27 Books to Take on Spring Break


Whether you’re hitting the road or enjoying a staycation in your backyard, the best way to forget about your cares (or drown out the sounds of your fellow spring breakers) is to lose yourself in a great book. Here are our staff’s latest favorites for the start of spring. Which ones will you stash in your carry-on?

Heads-up: There are a handful of books on this list for the young readers in your life, and we’ll have even more in our next post, which will be dedicated to parents seeking out great reads and events for kids of all ages. Watch for it later this week!

Bird Love

I read a lot of books. Every now and then it’s nice just to look at the pictures. This is a collection of gorgeous photographs of birds. The cover alone is worth the price. The next time you go to a dinner party, forget about a bottle of wine. Bring this book instead. – Ann Patchett

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother

I recently reread The Color of Water because it is the current Nashville Reads selection (yes, our town has a city-wide reading experience once a year — how cool is that?) and I was reminded of why this became such a huge bestseller.  James McBride’s memoir is a tribute to his mother who raised 12 mixed-race children while purposely dodging the truth that she was not only white, but of Jewish heritage. With determination and despite bouts of poverty, she instilled in her children the importance of education, love, and family. This book is one of the most moving and beautifully written books I’ve ever read. James McBride will be in Nashville at the Downtown Public Library for the closing event for 2016’s Nashville Reads on May 9.  – Karen Hayes

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 10.14.02 AMThe Chrump

By Will Hoge, Dean Tomasek (Illustrator)

The Chrump is a Seuss-style tale written by Nashville’s own singer-songwriter Will Hoge. You will, in turns, be delighted and frightened by the verse that describes a selfish, greedy, golden-maned beast that grows in size the more attention it gets. This funny little paperback is illustrated by another Nashvillian, Dean Tomasek. – Karen Hayes

The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship

Friendship: “There are never any rules to guide us, no contracts, no bloodlines, just the day after day of it.” If your friends mean as much to you as family, you’ll adore Paul Lisicky’s exquisitely written (also brave, sweet, and self-aware) memoir of his friendship with fellow writer Denise Gess. – Mary Laura Philpott

Unslut: A Diary and a Memoir

Technically a YA memoir, Unslut speaks to any adult raising a middle schooler, too. I had forgotten just how terrible kids could be to one another at that age. Lindin not only opens her old diary to us, but she also comments on each entry  — it’s hilarious and tragic at the same time. Some of the material is pretty graphic, so read it before deciding whether to hand it to your teen. – Sissy Gardner

Be Frank with Me

Looking for the perfect book to take on spring break? If you loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette? or Fishbowl, you’ll love this, too. It’s light but smart, quirky but heartwarming, and an all-around fantastic read. – Niki Coffman

Hillary Rodham Clinton Presidential Playset: Includes Ten Paper Dolls, Three Rooms of Fun, Fashion Accessories, and More!

It’s election season, and I couldn’t resist this delightful paper doll set of my favorite candidate. It comes with paper dolls of adversaries and friends, and is perfect for any Hillary fan you know. – Niki Coffman

The Queen of the Night

Sometimes when I get fed up with the world, I pick the largest, most luscious historical novel I can find and I go into hiding with it. If you need me, I’ll be in nineteenth century Paris with Alexander Chee & his marvelous heroine Lilliet Berne, doing the can-can. -Lindsay Lynch

Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story

An incredibly well-written, superbly researched story of one of our greatest cities. Discover just how much we owe Detroit — and why. – River Jordan

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

Helen Oyeyemi’s world is a strange one, filled with mysterious keys, talking ghosts, and endless labyrinthys — and, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t mind being lost there forever. – Lindsay Lynch

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Everything I thought I could tell about this book by its cover was completely wrong. I have not been so deliciously surprised by a book in a long time. – Grace Wright

Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice

Unbroken, Boys in the Boat, Ghost Soldiers, Lost in Shangri-la, Frozen in Time.…my husband has read them all, and he thinks Devotion ranks right up there with the best of true, inspiring adventures! – Kathy Schultenover

