowed, they agree that their nights are the loneliest. What follows is not salacious, but a moving story of a man and woman who find late-in-life love.
Kent Haruf was the first author to lead my book clubs at Davis Kidd 15 years ago for Plainsong. He was a quiet, shy man who nonetheless had the 50+ people in attendance hanging on every word. Our paths crossed again a few years later when I facilitated his session for Eventide at the Southern Festival of Books. We spent a good bit of time talking that day, and I felt that I sort-of-knew a bit about him in the way that we like to feel we “know” famous people. After both occasions, I received warm notes of thanks for supporting his books. When Benediction was published, we tried repeatedly to get him to come to Parnassus, but his publicist kept saying that he wasn’t touring. I suspected that something was amiss, then later heard that he wasn’t well. One day last summer a copy of Benediction arrived in my mail with a beautiful inscription thanking me for what I had done to get his books noticed and read. Mr. Haruf passed away on November 30, 2014; he was 71 years old. He was a wonderful writer and a very nice man, one missed by his family, his readers, and me. — Kathy
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Make sure you’re following MUSING for our next big list — Fathers’ Day gifts for all kinds of dads — coming next week!