30+ Books to Make Your Days Different

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In honor of the many exciting author events on the Parnassus calendar this month, we’ve borrowed a title for the theme of our November book picks: Today Will Be Different.

Get Semple’s new book in hardcover, on CD, or as a downloadable audiobook.

We hope you’ll join us here in the store on Thursday, November 17, at 6:30 p.m., when author Maria Semple will discuss and sign her novel of that name. It’s the follow-up to her bestselling Where’d You Go, Bernadette — and while the razor-sharp wit will feel familiar to fans of that book, this one will charm you anew with the story of Eleanor Flood, a woman who sets out to “tackle the little things” in her day only to have everything go hilariously awry.

So we asked our booksellers to recommend books that are a little different from what they’d normally read, or which might make your life a bit different. (Bookseller Lindsay asked, “You mean like, ‘My day was different because I got to read Today Will Be Different?'” Exactly, Lindsay. Sort of.)

How will your today be different?

100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get by Without Even Trying Cover Image100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get by Without Even Trying

Today will be different. I will not let my imagination drift in meetings to thoughts of talking animals; or if I do, I’ll cover it up with one of these brilliant and hilarious tactics. – Mary Laura Philpott

We Show What We Have Learned: And Other Stories Cover ImageWe Show What We Have Learned: And Other Stories

Today will be different. I will read something that’s a little weirder, a little eerier, and . . . well, totally different from anything else I’ve read this year. And I’ll love it. -Mary Laura Philpott

A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life Cover ImageA Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life

Today will be different if you thought Pat Conroy wrote only fiction. This is a brand-new volume of his interviews, essays, speeches, and letters. Discover “The Great Conroy’s” nonfiction in these charming, funny and touching pieces. – Kathy Schultenover

The Mothers Cover ImageThe Mothers

Today will be different: I still not stay up past my bedtime reading this book. I repeat: I will not stay up past my bedtime reading… Oh, who are we kidding? – Lindsay Lynch

(This book is also our November selection for the First Editions Club. See more below!)

My Private Property Cover ImageMy Private Property

Today will be different because I’ll have a cup of coffee and read this lovely little book in one sitting. I’m going to ignore all my responsibilities and obligations until I am done. – Lindsay Lynch

Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color Cover ImageDead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color

Today will be different because I am going to set aside time to share with my daughter this beautiful book about the women who helped make her world a much different place than the world of her great-grandmothers. – Ginger Nalley

Angel Catbird, Volume 1 Cover ImageAngel Catbird, Volume 1

Today will definitely be different if you will jump on the graphic novel bandwagon with this fantastically weird new series from Margaret Atwood. Seriously, who else could think of this? – Catherine Bock

Zen Dogs Cover ImageZen Dogs

Today will be different because I will be pliable, soft, and calm. – Sissy Gardner (on behalf of shop dog Bear, canine mindfulness expert)

The Death and Life of Great American Cities Cover ImageThe Death and Life of Great American Cities

Today will be different because instead of just grumbling helplessly while I wait for the third red light at Abbott Martin Road, I am going to educate myself about urban planning. Although first published in 1961, this classic by Jane Jacobs remains surprisingly relevant and applicable today. It’s still considered by many as the most influential book on the subject of urban planning, and I found it fascinating. – Andy Brennan

Faithful Cover ImageFaithful

Today will be different because I’m recommending a book for grownups. Yes, Alice Hoffman’s Faithful is my new favorite book! A woman walks away from a tragedy with a heart full of guilt. She begins her fight back to a new normal with the help of rescue dogs, a family who needs her, and an angel who watches over her since the night her life changed forever. – Rae Ann Parker (who usually recommends books for middle grade readers)

Upstream: Selected Essays Cover ImageUpstream: Selected Essays

Today will be different. It is afternoon in November and I have Mary Oliver’s new essay collection Upstream in my lap. I will breathe in, out, and repeat. – Katherine Klockenkemper

