Beach Bag Refill: More Great Summer Books

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Summer? Oh, it’s not over until we say it’s over.

Before we get into the rest of our staff recs, here’s a quick primer on two fantastic end-of-summer reads with similar titles. We highly recommend both of these beautifully written, boldly imagined novels . . . and we’re not the only ones talking about them right now.

 

The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club) Cover Image

The Underground Railroad

Did you see the news? Already one of the most hotly anticipated fiction books of the fall, The Underground Railroad had everyone counting the days until its September release. Then — surprise! — Oprah’s Book Club named it their next selection and its publication date was moved up. It’s now available for purchase, and it will also be our First Editions Club selection for September. (Want a signed first edition? Now would be a really good time to subscribe and reserve your copy.)

Ann Patchett says, “When I was a kid I thought the Underground Railroad was an actual railroad that slaves used to escape. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who had this idea. Colson Whitehead’s book blends the fanciful and the horrific, the deeply emotional and the coolly intellectual. What he comes up with is an American masterpiece. Hooray for Oprah for shining her bright light upon it.”

 

Underground Airlines Cover ImageUnderground Airlines

Many of our staff loved this book as well. Ann says, “When TIME magazine asked me to pick one book by an American author that every American should read for their 4th of July issue, I picked Underground Airlines. Set in an alternate America in which the Civil War was never fought, this book presents a world that is at once impossible and all too familiar. It changed the way I see things. It’s an amazing, important book.”

 

Here’s more of what our booksellers are reading and loving right now:

The Sympathizer: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) Cover ImageThe Sympathizer

This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel — now available in paperback — is unique, but if I had to venture a comparison it would be Catch 22. It has that ironic humor throughout. The Sympathizer unveils unexpected layers of the war in Vietnam, not from an American perspective, but from the viewpoint of a young Vietnamese man who is adept at seeing all sides of the conflict and is moved to further the cause of each side, often at cross purposes. – Karen Hayes

Chinaberry Sidewalks Cover ImageChinaberry Sidewalks

Rodney Crowell is a master storyteller in his songs. and he has the same talent on the page. Crowell’s upbringing in a hardscrabble area of Texas was shaped by parents who possessed outsized and combative personalities.  Despite these hardships, Crowell tells the story of this crazy life with love and humor. We just got a few signed copies of this book, so if you’ve never read it, now’s a great time to get yours. – Karen Hayes

The Dream Life of Astronauts: Stories Cover ImageThe Dream Life of Astronauts: Stories

The nine stories in this perfect collection revolve around Florida and the space program the way the earth revolves around the sun. Ryan brings so much talent and compassion to bear on his characters he can make the most ordinary of lives seem noble. If you don’t like short story collections, get over yourself. This one is wonderful. – Ann Patchett

In the Darkroom Cover ImageIn the Darkroom

Susan Faludi hadn’t heard from her abusive, bullying father in almost 25 years. When she finally gets an email it’s to tell her he’s back in his native Hungary and is now a woman named Stefanie. Maybe she’d like to write a book about him? The book she writes is as rich, complicated, and unexpected as anything I’ve ever read. This is a true masterpiece. – Ann Patchett

You'll Grow Out of It Cover ImageYou’ll Grow Out of It

If you’re in the mood for a laugh and you like the humor on Inside Amy Schumer, you might dig these autobiographical essays by the head writer of that show. I did. (Related: Schumer’s book, The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, will be out next week) – Mary Laura Philpott

I'm Supposed to Protect You from All This: A Memoir Cover ImageI’m Supposed to Protect You from All This: A Memoir

Oh hello, memoir I didn’t know I wanted to read until I was already reading it and loving it. Spiegelman is the daughter of Francoise Mouly, art director of The New Yorker, and Maus creator Art Spiegelman — and a tremendously gifted writer in her own right. – Mary Laura Philpott

The Hopefuls Cover ImageThe Hopefuls

Here’s a crowd-pleasing summer read full of wickedly funny social commentary. As an extra-timely bonus, it’s set in DC and shines a not-so-flattering light on all that goes on behind the scenes in an election. – Mary Laura Philpott