Green Island

The story of our unnamed narrator begins in Taiwan the night she is born — which is the same night her father is taken as a political prisoner while the country is rocked by rebellion and martial law. Ryan’s language is beautiful and haunting as the story spans decades and continents. I fell in love with how the narrator put such wonderful emphasis on the intersection of political and human in the lives of the characters, and with just about everything about this book. – Catherine Bock

Flight of Dreams

Lovers of historical fiction have just found their next stay-up-all-night-to-finish reads. Forget everything you thought you knew about the Hindenberg and fall in love with these characters and this moment in history like never before. – River Jordan

Leaving Berlin

Now available in paperback, Leaving Berlin is set in 1949 during the Berlin Airlift. Joseph Kanon, author of The Good German and Istanbul Passage, brilliantly depicts a city left in ruins by the ravages of war. Great writing makes this an outstanding spy thriller. – Andy Brennan

In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond

Kaplan, who also authored Balkan Ghosts, sheds light on one of the darkest corners of Europe, tracing the history of Romania from ancient to modern times. He first traveled to the region in 1980 and returned many times (except when he was banned by the Communists in 1984). Those trips enable him to trace the arc from Ceausescu’s brutal regime to Romania joining the EU. – Andy Brennan

And for younger readers:

Surf’s Up

Surfing frogs that read — what more could you want? From Newbery medalist Kwame Alexander. – Andy Brennan

The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price

Charlie Price follows his sister into an alternate world where their mom is still alive. Everything is perfect, for awhile. But things in the parallel world are not quite right. With the help of a special dog, Charlie must find a way to save his sister before he loses her forever. – Rae Ann Parker

150 Best Cottage and Cabin Ideas

This is my new favorite book. It explains how to build your own cabin in real life, using examples and details from other cabins. The beautiful photos and the amazing floor plans combine into the best architectural book of the century (in my opinion). – Cameron, age 13

(*Note: This isn’t technically a book for kids. It’s a coffee table book about architecture. But as Cameron can attest, it appeals to anyone of any age who has a fascination with building, nature, and design.)

The Key to Extraordinary

Emma lives in Blackbird Hollow, where flowers bloom year round and her family’s café serves magical hot cocoa. When her Destiny Dream points to a buried treasure in the graveyard that may save the café, Emma must face her fears, and possibly a singing ghost. Fans of Lloyd’s A Snicker of Magic will be delighted with this new novel. – Rae Ann Parker

Ida, Always

An incredible and touching true story of friendship between two polar bears who lived in New York City’s Central Park Zoo. Caron Levis’s descriptive writing pairs perfectly with Charles Santoso’s soft, vibrant illustrations. There are many books for young readers about loss and sadness, but this is one of the finest. – Stephanie Appell

Front Lines

Alternate history with an irresistible premise: What if women had been eligible for the draft during World War II? Grant’s impeccably researched book follows three young women who, each for their own reasons, enlist to serve their country. He masterfully conveys not just the logistical reality of their stories, but the emotional journeys each character experiences — their struggles, their fears, and their hopes. I simply couldn’t put it down, and by the end, I couldn’t believe it hadn’t happened. – Stephanie Appell

ParnassusNext — March Selection

The Serpent King

Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King is an exquisitely written story of friendship, faith, and courage. As they begin their senior year in the rural town of Forrestville, Tennessee, best friends Dill, Lydia, and Travis know that big changes lie ahead for each of them — changes that threaten to shake their friendship to its core.

Dill, Lydia, and Travis’s stories are a hymn to the lives of ordinary teenagers in small towns everywhere. Zentner deftly sketches the small details of his characters’ lives, from Lydia’s messy bedroom to Dill’s long silences to the staff Travis carries everywhere in homage to his favorite fantasy novels. But Zentner also mines these specifics for rich, universal truths: That we while we are shaped by circumstance, we are defined by our choices; that life may be dark and cruel, but friendship can be a light in the darkness; and that finding one’s voice amidst the cacophony of the world around us requires great courage, but brings us great freedom. (Read more about the story in Zenter’s discussion with our guest interviewer, author Ed Tarkington.)