Black Swan Green Cover Image

Black Swan Green

Today will be different because you’ll learn the difference between stuttering and stammering and that if something’s good, it’s “ace.” If you’ve read Catcher in the Rye and enjoyed the first person musings on life and adolescence but would like to see an updated version set in England without the whine, this is your book.- Peter Taylor

My Dinner with Ron Jeremy Cover ImageMy Dinner with Ron Jeremy

Today will be different because I will read this in the school pickup line (it’s healthier and more interesting than smoking!). Adrian Matejka says Decolo’s poems “live in the sinuous space between want and propriety, fantasy and the ‘Must Be 18’ button on the poetry portal. Here, desire dictates every fetish and gesture, the uncomfortable performances we give to convince ourselves in bedrooms, drugstores, on webcam . . .” – Margy Roark

Here I Am Cover ImageHere I Am

I am such a book snob, it’s terrible; but, hey, Faulkner, cool your jets, Proust, take a walk, George Eliot, chillax. Today will be different because I am giving 21st century fiction a chance. So far, so good, JSF: we’ll see if you can stick the ending. – Margy Roark

For teen readers and YA-lovers:

When the Moon Was Ours Cover ImageWhen the Moon Was Ours

Today will be different because it includes glass pumpkins and roses that grow from a girl’s wrist. Get ready to fall in love with McLemore’s lush prose in this atmospheric story tinged with magic about friendship, love and identity.  – Ashley Herring Blake

Six of Crows Cover ImageSix of Crows

Today will be different because Leigh Bardugo’s writing will change your life. Believe the hype – the brilliant way she handles the amorality, morality, and complete absence thereof among criminals is fascinating. You may hate their crimes, but you will become deeply attached to these characters. – Grace Wright

If I Was Your Girl Cover ImageIf I Was Your Girl

Today will be different… for Amanda. For the first time no one knows who she was – only who she is. This gorgeous, funny, sharp novel sees Amanda through new friends, first loves, and the price of secrets. And by the end you will love Amanda as much as she learns to love herself.  – Grace Wright

Gemina Cover ImageGemina

Today will be different all across the universe. Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are back with the sequel to their brilliant Illuminae. If you haven’t read either then plan on fitting in both of these brilliant novels before their event at the store November 9 at 6:30 p.m.  – Grace Wright

For the littler kids:

Coat of Many Colors Cover ImageCoat of Many Colors

Today will be different because you can read a picture book based on a legendary song! Dolly Parton is also the founder of The Imagination Library, a program that sends a book each month to children in Tennessee. Her warmth shines through the pages. – Katherine Klockenkemper

Madam President Cover ImageMadam President

Today will be different because it brings us one day closer to our first female President. Until that day, enjoy this delightful picture book about a little girl with BIG dreams. – Niki Coffman

Also an Octopus Cover ImageAlso an Octopus

Today will be different from every other day because today involves a ukelele playing octopus, an adorable bunny, a rocketship AND a little bit of nothing . . . where every good story begins. – Halley Parry

 And a selection that comes with a very special announcement…

This moving memoir in graphic novel form shows how Civil Rights pioneer John Lewis’s roots were planted here in Nashville in the age of lunch counter sit-ins. Did you know that Lewis will be in town November 19 for a public lecture at MLK High School and that Nashville has chosen March as the 2017 Nashville Reads city-wide reading experience? Please read this fabulous book (and don’t miss your chance to see this legendary man in person). – Karen Hayes

ParnassusNext — November Selection

Of Fire and Stars Cover ImageOf Fire and Stars


This is not your average princess story. When Dennaleia leaves her home of Havemont to marry the Mynarian prince and align their countries, she brings her forbidden magic, an Affinity for fire, with her. As her talent threatens to become uncontrollable and she learns the ways of Mynaria, she must endure the prickly company of Princess Mare, her betrothed’s sister. When an assassination brings the threat of war closer, the two girls must work together to find the truth.

What they discover is something neither of them anticipated. And that’s what makes this story so special.