Joe Gould's Teeth Cover ImageJoe Gould’s Teeth

My favorite kind of nonfiction happens when an author can find a small thread of history and unravel it to show the true fabric of not only that time, but ours as well. Jill Lepore does precisely this, and she does it beautifully. – Lindsay Lynch

Suck and Blow: And Other Stories I'm Not Supposed to Tell Cover ImageSuck and Blow: And Other Stories I’m Not Supposed to Tell

John Popper is hilarious. His stories from high school, NYC, and the HORDE tours will take you back — but I bet you’ve never heard any of these before! – Sissy Gardner

Will & I: A Memoir Cover ImageWill & I: A Memoir

Byars, a Sewanee graduate, describes his recovery from a near fatal stroke. His humor and poetic language hooked me immediately. – Sissy Gardner

Marrow Island Cover ImageMarrow Island

This is the kind of book that makes me want to flip ahead to know how everything turns out. – Ginger Nalley

The Light of Paris Cover ImageThe Light of Paris

Summer is almost done, so: run away to the charm of Jazz Age Paris, run away to your hometown and the artistic dreams you thought were lost, and run away to follow Madeleine and Margie as they escape expectations to discover the unimaginable. – Grace Wright

How to Set a Fire and Why Cover ImageHow to Set a Fire and Why

As quirky and original as The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Nightime, as fully realized a character as Ellen Foster with shades of The House of Sand and Fog. An addictive read that you’ll remember — with good reason — for all the days to come. – River Jordan

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living Cover ImageBecoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living

Krista Tippett’s voice shines as she shares the special wisdom she gained while hosting her Peabody award winning NPR’s program, On Being. The chapter “Hope Reimagined” is worth the price of the book alone. – River Jordan

Queen Bees and Wannabes, 3rd Edition: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boys, and the New Realities of Girl World Cover ImageQueen Bees and Wannabes, 3rd Edition: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boys, and the New Realities of Girl World

The indispensable classic for all parents of girls, now updated for the new world we live in. Help your daughters learn to deal with the challenges of friends, social media, and more! – Kathy Schultenover

As Good as Gone Cover ImageAs Good as Gone

An older man living off the grid returns to the city to help his son and grandchildren. When he decides to solve problems the Old West way (with fists and a gun) trouble ensues. – Kathy Schultenover

Vampires in the Lemon Grove: And Other Stories Cover ImageVampires in the Lemon Grove: And Other Stories

Summer’s almost over (sorry), so get weird with it: Karen Russell’s collection of bizarre yet oddly relatable stories is the perfect way to wrap up your vacation. – Lindsay Lynch

The Sparrow Cover ImageThe Sparrow

Science, religion, anthropology, and good storytelling come together in this explosive story of a scientific mission’s doomed attempt to make first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. Perfect for bookclubs, The Sparrow will spark the kind of late-into-the-night discussions on ethics and the universe that you didn’t realize you’ve been craving. – Katherine Klockenkemper

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories Cover ImageHateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories

Short stories will forever be one of my favorite things to read, and Alice Munro’s rank with the best of them. These short stories all revolve around love and relationships in their many forms, but Munro’s shining talent is conjuring memories and people so vividly you forget she made them up. – Catherine Bock

The Girls Cover ImageThe Girls

In her novel based loosely on the Charles Manson murders, Cline manages to searingly recreate the longing and all-encompassing desire to feel wanted that seems so singular to teenage girls. Evie is 14 and gets caught up in a cult-like group that seems to satisfy this desire. See Charles Manson inspiration above for confirmation that all is not well. – Catherine Bock

The Loney Cover ImageThe Loney

How long has it been since you’ve read a gorgeous English horror novel? Too long? Well then, give this one a read. – Tristan Charles

