36 Books We Love Right Now

ruth recommends

What do booksellers read when they’re not selling books? Mystery, YA, literary fiction, poetry, nonfiction . . . you name it. These are the books actually sitting on our nightstands, desks, and coffee tables right now. Some of these authors are coming to town soon, too; so don’t forget to check out what’s coming up on the very busy fall events calendar!

reichl coverFirst off: Some selections from special guest star, bestselling author and food journalist Ruth Reichl, who gathered up some of her favorites in our cooking section when she visited last week. (Speaking of which, a limited number of signed copies of her new book, My Kitchen Year, are still available!) Pick up Reichl’s selections for your own kitchen:

Jerusalem: A Cookbook
Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat
Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
The Gastronomical Me
The Tummy Trilogy
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere
The Mozza Cookbook: Recipes from Los Angeles’s Favorite Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria

And now a few more great reads, recommended by Parnassus staff:

Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt 

Kristin Hersh has written a heartfelt, no holds barred, ode to her close friend and fellow singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt. This book will bring him closer to all those who share an awe of his talent and who know of the tragedy of his too-short life. Hopefully others will discover this man’s brilliance though this powerful little book. – Karen Hayes

Gold Fame Citrus 

Just when I thought I’d read every kind of apocalypse there is — pandemic, economic, government conspiracy, black hole eats Florida, memory loss, death-by-fire, etc. — here comes Claire Vaye Watkins with drought apocalypse. The genius of Gold Fame Citrus comes from Wakins’s extensive research on the history of California and the way she seamlessly integrates it into the barren future. Watkins has created a novel that is equal parts beautiful and devastating. Meet Claire Vaye Watkins at the Southern Festival of Books on Oct. 10. – Lindsay Lynch

The Story of My Teeth 

This is the story of Gustavo Sanchez Sanchez’s teeth. They are good teeth and it is a good story. I read it and I think you should, too. – Lindsay Lynch

Girl Waits with Gun 

Funny, wise, and surprising. Girl With Gun unveils one ‘didn’t see that coming’ after another. I simply love these characters. A literary page-turner of the first degree. – River Jordan


The author’s voice is subversive, droll, and insightful in this quirky, somewhat unstructured, and totally original novel. If you’re looking for a straight-ahead novel on family relationships, this might not be for you, but I loved it and so did the National Book Foundation which just nominated it for this year’s award. – Mary Grey James

Fates and Furies 

For those of you who get giddy at the phrases “character study” and “in-depth look at a relationship,” this is for you. But aside from those two broad categories, this book is singular and unique — so just let Lauren Groff work her magic. – Catherine Bock (Meet Groff at the Southern Festival of Books on Saturday, October 10, when she makes two appearances: one at 9:30 a.m. and another at 3 p.m.)

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad 

The life of Dmitri Shostakovich was filled with controversy, as well as undisputed drama. Was he a lock-step Communist and Stalin supporter or was he a courageous and brilliant composer rallying an entire country during decades of suppression? After all, his life spanned a period of history in which evasion and untruths were often the way that Russians stayed alive. That makes a well-researched, meticulously documented work such as this a valuable resource, as well as a page-turning story of one of the 20th century’s great artists. This book is intended for older teens; however, a reader of any age will experience how music enables a country to survive while contributing to the world’s canon of great compositions. – Mary Grey James

Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse 

This is the extraordinary life of Nell Stillman, from tiny Harvester, Minnesota — third-grade teacher and lover of literature, whose quiet, everyday life is transformed by books. This speaks to most of us! A beautiful, easy read with a universal story. – Kathy Schultenover

The Scorpion Rules 

Take this moment to fall in love with Erin Bow, her gorgeous writing, and her heart-stealing characters. The Scorpion Rules is ultimately about true and terrifying love — love of self, of family, of country, and of course of that special person who opens your eyes to the world. Don’t miss her at the Southern Festival of Books on Saturday, Oct. 10! – Grace Wright

Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel

Trust me when I say you have never seen anything like this — but if you loved J.J. Abrams’ S. and/or Nick Bantock’s Griffin & Sabine, this book is for you. The best of a number of genres, Bats of the Republic twists you around and sucks you in with irresistible prose and stunning illustrations. – Grace Wright

