What Your Booksellers Are Reading This Month

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May is our month, book-lovers! Some of the books we’ve been most anticipating are finally available, and some of our favorites are now out in paperback. Whether you’re grabbing a last-minute Mother’s Day gift, shopping for a graduate, or starting your own summer to-read pile, our booksellers absolutely insist you take a look at these books they’re enjoying right now. 

Speaking of great gifts: You can go online right now and order a prepaid subscription to either of our signed monthly book boxes. Use code MOMS&GRADS to get 10% off memberships to the First Editions Club (first editions of amazing new fiction or nonfiction, signed by the author) or ParnassusNext (signed first editions of fantastic new YA releases). Choose from 3, 6, or 12-month subscriptions and make someone’s year!

(PS: Our store doors are now back open, as we’ve finished up the latest phase of construction in our expansion project. It’s still a work in progress, but please do stop by to see how it’s going — or check out our Instagram for photos and updates!)

The Excellent Lombards Cover ImageThe Excellent Lombards

Jane Hamilton tells the story of a Wisconsin family trying to keep their apple orchard together despite the in-fighting and small profits. This book is funny and smart and in every way excellent. I love Jane Hamilton. – Ann Patchett

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life Cover ImageBarbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Yes, this is the second time I am recommending Barbarian Days (now available in paperback). I have been talking about how good this book is for over a year, and lo and behold — it was recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize. A Pulitzer for a book about surfing? That’s how good the writing is. Take it to the beach, to the pool, or even in the tub but don’t miss this fantastic read about one man’s obsession with water. – Andy Brennan

West of Eden: An American Place Cover ImageWest of Eden: An American Place

An oral history of the early days of Los Angeles and its movie studios, and the scandals of both individuals and families that were covered up to preserve the myth of the magical, glamorous place called Hollywood. Those in flyover country never knew… they just waited for the next movie magazine. Dishy and fascinating! – Kathy Schultenover

Over the Plain Houses Cover ImageOver the Plain Houses

A haunting look at a woman’s life in rural North Carolina during the early 1900’s. Fans of Bloodroot and Oral History will love this. – Sissy Gardner

The Assistants Cover ImageThe Assistants

This is THE beach read of 2016. The Devil Wears Prada for those of us who have no interest in fashion. – Sissy Gardner

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven Cover ImageEveryone Brave Is Forgiven

I love everything Chris Cleave has written, but this novel is truly his tour-de-force. Set against the backdrop of World War II London, Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is going to be the best book you read this year. It’s perfect for anyone who loved  All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale. – Niki Coffman

11/22/63 Cover Image11/22/63

I’m not a huge reader of horror or science fiction, but with King visiting Nashville in June, I wanted to read something he’d written. 11/22/63 (available in paperback) is compelling, intense, and thought-provoking. – Niki Coffman

Heat and Light Cover ImageHeat and Light

Big Energy and all its money arrive in Bakerton, Pennsylvania, after vast stores of natural gas are discovered there. This development unleashes greed, the human desire for power, and yes, even love. This book has it all. I loved it! -Kathy Schultenover

The Fireman Cover ImageThe Fireman

Where Station Eleven is a somber and elegant portrayal of humanity’s end, The Fireman is loud and frenzied, a shot of Red Bull infused with gasoline. If laughter and terror are your literary flavors, this is your dish. – Tristan Charles

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics Cover ImageSeven Brief Lessons on Physics

If only someone had told the eleventh grade version of myself that science could be so beautiful and poetic, then perhaps I wouldn’t have failed so many physics tests. – Lindsay Lynch

Julia Reed's South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long Cover ImageJulia Reed’s South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long

By Julia Reed, Paul Costello (Photographer)

Who doesn’t want to know Julia Reed’s entertaining secrets? Now there’s a book that not only shows you the settings and stories, but also teaches you how to do it yourself. Julia Reed’s South is lushly illustrated and engagingly written, with menus and delicious recipes for occasions throughout the year. – Karen Hayes

Kill 'em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul Cover ImageKill ’em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul

James McBride writing about James Brown works as well as another of my favorite combinations, Rick Bragg and Jerry Lee Lewis. Both performers grew up dirt poor in the hardscrabble South and by sheer force of will and incredible talent rose to the top of their professions.  Just as Bragg did with Lewis, McBride does for Brown, revealing the life of a legend sympathetically but without sanding down the man’s rough edges. This is a fascinating rollercoaster of a read. – Karen Hayes