On Trails: An Exploration Cover ImageOn Trails: An Exploration

While thru-hiking the Appalacian Trail, Robert Moor became enthralled with paths. How do they form? Why do some last and others fade away?  Using science, history, philosophy, and the great traditions of nature writing, Moor explores a variety of paths from ant trails to the the cyber-trails of the Internet. Spanning from the dawn of time to the digital age, this book offers a new perspective on our relationship with our world. – Andy Brennan

Works and Days Cover ImageWorks and Days

In her new collection, Bernadette Mayer invokes Hesiod, whose famous book of the same title is a farmer’s almanac, written to fill his brother Perses in on the agricultural arts. Mayer’s book is a spring journal that is constantly being disrupted by poems and untitled passages of text. It is both a conversation with the ancient Greek classic and an enriching grab bag, filling us in on the beauty growing from the field of early 21st century life. – Nathan Spoon

  And for our younger readers…
Enter Title Here Cover Image

Enter Title Here

You probably won’t like Reshma. I’m pretty sure I don’t. But once she sinks her hooks into you, she doesn’t let go. You’ll cringe, you’ll laugh, you’ll try to sympathize — and probably fail — but Reshma has one heck of a story to tell. And that you will love. – Grace Wright

City Shapes Cover ImageCity Shapes

This beautifully-illustrated picture book takes the reader on a fun journey through a city filled with shapes. Perfect for reading and re-reading. – Rae Ann Parker

A World Without You Cover ImageA World Without You

Bo believes he’s a time traveler at a school for students with special powers. His sister, Phoebe, knows the truth. Their intertwined stories propel this psychological young adult thriller that will stay with you after the story ends. – Rae Ann Parker

The Thing about Leftovers Cover ImageThe Thing about Leftovers

Future chef, Fizzy, feels like a leftover kid A.D. (after divorce). Her recipe for back to normal blends new friends and a new school with the Southern Living Cook-Off. This is a great read to kick off a new school year. – Rae Ann Parker

Inspector Flytrap (Book #1) Cover ImageInspector Flytrap (Book #1)

By Tom Angleberger, Cece Bell (Illustrator)

Chapter book readers, this one’s for you! This new series features a talking plant solving mysteries with the help of a goat. Read only if you like funny stories. – Rae Ann Parker

Hello, My Name Is Octicorn Cover ImageHello, My Name Is Octicorn

By Kevin Diller, Justin Lowe, Binny Talib (Illustrator)

Octicorn, the child of an Octopus and a Unicorn, has to deal with both the challenges and benefits of being just a little bit different. This book is hilarious and sweet, and the kind of book parents or older siblings will enjoy reading out loud as much as the younger ones will enjoy listening. I think this is my favorite new picture book. – Jackie Gregory

Towers Falling Cover ImageTowers Falling

This is a moving introduction to the events of September 11, 2001, for those who are too young to have been alive then. Deja, a 5th grader, learns about what troubles her Dad and why her teacher wants them to learn about what happened to the towers that are no longer there. – Jackie Gregory

Ms. Bixby's Last Day Cover ImageMs. Bixby’s Last Day

Three friends come up with a plan to give their favorite teacher the perfect last day of school, and the result is both exciting and heartwarming. This is the kind of instantly classic book that only comes along every once and awhile; all kids aged 8-12 should read it. – Katherine Klockenkemper

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim Cover ImageThe Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim

E.K. Johnston’s debut novel takes place in a world much like ours, but with one significant difference: Dragons are real. Johnston’s worldbuilding is utterly brilliant, as she unspools the impact dragons have had on everything from industry to pop culture (in one chapter, we learn that Lady Gaga is actually part of the ancient bardic tradition). Owen, Siobhan, Sadie, and Emily are wonderfully grounded teen characters, and Siobhan’s wry narration hits all the right notes. A smart book with tons of heart. – Stephanie Appell

ParnassusNext — August Selection

This Savage Song Cover ImageThis Savage Song

Get ready to lose yourself in a dark and fascinating world of This Savage Song — a world more like our own than you may initially realize. In the war-torn and crime-ravaged future metropolis of Verity, humans live in fear not only of each other and the violence of civil war, but also of the monsters that are created each time a human commits an act of malice.