The Heart Goes Last 

Atwood’s books always leave me unsettled, anxious, and in awe of her abilities and imagination. She calls this novel “speculative fiction” instead of sci-fi; because — as she says — “it could happen.” Good lord, I hope it doesn’t. But I hope you read this. Don’t miss Atwood’s reading and signing as part of the Salon@615 series on Monday, Oct. 19. – Mary Laura Philpott

A Window Opens 

A light, fun read (about bookselling!) that’s super-relatable for adults who are in that phase of life where they’re juggling kids, parents, friends, and career. Perfect for anyone who likes to keep a book on hand to read during a commute or in a waiting room. – Ginger Nalley

Wild Iris 

I carry this around with me all the time lately. Set in a garden, flowers, gardener, and divine creator speak in a conversation about suffering, joy: the mystery of being alive. It is strange, moving, and beautiful. Open, read one poem, any poem. I dare you. – Margie Roark

The Nightingale 

This is the beautiful story of a French family during World War II. What they did to survive, what they did to help and how their lives were changed by the war. – Ginger Nalley

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 10.39.22 AMLandscapes for the People: George Alexander Grant, First Chief Photographer of the National Park Service 

The University of Georgia Press has released this incredible collection of photographs from national parks, which also includes a full biography of the first chief photographer of the National Park Service (who knew there was such a position?), George Alexander Grant. After reading this volume, I think you will agree that Grant should be ranked among the greatest American landscape photographers. – Andy Brennan

The Fourth Dimension of a Poem: And Other Essays 

By M. H. Abrams, Harold Bloom (Foreword by)
The Fourth Dimension of a Poem is the most substantial book of reflection on literature that I have encountered in years. While reading it, I had the distinct experience of finding something I already thought and felt articulated in remarkable ways–or of being instantly transported into a new perspective. – Nathan Spoon

Essays After Eighty 

In his late years, Donald Hall explains, the ability to write poems has “abandoned” him. Fortunately he is still writing essays. I have loved his essays since I first read Principle Products of Portugal in the late 90s. One of my favorites from this collection is inspired by the number of honorary degrees he has received. Whatever Mr. Hall’s topic, his essays always fill me with delight. – Nathan Spoon

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear 

You could give someone a “You Can Do It!” card or a motivational poster of a kitten hanging on a branch. Or you could give them this book, which is better, more colorful, and includes a funny anecdote about Ann Patchett. – Mary Laura Philpott

The Witches: Salem, 1692 

It’s October, and I simply love to be scared. (This fascinating account of the Salem Witch Trials is written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the bestseller, Cleopatra.) – Sissy Gardner


Dumplin‘ is the story of the incomparable Willowdean Dickson and her quest to enter and win the Miss Clover City beauty pageant. It’s a book with a heart as big as the Texas sky. This is the book I wish I could go back in time and give to my teenaged self. If you are a person with a body, you need to read this book. – Stephanie Appell

The Thing about Jellyfish 

Suzy “Zu” Swanson’s best friend, Franny, drowned over summer vacation, after the girls had spent most of the school year drifting apart. Zu’s grief expresses itself in silence — a refusal to say things that aren’t important — and she becomes obsessed with proving that her friend’s death was the result of an extremely rare and fatal jellyfish sting. As silent as Zu is to those around her, her voice leaps off the page for the reader, smart and odd and funny and in so much pain, so weighed down by guilt and confusion at her friend’s death. Benjamin’s narrative is masterfully constructed, but it’s Zu’s voice that makes this sing. – Stephanie Appell

First Editions Club — October Selection

Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads 

From the publisher:

Paul Theroux has spent fifty years crossing the globe, adventuring in the exotic, seeking the rich history and folklore of the far away. Now, for the first time Theroux explores a piece of America: the Deep South. He finds a paradoxical place, full of incomparable music, unparalleled cuisine, and yet also some of the nation’s worst schools, housing, and unemployment rates. It’s these parts of the South, so often ignored, that have caught Theroux’s keen traveler’s eye.