Not Working Cover ImageNot Working

Claire, a twenty-something living in London, hates her office job. So she quits. She doesn’t know what she wants to do next, but her story of figuring it out is hilarious, self-deprecating, and completely relatable for anyone who has ever questioned their calling — especially recent grads. – Catherine Bock

The Wake Cover ImageThe Wake

Kingsnorth wanted to write about the Norman Invasion of 1066, but felt it would be inauthentic to use our modern English. He devised a “pseudo-language” that captured the cadence and some of the vocabulary of Old English, but which can still be understood by readers today. The story is of an Englishman named Buckmaster as he attempts to cling to his old ways of life while the Normans create a new world around him. – Catherine Bock

Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams Cover ImageLouisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams

Just when you thought there was nothing left to be said about the Adams family, Louisa Thomas has unearthed the incredible story of Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams. This is a beautiful portrait of a woman who developed her own voice. Having lived in London, Russia, Massachusetts, Washington, and Prussia, she had a unique perspective as America took its place among nations. If you missed the enlightening conversation between the author and Jon Meacham held here at Parnassus last month, you can catch it on CSPAN in June. – Andy Brennan

The Passage Cover ImageThe Passage

When a government experiment to develop the perfect weapon goes horribly wrong and all hell breaks loose, what must mankind do in order to survive? Start this paperback today so you will be ready for the final installment in the trilogy when it is released May 24.  – Ginger Nalley

Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel Cover ImageBats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel (Hardcover)

A dystopian, historical, mysterious, time-travel, steam-punk, genre-defying adventure novel. This book is one wild, original ride! – River Jordan

The White Road: Journey Into an Obsession Cover ImageThe White Road: Journey Into an Obsession

A beautiful, lyrical telling of an obsession that borders on madness. Lovers of Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief will fully appreciate this story. – River Jordan

Gardens of Awe and Folly: A Traveler's Journal on the Meaning of Life and Gardening Cover ImageGardens of Awe and Folly: A Traveler’s Journal on the Meaning of Life and Gardening

I’m giving this to my mom for Mother’s Day, because I think she’ll love the paintings of famous gardens from around the world. – Mary Laura Philpott

Sleeping Giants Cover ImageSleeping Giants

Each piece that fell into place in this science-fiction thriller drew me deeper and deeper until I could not put this book down if my life depended on it. As in any good sci-fi, this book promised me alien technology and gave me a glimpse into our human heart and souls. – Grace Wright

More Happy Than Not Cover ImageMore Happy Than Not

Sometimes a book continues to haunt you with its brilliance and its heart long after you set it down. You don’t even have to read the blurb on this one — just let Adam Silvera take you down this winding path of love, loss, and memory. Bonus: Now you can get it in paperback. – Grace Wright

Girl in the Blue Coat Cover ImageGirl in the Blue Coat

In 1943 Amsterdam, Hanneke works as a black market courier. When a client asks her to find a Jewish girl who disappeared from her hiding place, Hanneke is drawn into the resistance movement. Perfect for teens and adults. – Rae Ann Parker

Suffer Love Cover ImageSuffer Love

A contemporary YA romance full of wit and humor, secrets and dysfunctional families. Warning: Hard to put down once you start. – Rae Ann Parker

 And for the poetry-lovers in your life:

31ScbS5IVJL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_The White Stones

Open this book to page 8 and read the poem On the Anvil. Afterwards thumb through and read a few more that catch your interest. You might very well and very easily begin to feel that pleasant bafflement which is so often part of falling in love. – Nathan Spoon

ParnassusNext — May Selection

The Last Boy and Girl in the World Cover ImageThe Last Boy and Girl in the World

The end of high school is full of goodbyes: Goodbyes to friends going their separate ways to different colleges, goodbyes to teachers who’ve shaped lives, goodbyes to a place where you know everyone and everyone knows you. It’s the spring of Keeley Hewitt’s junior year, so she has another year before she has to start thinking about those kind of goodbyes. She’s determined to make her last year in Aberdeen as awesome as she can, full of great memories with her friends and maybe even finally getting Jesse Ford to notice that she exists.

Then the rain starts. And it just doesn’t stop.

Siobhan Vivian’s The Last Boy and Girl in the World is a masterfully constructed story of one girl’s struggle to save her town, but it’s also a profound exploration of the search for meaning and hope in the face of loss on an epic scale. Keeley, the characters who surround her, and the town of Aberdeen are fully realized creations, so beautifully and imperfectly human. You simply won’t want to say goodbye to them when their story comes to an end.

