Parnassus on Wheels: Nashville’s Bookmobile Hits the Road

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There’s a new bookseller in town, and her name is Peggy. 

It’s Pegasus, actually, if you’re being formal — “Peggy” to her friends. And if you’re reading this, you’re definitely among her friends, so we hope you’ll drop by Parnassus Books this coming Sunday, March 20, from 12-5 p.m. to meet her. She’s your new bookmobile — the official automotive ambassador of Nashville’s roving bookshop, Parnassus on Wheels!

Parnassus-On-Wheels1-235x274.jpg“The idea for the name ‘Parnassus Books’ originally came from a delightful book called Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley,” says Parnassus co-owner Karen Hayes. The 1917 novella is a romantic comedy centered around a horse-drawn bookselling caravan. “Before we even opened the store I imagined how much fun it would be to have our own ‘Parnassus on Wheels’ one day, too.” Calling the truck Pegasus is a nod to Greek mythology and Mount Parnassus, also an inspiration for the store’s name.

When Karen saw a listing for a retired bookmobile on eBay, she knew it was meant to be. Shop co-owner Ann Patchett loved the idea, too. “Getting people to think about reading, then getting them to buy a real book, then getting them to buy a real book from an independent bookseller” is no small string of feats, she says. “The bookmobile introduces an element of both whimsy and spontaneity to the experience.”

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With the help of Rick Swayze at Truck Center Inc., the design and fabrication folks at Coburn’s Exclusive, and artist Bryce McCloud, the truck was soon looking spiffy, with a clean bill of mechanical health.

Once the bookmobile was up and running, it was time to fill it with merchandise. You’d be surprised how many books this thing can hold: the latest bestsellers and new releases, staff and customer favorites, gems from local and emerging writers, cookbooks, gifts, and an awesome collection of kids’ books.

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Ann Patchett shelves books in the bookmobile. “I envision it like the ice cream truck of my youth,” she says. “People see it coming down the street and run out to buy a book.”

Grace Wright, a longtime bookseller in the shop, will manage bookmobile operations and has been overwhelmed by the support and interest from local businesses eager to team up with the bookmobile for special events and a rotation of regular appearances at their establishments. Already on board are: Little Octopus · Barista Parlor · Whites Mercantile · Old Made Good · The Post · The Cupcake Collection · Hester & Cook · DCXV · East Nashville Farmers’ Market · Richland Park Farmers’ Market · Farmin’ in the Hall · High Garden Teas · Pinewood Social · Crema · Eastland Cafe ·Marathon Village · Yeast Nashville · Wilder · Zeitgeist Gallery · Hey Rooster . . . and more to come.

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“All these partner businesses and the amazing people who built them will have a fingerprint on this new venture of ours,” Grace says, “which delights my inner fangirl, because I’m an admiring customer of these places too.” Grace is becoming quite adept at maneuvering Peggy around the streets of Nashville.

Of course, a few of our shop dogs had to hop on board to do an inspection.

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(L-R) Grace, Ann, and Karen with canine inspectors Belle, Sparky, and Opie
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While the shop dogs aren’t sure they’re wild about the quote implying books are man’s best friend, Mary Todd Lincoln does enjoy trying out a higher vantage point.

 

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Nice try, Sparky, but we’re taking Mo Willems’ advice on this one: Don’t let the shop dog drive the bus.

And now for the most adorable unexpected consequence of getting a bookmobile: You know Opie, our canine manager, who always wears this solemn expression?

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Check out Opie’s grin in every picture on Parnassus on Wheels:

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We discovered Opie’s smile! Turns out, all he ever wanted was a bookmobile.

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Opie and Belle agree: Life on the road has a certain glamorous appeal.

After Sunday’s launch, Peggy will start roaming Nashville. To find out where she’ll be each day, follow her dedicated Twitter account

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Book lovers of all ages are invited to come to Parnassus Books on Sunday, March 20, from 12-5 p.m. for refreshments, giveaways, and a tour of Parnassus on Wheels, which will be parked just outside.

“Food trucks have become a popular way to serve delicious things to the masses wherever the opportunity arises,” Karen says. “Now with Parnassus on Wheels, we can feed the mind.”