Discovering New Things: Our Latest Favorite Books

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While you're visiting the Staff Picks shelf up at the front of the store, be sure to check out other themed displays, like this one -- all about running! (Thanks to our neighbor, Fleet Feet Green Hills, for the props.)
While you’re visiting the Staff Picks shelf up at the front of the store, be sure to check out other themed displays, like this one — all about running! (Thanks to our neighbor, Fleet Feet Green Hills, for the props.)

Booksellers learn a lot from working with one another. Someone who might never pick up a book of poetry may learn to like it, based on the recommendation of a colleague. Die-hard fiction readers may get talked into trying a thrilling biography. We have fun making this list every month, because we love finding out what one another has been reading. Who knew River was a Bill Murray fan? Or that Kathy can name six novels she loves about India? Or that Andy loves boating and maps? (Well, we did know that one.)

Here are the books our staff have enjoyed most lately. What have YOU been reading?

The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories 

This is the best work of fiction I’ve read this year. In fact, it may be the best work of fiction since Marra’s last book, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. Marra’s work is brilliant, political, funny, heartbreaking, and vitally important. He’s in a class by himself. – Ann Patchett

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life

By Ruth Reichl

My Kitchen Year goes like this: a tweet, a page of stark depression, and then a really cheerful, engaging recipe. Tweet, depression, recipe, 136 times, until the depression fades. It’s not a cookbook or a memoir, it’s a riveting recipe for turning your life around. I loved every word. – Ann Patchett

City on Fire 

By Garth Risk Hallberg

City on Fire portrays the gritty, crime-ridden, anarchic New York City of the late 70s. It is populated with punk rockers, starving artists, journalists, cops and the rich and powerful elite. From Long Island, to the Upper East Side to the East Village these characters lives overlap in surprising and suspenseful ways and the pace of the novel speeds up as the story unfolds. This is an astonishing debut. – Karen Hayes

Slaughterhouse 90210

Kreizman juxtaposes images from popular TV with passages from classic and contemporary literature — Anna Karenina with Orange Is the New Black, for instance — picking a thread and following it from one medium into the next. Perfect for the person whose DVR is as full as her bookshelves, these pairings offer delightful and surprising proof that universal themes pervade all art. – Mary Laura Philpott

Welcome to Night Vale

Do you ever find yourself reading a mystery novel and think to yourself: “This is fun, but I sure wish there were more shapeshifters, angels named Erica, and subliminal references to Twin Peaks”? Me too. Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor have you covered — Welcome to Night Vale is weird and delightful. – Lindsay Lynch

Slade House 

Turn of the Screw was one of those Very Important Books that I just never got into — I now realize that it’s just because David Mitchell didn’t write it. But not to fear, Mitchell has treated the world to a ghost story in the form of Slade House. With all the bizarre wit and inventive narratives we know and love from Mitchell, Slade House is sure to please fans old and new. – Lindsay Lynch

The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray: A Critical Appreciation of the World’s Finest Actor

If “bustin’ makes you feel good” and you like to watch Groundhog Day over and over again, then you totally get why this book is a must-have for Bill Murray fans. – River Jordan

Dumplin’ 

This YA novel is a relatable crossover for any adult, all about surviving the mayhem of high school bullies, cliques, and jocks along with the physical challenges of having a not-so-perfect human body. Julie Murphy absolutely nails the nuances of small town burger joints, beauty pageants, and parents who are clueless. Fortunately Murphy’s fast paced visual style allows the reader to enjoy the unfolding personal dramas of first kiss, best friends, and the angst of growing-up! – Pam Carter

The Best American Essays 2015 

By Ariel Levy (Editor), Robert Atwan (Editor)
I loved this year’s collection of essays. They range from somber to gently funny, but none of them go so far as to be lighthearted, which makes this book a stellar winter read.  – Tristan Charles

Redwall 

It’s the High Middle Ages, only swap the humans with animals, keep the weapons, and pray the good mice of Redwall Abbey win out against Cluny the Scourge (a rat). Readers will also find common ground when the mice of yesteryear tell stories about that one time a cat roamed around destroying stuff. – Tristan Charles

The Dust That Falls from Dreams

Reminiscent of Downton Abbey, this novel follows the McCosh family from the light-hearted years of the Edwardian era to the aftermath of WWI and its effects on their hopes, dreams and relationships. A long-ish novel to get swept up in, it nonetheless reads fast due to short chapters and a compelling story. I really enjoyed this one! – Kathy Schultenover

The Maid’s Version

The gritty, haunting nature of this mystery put me in mind of Tom Franklin, Larry Brown, William Gay. A quick read that will stay with you. – Kathy Schultenover

Robo-Sauce

By Adam Rubin, Daniel Salmieri (Illustrator)
It’s a book! It’s a robot! It’s hilarious! From the duo who brought us Dragons Love Tacos and Secret Pizza Party, this fantastic picture book is perfect for any kid who gets swept up in make-believe. -Niki Coffman