Stephanie Appell
Manager of Books for Young Readers

First Editions Club — May Selection

Imagine Me Gone Cover ImageImagine Me Gone

I began reading Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone with the book in one hand and a pencil in the other, so I could underline my favorite phrases. When I realized I had underlined almost the entire first chapter, I put down the pencil and decided I would just fold down a page whenever I got to a passage I especially wanted to remember. I wish you could see my copy of the book. So many pages are crimped at the corners, it’s puffed up to twice its size.

Those of us here who read Imagine Me Gone can’t stop talking about it. Tristan says he’s most impressed at the rich interior lives Haslett gives each person in this family story, how their thoughtful observations of each other force you to read slowly without skimming. Catherine said she couldn’t believe how convincingly Haslett inhabits each character, men and women alike, as each family member takes a turn narrating. Ann said she found it beautiful and haunting. I think what sticks with me most are the chapters told from the perspective of John, the father, and Michael, the eldest son, both of whom struggle with mental illness. Michael deals with his demons by writing parodies of the world around him that are both heartbreaking and hilarious. John describes depression as, “the monster [that] has its funnel driven into the back of your head and is sucking the light coming through your eyes straight out of you into the mouth of oblivion.” Picture that.

Adam Haslett has been a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; if I had an award to hand out, I’d give him one for Imagine Me Gone. I won’t soon forget the family in these pages, and I bet you won’t either.

Yours in Reading,
Mary Laura Philpott
Editor of Musing

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. 

Parnassus Book Club


FC9780143128243.JPGMay – West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan
Monday, May 16 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, May 18 at 6:30pm
Thursday, May 19 at 10am

Classics Club – Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
Monday, May 23 at 10am and 6:30pm

June – The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter
Monday, June 13 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, June 15 at 6:30pm
Thursday, June 16 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:


You already know that Parnassus Books rocks author events here in Nashville. Everyone from Margaret Atwood to David Sedaris, from Doris Kearns Goodwin to Stephen King has graced our space. But I can’t remember a spring when our calendar has been as packed with upcoming author visits that are so perfect for book clubs. Check out these wonderful events:

Monday, May 9 – James McBride appears at Salon 615 at the downtown library for The Color of Water (the 2016 Nashville Reads selection) 6:15pm

Wednesday, May 11 – Lee Smith appears in-store to discuss Dimestore, her new memoir in essays and stories. (Other works include Fair and Tender Ladies and The Last Girls.) 6:30pm

Thursday, May 12 – Jennifer Haigh appears in-store to discuss her latest novel, Heat and Light. (Other works include Mrs. Kimble, The Condition, and Faith.) 6:30pm

Tuesday, May 17 – Anton DiSclafani appears in-store to discuss her second novel, The After Party. (Her first book is The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls.) This event
will be the national book launch for The After Party! 6:30pm

Wednesday, May 25 – Louise Erdrich and Jane Hamilton come together in conversation about their new books, LaRose (Erdrich) and The Excellent Lombards (Hamilton), appearing as part of the Salon 615 series at the downtown Nashville Public Library. (Louise Erdrich’s books include The Round House and Plague of Doves; Jane Hamilton’s books include A Map of the World and The Book of Ruth.) 6:15pm

Tuesday, May 31 – Richard Russo appears in another Salon 615 event at the downtown library for his latest novel, Everybody’s Fool. (Other books include Nobody’s Fool and Empire Falls.) 6:15pm

Thursday, June 23 – Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney joins us in-store to sign The Nest, her smash-hit debut novel. 6:30pm

Plan to bring your book club and join me for an exciting month of great author nights!

— Kathy

color-of-water-bookImageDon’t miss the grand finale of NASHVILLE READS! This spring, readers across Nashville have delved into our citywide read, The Color of Water by James McBride. Come to the downtown Nashville Public Library this coming Monday, May 9, at 6:15 p.m., when McBride will speak and sign books, backed up by a special performance by the Rod McGaha Quartet.

The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, McBride was an adult before he discovered the truth about his mother: the daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi in rural Virginia, she had run away to Harlem, married a black man, had a dozen children, and founded an all-black Baptist church in her living room. In this remarkable memoir, she tells in her own words the story of her past. Around her narrative, James McBride writes a powerful portrait of growing up, a meditation on race and identity, and a poignant, beautifully crafted hymn from a son to his mother. (Here’s a fantastic interview with McBride, from our friends at Humanities Tennessee / Chapter16.)

McBride-author-photoThis grand finale event is presented in conjunction with Conversations@NPL, which aims to stimulate public dialogue surrounding current issues that shape all facets of American history and culture. Nashville Reads is a partnership among Nashville Public Library, Nashville Public Library Foundation, Mayor’s Office, Parnassus Books, Humanities Tennessee, and BookPage.