It’s in this world of dangerously blurry lines and deadly consequences that Kate Harker and August Flynn first meet. Kate, veteran of six boarding schools in five years, has just burned down the chapel of her school. August, a mysterious and monstrous Sunai, is doing his best to suppress his instincts and masquerade as human. Kate and August’s fathers, a civic leader and a crime boss, are mortal enemies, making Kate and August natural foes—or unlikely allies?—in the fight to save their city from total destruction. 

The conceit at the heart of This Savage Song is refreshingly original, but in Schwab’s masterful hands, it functions as more than a mere plot point. Through Kate, August, and the citizens of Verity, Schwab asks painful, pointed questions: What are the consequences of violence, and can they ever be resolved? In a hyper-violent society, what does it mean to be human? Is every monster beyond redemption? All these questions are bound up in a breathless, breakneck story you simply won’t be able to put down.

First Editions Club — August Selection

Another Brooklyn Cover ImageAnother Brooklyn

From Jacqueline Woodson, the National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming, comes her first adult novel in two decades. Another Brooklyn is the moving story of August, a woman recalling the joys and trials of her youth in 1970s Brooklyn. Sometimes, Brooklyn is a place where August and her friends share happiness and secrets, believe they can do anything, become shining lights in an otherwise bleak world. Other times, it is a place where friendships are torn apart, where innocence is stolen, where mothers don’t come home. As August nears adulthood, she must come face-to- face with broken relationships and confront her demons from the past.

Woodson’s language is lyrical and poetic, and it captured me from the start. Striking lines wait like hidden gems around every corner. It didn’t take me long to read, but I found myself pondering August’s story for days after I finished. As I enter adulthood myself, I found many similarities between my life and August’s. I think everyone can find a piece of themselves in August, too. Her story is heartbreaking, nostalgic, and hopeful all at once. This is like no other coming-of- age story you’ve ever read.

Sarah Arnold
Bookseller, Parnassus Books

“It’s All About the Book”

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

It’s summer. It’s hot . . . so hot. Maybe the heat has me in a pissy mood? But I’m in-between books and casting about for something to grab me and pull me in. You know the feeling — when a book is just calling you to come and read more. That’s what I’m looking for. Anyhow, I came across this “reader’s bill of rights” on the website of the wonderful Denver bookstore, The Tattered Cover. It’s printed on the store’s coffee mugs as well, and it spoke to me big-time. Perhaps this dose of freedom to try, discard, and try again is just what I need to get over the slump and find my new favorite book. And maybe it’s time for all of us to declare our rights as readers! Here they are:

Reader’s Bill of Rights 

1) to read anything, at any time

2) to read anywhere, in any position

3) to read without intrusion

4) to move your lips while you read

5) to read as slowly as you like

6) to read several books at one time

7) to underline favorite passages

8) to ignore literary critics

9) to skip pages or chapters

10) to read the last chapter first

11) to stop reading in the middle

12) to read a book over and over again

I might add: to refuse to read anything I don’t want to (unless it’s my book club selection)! Share this with your book club at the next meeting. I promise, it will generate some great personal discussion.

— Kathy

Parnassus Book Club

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August – Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Monday, August 15 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, August 17 at 6:30pm
Thursday, August 18 at 10am
 

September – Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Monday, September 19 at 6:30pm (*Note different location for this meeting: Green Hills branch of Nashville Public Library)
Wednesday, September 21 at 6:30pm
Thursday, September 22 at 10am
 

Classics Club – The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Thursday, September 29 at 10am and 6:30pm

 

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Want more? Check out Nashville Arts Magazine for our monthly Bookmark column — which includes more great reads, such as Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers; American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin; and Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney.

PS: If you’re tuned in to the 2016 Rio Olympics and can’t wait for the women’s gymnastics competition, now might be the perfect time to pick up Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me, a suspenseful thriller which takes place in the hotly competitive world of teen gymnastics.