On road trips spanning four seasons, Theroux visits gun shows, small-town churches, and homestyle diners. He talks to mayors and social workers, writers and reverends, and farming families. The people who, despite it all, never left, and also those who returned home to rebuild a place they could never live without.

This book comes highly recommended by several members of the Parnassus Books staff!

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, too. 

Young Adult First Editions Club — October Selection

Carry on 

Dear Young Adult First Editions Club Members,

Our October selection, Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, really doesn’t need an introduction. Rainbow arrived in the YA world in 2013 with not one but two incredible novels, Eleanor & Park (which received a Michael L. Printz Honor) and Fangirl. We have been waiting for her next YA book ever since.

Readers, it was worth the wait.

In Carry On, Rowell has achieved the impossible. She has written a fantasy novel that wears its allegiance to those other books about a boy wizard on its sleeve, yet succeeds in the very first pages in staking out its own claim to the tropes we love so much. Simon, Baz, Penny, Agatha, Ebb, The Mage, The Insidious Humdrum, even Watford itself — Rowell knows we can’t help but initially view her creations through the spectres of their Hogwartsian equivalents. Because Rowell isn’t afraid to actively engage with the spectres of the stories that have come before, her story instead becomes an incredible mix of the familiar and the new.

Rowell’s real brilliance, though, lies in her understanding not of what we love to read, but why we love to read it. In Fangirl, she showed us a character who had been completely enveloped by a fictional world, a character who lived, breathed, and wrote the world of Simon Snow. In Carry On, she’s given us that world, and it’s very quickly apparent why Cath loved it so much. Readers, I hope you fall in love with Simon Snow and the world of Carry On.

Yours in reading,
Stephanie Appell
Manager of Books for Young Readers
Parnassus Books

Parnassus Book Club

9780062409850October – The Kept by James Scott
Monday, October 12 at 6:30pm — Join us as the author leads the discussion!
Wednesday, October 14 at 6:30pm
(Note: There will be no Thursday meeting this month.)

Classics Book Club  – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Monday, November 2, at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

November – Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Monday, November 16 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, November 18 at 6:30pm
Thursday, November 19 at 10:30am

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!

“It’s All About the Book”

More thoughts on reading from Kathy Schultenover, Parnassus Book Clubs Manager:

If you are in a book club here in Nashville, hopefully you were among the 75 folks in attendance at our annual Book Club Workshop last month. I have led 17 of these gatherings over my years here at Parnassus and, before that, at Davis Kidd Booksellers.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 11.51.36 AMI love hearing book club members from area groups come together to discuss all things book club. Over the years, topics have ranged from how to choose interesting titles to how to hold a great meeting or solve book club-related problems. Sometimes local authors who are also book club members bring their unique perspectives; other times, publisher’s reps give us insider information on the industry and their own hot new titles.

This year, our workshop theme was “Pairing Wine with Books,” presented by Dan Hutchinson from the Wine Shoppe at Green Hills. Dan is such a literary type, a real reader who thoughtfully selects wines to accompany many of our author events here at the store; so he’s an expert at doing this. He gave us several tips for hosting fun book + wine gatherings. (And of course, we sampled some wines, along with snacks, all in the name of research.) I also unveiled our new bookmark, which lists three years’ worth of Parnassus book club selections, and shared my picks for great book club selections to consider for the upcoming year. It was such a fun evening.

If you want to be a part of future book club seminars and club-related events, I hope you’ll register your book club with us. Local book groups can order their club’s monthly book selection at a discount, and if you like, your monthly titles are displayed in the store on the book club shelf with your club’s name. Registered clubs also receive notices of special book club related author events and seminars. To register a club, simply stop by the store and fill out a short form at the register. We’d love to welcome your club to the extended book club community here at Parnassus!

— Kathy


Want more? Don’t miss our monthly Bookmark column in Nashville Arts Magazine, as well as the “Literary Culturist” column at 12th & Broad — featuring topics like Literary Matchmaking and Your Literary To-Do List for October.

And make sure you’re subscribed to MUSING, so you don’t miss a thing! Coming up next: The shop dogs of Parnassus Books offer a guide to the Southern Festival of Books.