The Givenness of Things: Essays

Robinson’s slow, deliberate, astonishing mind writes against the “joyless urgency” of our time and the preoccupation with material wealth. Essays here explore awakening, fear, value, memory, limitation. She finds some hope amid the the depredation. – Margy Roark

Strictly No Elephants 

By Lisa Mantchev, Taeeun Yoo (Illustrator)
As a person who has always wished for a magical device I could point at baby animals that would prevent them from getting bigger so that I could have, for example, a pet baby polar bear, I immediately adored Lisa Mantchev’s tale of a boy and his pet tiny elephant. This is a wonderful story about loyalty and friendship, wrapped up with some of the cutest illustrations I’ve seen all year. I dare you to read this and not take it home with you. – Stephanie Appell

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between

Jennifer Smith writes books the way John Hughes made movies: They’re stories about ordinary teenagers, viewed through a lens that transforms them into something profound. Her latest is the tale of two high school seniors during the twelve hours before they leave for college and must decide whether to break up or stay together. Love, friendship, and the agony and ecstasy of growing up. Don’t you forget about me, indeed. – Stephanie Appell

Orbiting Jupiter

Jack’s new foster brother, Joseph, is 14 years old. Joseph’s past includes time in juvie, and an abusive father. He’s obsessed with making a future with Jupiter, his infant daughter he’s never met, and Jack is determined to help him. This YA novel is full of joy and heartbreak. It is a story about the families we’re born in and the families we create. – Rae Ann Parker

Poppy’s Best Paper

By Susan Eaddy, Rosalinde Bonnet (Illustrator)
Poppy wants to be a verrrry famous writer when she grows up. But most of Poppy’s time is spent on other activities instead of writing. Then Poppy writes the paper “How To Get In Trouble,” and she earns the read-aloud award from her teacher. This fun story told by Nashville author Susan Eaddy, paired with the illustrations of Poppy’s adventures by Rosalinde Bonnet, make a delightful combination. – Rae Ann Parker

The After-Room

By Maile Meloy, Ian Schoenherr (Illustrator)
The final book in the Apothecary trilogy, The After-Room whisked me back again to the 1950s with Janie, Benjamin, and Jin Lo. Meloy’s sophisticated writing style lifts a series meant for children and teens to the level of a class adults can admire as well. – Sissy Gardner

The Wacky & Wonderful World Through Numbers: Over 2,000 Figures and Facts

My child is getting this book for Christmas! He loves numbers and random facts, so it’s the perfect gift.  If you know a kid like that, check this out. – Ginger Nalley

Home Is Burning: A Memoir

Dan Marshall, self-described as spoiled and entitled, has his world turned upside down when his dad is diagnosed with ALS. It doesn’t help that his family is crazy. If you enjoy the humor of Chelsea Handler and want a real life Series of Unfortunate Events — but with more alcohol and swearing — then you need this book. – Catherine Bock

The Narcissist Next Door: Understanding the Monster in Your Family, in Your Office, in Your Bed-In Your World

This is an entertaining book on a difficult topic. I found myself putting statistics from different chapters together and considering, for example, that US Presidents have, on average, a slightly higher level of narcissism than reality TV stars, but a slightly lower level than death row inmates. As sobering as such a detail is, this book ends on a sympathetic note. Plus, you can take the NPI and discover your own score— if you dare. – Nathan Spoon

Reading Claudius: A Memoir in Two Parts

A non-fiction title for those who loved All the Light We Cannot See, Reading Claudius is not only an enthralling history and a poignant family memoir but also a testament to the vital nature of literature even in our darkest moments. – Grace Wright

Vivian Apple at the End of the World  

Every time I see this book on my shelf, I want to read it again. And then again. And maybe one more time. If you think you know dystopia, give Vivian a chance and I promise this fierce heroine will rock your world and challenge your idea of true bravery. – Grace Wright

Coasting: A Private Voyage

While sailing around the coast of England, Raban thinks about parallels between his own life and what Britain has become. His writing captures the rigors and joys of piloting a 32-foot ketch with just a chart and a hand-bearing compass, as he beautifully brings to life the characters and places he encounters along the way. Written during the Falkland conflict, it’s a keen observation on where he thinks his country is heading with Margaret Thatcher at the helm. (His meeting with Paul Theroux alone makes it worth the read.) – Andy Brennan

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything about the World

Former foreign correspondent for Sky News Television Tim Marshall demonstrates how geography is a key factor in determining relations among nations. Here he gives us 10 maps of Russia, China, the United States, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Western Europe, Japan and Korea, and Greenland and explains what they show us about the the strengths and vulnerabilities of the countries therein. Often, the motives and actions of nations are predetermined by their geography — a factor all to often ignored by pundits, not to mention policy makers. Marshall does an excellent job illustrating this. – Andy Brennan

First Editions Club — November Selection

The Secret Chord 

One of my favorites themes to explore through literature is the complexity of human nature. We, as humans, are capable of being so many things at once, and I never tire of reading works that delve into how all of our selves affect those around us.