Magic and adventure fill the pages of Audrey Coulthurst’s fantasy, but at its heart, Of Fire and Stars is a story about the beauty that come when you embrace the unexpected. It is about that certain spark of magic you find in first love and in accepting that love doesn’t always look the way you think it will. Get ready to swoon for two princesses who are determined to follow their hearts, even if it means falling for each other.

First Editions Club — November Selection

If two very different people ask, “Hey, what should I read next?” I don’t usually point them in the same direction. Likewise, it’s rare that several of us in the store share the same opinion on a book. Ask Cat, Tristan, and me about a new novel, for example, and you can bet no more than two of us like the same one.

But this month, I’ve found that I’m recommending one title to a variety of folks. You’ll find something familiar in The Mothers by Brit Bennett whether you’re a man or a woman,  a mother or not. You’ll be moved by these characters whether you have a warm and loving relationship with your own mother or a brittle and tortured one — or no relationship at all. If you’ve made mistakes, learned to do better, then made mistakes again, you’ll relate. (I guess you wouldn’t like it if you’re in the mood for a book about perfect people doing perfect things, but who wants to read that?)

Bennet says she worked on her debut novel for her “entire adult life” and “it was bad long before it was ever good.” I’m glad she stuck with it — the result is way beyond good. And guess what? Cat, Tristan, and I all loved it!

Parnassus Book Club

163560NovemberCommonwealth by Ann Patchett
Monday, November 14 at 6:30pm – with Ann leading the discussion!
Wednesday, November 16 at 6:30pm
Thursday, November 17 at 10am

Classics ClubAnd Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Monday, November 28 at 10am and 6:30pm

(Note: Parnassus Book Clubs take December off for holiday revelry.)

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:


El Paso Cover Image

The election is almost over, much to the relief of everyone who has found the campaigns exhausting, upsetting, even downright toxic. Like many people, I’ve found myself tuning out and turning away from the whole process sometimes, taking solace in old pleasures that have taken on new importance as measures of distraction from it all. Ever the college football fan, I have welcomed the season this year as never before, keeping games and sports talk radio on in my house and car whenever possible — I listen no matter what teams are playing. Series TV, binge-worthy dramas, home fix-up shows, model makeovers, local news . . . It’s all good, because it’s not politics.

Of course, the best diversion is books. Fiction has never been more vital than it is right now. To escape into other lives and places is a real need for most of us, and my latest read, El Paso by Winston Groom, fit the bill perfectly. The book tells the story of a wealthy American family’s conflict with Pancho Villa and his Mexican army, who are trying to take the family’s land and kidnap their children. Groom fills his novel with everything from gun battles, trail rides, and cattle drives to love affairs, politics, suspense, and intrigue. Real American characters such as Tom Mix, Ambrose Bierce, John Reed, George S. Patton and General Jack Pershing pop up throughout Groom’s colorful adventure. It’s a sweeping epic to get wrapped up in — and I did!

Books like this enable us to lose ourselves in different worlds and can help us get through anything, even this difficult election season. Stop by the store and tell me sometime: What books are your refuge these days?

— Kathy

coverWant more? Don’t miss our Bookmark column in Nashville Arts magazine. It includes our recommendations for In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge; Appetites: A Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain; and Turner: The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W. Turner by Franny Moyle.

So many Parnassus favorites made the Publishers Weekly Best of 2016 list! From First Editions Club selections to monthly staff picks to authors we hosted for signings or interviewed here on Musing . . . And three of the list of 16 best YA novels actually launched their books into the world right here in our store! Take a spin through the list. 

Have you seen A Word on Words lately? The Nashville Public Television literary program recently aired interviews with authors Louise Erdrich, Ed Tarkington (with special guest, musician Will Hoge), Ariel Lawhon, youth poet Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay, and Alice Randall. Each segment is just a few minutes long — you can watch them at your desk between meetings! #keepreading

For everyone traveling to see family at Thanksgiving: Need to pass some hours in transit? Visit our Libro.FM online audiobook store and use code PARNASSUS20 to get 20% off all audiobooks. (Discount valid through the end of 2016.)