“If you’re going to live,” Dill observes near the novel’s end, “You might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.” In writing The Serpent King, Jeff Zentner has done just that.
Stephanie Appell
Manager of Books for Young Readers


First Editions Club — March Selection

The Little Red Chairs

In May of last year I was at a book party for Sally Mann in New York. I started talking to an editor there and asked her if she had any books coming out that she loved. She told me she had just read the new novel by Edna O’Brien and that it was her best book ever.

“What?” I said. “Better than The Country Girls Trilogy? Better than The Love Object?”

“Her best ever,” the editor repeated.

Forgive me for being ageist, but Edna O’Brien is 85, not the time of life often associated with Best Work. But when I finally got my galley there was a quote from Philip Roth on the cover that said, “The great Edna O’Brien has written her masterpiece.”

Philip Roth was right.

This book floored me. I really don’t want to say more than that because I feel a single descriptive sentence would give too much away. Don’t read the jacket copy. Don’t read the reviews. Just read the book. The things that happen in this book, well, I never saw them coming.

Frankly, I would cherish a signed first edition of any Edna O’Brien novel, but a signed first edition of her masterpiece? That’s really something.

Lucky us.

Parnassus Book Club


FC9780804140584.JPGMarch — The Marauders by Tom Cooper
Monday, March 14 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, March 16 at 6:30pm
Thursday, March 17 at 10am

Classics Book Club  – The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
Monday, March 21, at 10am and 6:30pm

April — The Color of Water by James McBride (the 2016 Nashville Reads selection!)
Monday, April 18 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, April 20 at 6:30pm
Thursday, April 21 at 10am

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:


“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy set the tone for Anna Karenina with these opening lines, and unwittingly, for countless novels to come. He must have known that readers like stories of families more troubled than their own.

One of this spring’s big books, The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, “plumbs” this territory. (Bad pun.) The Plumb family is especially dysfunctional. Each sibling grapples with their own issues, but when they discover that older brother Leo has lost the financial nest egg from their father that all four were counting on to live out their cushy lives, things really fall apart. It’s especially upsetting that Leo must pay big money to the waitress he injured in the drunk driving accident he caused, and this time he has been unable to weasel out of his misdeeds. The four must grapple with old resentments, lingering prejudices, and present-day problems in light of the new financial reality they now face.

At first I wondered if by using the name “Plumb,”  the author might be suggesting “plumb the depths of despair” and that this might be another depressing story.  Not at all! At least not in this author’s hands. Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney has fun with her characters and manages to satirize various entities like the publishing industry, big city living, trust funds, middle age crazies, and all sorts of family dynamics. As our Harper Collins rep, Kate McCune, has written, “While you’ll enjoy every minute with the charming, dysfunctional Plumbs, in the end this sharp-eyed social satire will leave you pondering what families mean to one another, how class, money and entitlement define and distort our sense of self; and how we do (or don’t) cope with what the world throws at us.”

The Nest is available as of its pub. date of March 22, and it’s been really exciting to read the advance reviews coming in from media already. I read this delicious book in galleys a year ago, co-incidentally at the same time I was watching the Netflix series Bloodline, which also concerns a family with four siblings — one of whom is a hot mess — and how the others cope with the problems he causes. There are those unhappy families Tolstoy was writing about again. Great material for book club discussion!

— Kathy

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Want more? Pick up a copy of the beautiful Nashville Arts Magazine this month, and don’t miss our Bookmark column, where we’re recommending more new releases — including what’s arguably Ethan Canin’s greatest novel yet, A Doubter’s Almanac

#bookstagram: Thanks to Read It Forward for putting @ParnassusBooks on their list of 10 Beautiful Instagram Accounts for Book Lovers. Follow us on Instagram and tag us in your book pics to show us what you’re reading!

NashvilleUnchained-Instagram-03 (1)Do you own a local business in Nashville? Are you a customer who frequents indie establishments? Don’t miss  NASHVILLE UNCHAINED, a FREE seminar and workshop presented by the Nashville Independent Business Association featuring an expert speaker from the American Independent Association this Friday, March 11 at 8 a.m. at Marathon Music Works. Learn how to protect and grow the hangouts we love, the stores we frequent, the charities we care about, and the independent businesses owned and run by Nashville entrepreneurs — our friends, family and neighbors.