In The Secret Chord, Geraldine Brooks takes on the story of King David from the Bible. As those of us who have even a passing knowledge of Biblical history know, David is the poster child for trusting in God’s faith and forgiveness. He slayed Goliath with a slingshot and was anointed as King of Israel, but also he also committed adultery and murder. To many, he is one of the first introductions to the intricacies of human behavior, and his story is remarkable for so many reasons. But, for me at least, I’ve heard the story of David so many times, it’s pretty stale.

Brooks makes the story fresh and new and nuanced in ways I had never imagined possible. She goes into the history of the time, the stories of those who surround David, and Jewish culture at this pivotal moment in history. In her review for The Washington Post, Alice Hoffman said Brooks “is a master at bringing the past alive, imbuing history with living, breathing characters who allow us to understand the very difficult task of being human.”

I couldn’t agree more. I invite you to marvel at how wonderfully Brooks manages to do so.

Yours in Reading,
Catherine Bock
Special Orders 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, too. 

ParnassusNext (the YA First Editions Club) — November Selection

The Lies about Truth

What would you do if something so terrible happened to you that the entire trajectory of your life was altered? If something irreplaceable was taken from you, never to return? How would you keep living? How would you heal?

Those are the questions at the center of Courtney C. Steven’s wrenching novel, The Lies About Truth. It’s the story of Sadie Kingston, one year after a horrific accident that left her body and spirit permanently scarred and her lifelong friendships shattered. As Sadie struggles to pick up the pieces and move forward, she’s forced to confront her past—a past littered with painful hidden truths she’s not ready to bring out into the light.

Sadie’s story isn’t an easy one, but Stevens infuses her journey with the warmth of family, the strength of friendships, and the possibility of new love, even in the midst of sorrow. The path to healing is rough and steep, but worth it in the end. We hope you enjoy The Lies About Truth as much as we did.

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

Parnassus Book Club

9780062409850

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

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

Note: Parnassus Book Clubs will not meet in December.

January – The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
Monday, January 18 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, January 20 at 6:30pm
Thursday, January 21 at 10:30am

Classics Book Club  – Stoner by John Williams
Monday, January 11, at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

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:

Are you watching Indian Summers? It’s the fascinating Masterpiece mini-series on PBS that explores the collusions and conflicts of the ruling class British and their Indian subjects at the twilight of the British Empire on the Indian subcontinent. While the English party on in Simla, local Indians are being inspired by Gandhi to agitate for national independence. I disagree with how some have described the show as an “elaborate soap opera.” This is a drama full of history, romance, and intrigue portrayed by wonderful, accomplished actors. If members of your book club are watching it, too, why not pair it with a good read about India to make for a stimulating meeting? Here are some great India-inspired reads I’ve done before with book clubs:

Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Winner of the Booker Prize and set in colonial India during the 1920s, it tells the story of a beautiful English woman in a troubled marriage, bored by her life and chafing under the constraints of her position. For love and attention, she turns to an Indian prince who is deeply involved in a life of crime.

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
This is the story of two women in modern-day India, one an upper middle class housewife in an abusive marriage and the other her illiterate servant. Their very different lives are so interconnected and they fill deep needs for each other. This has been a very popular book group choice.

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
The classic story of the ruling British and the native Indians, its theme poses the question of the feasibility of friendships or even romances between the two groups. It takes place in the 1920s when there is already a growing movement toward Indian independence.

Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut
A reimagining of E.M. Forster’s life as he is inspired to write A Passage to India, this piece of historical fiction shows him coming to terms with his repressed sexuality and with his emerging sense of himself, through his friendships with various Indians and other writers. It’s a great read to accompany Passage.

Women of the Raj: The Mothers, Wives and Daughters of the British Empire in India by Margaret MacMillan
Thousands of women left England in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to follow their men who were involved in governing India. These accounts of their lives make fascinating reading and an interesting book club discussion.

Indian Summer by Alex von Tunzelmann
As the British withdrew from India in 1947, turmoil, intrigue and great excitement were the order of the day, openly as well as behind the scenes. This is a history of the last days of the Empire as shown through the tangled story of Dickie Mountbatten, Britain’s last viceroy; Dickie’s glamorous wife Edwina who was in love with the new prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru; Muslim leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah; and Mohandas Gandhi.

You don’t have to be an “India-phile” to enjoy these books, but they might enhance your viewing of a great TV program while making for interesting book club choices. Give them a try!

— Kathy

AWOW-open-screen-grab-360x240Want more? Catch our monthly Bookmark column in Nashville Arts Magazine each month. And don’t miss the return of the literary interview show, A WORD ON WORDS, on Nashville Public Television — co-hosted by Nashville’s own JT Ellison and Mary Laura Philpott. The first episode features acclaimed authors David Arnold (Mosquitoland) and Adam Silvera (More Happy Than Not), both of whose books were ParnassusNext selections this year. Lots of other great guests are scheduled for upcoming episodes!

Make sure you’re subscribed to MUSING, so you don’t miss a thing! Coming up: More interviews in our “Authors in Real Life” column.