A Thank-You Note to Books in General (And Our 27 Current Favorites Specifically)

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Dear Literature,
Thank you for keeping us entertained, making us think, showing us other worlds, and offering glorious distraction when reality has us freaking out. What would we do without you? We love you forever.

Here’s what you’ll find in the bookbags and on the bedside tables of our staff book-lovers right now:

Swing Time Cover ImageSwing Time 

Two little girls meet in dance class and become fast friends, until one proves to be a much better dancer and a much less stable person and the whole thing falls apart. Zadie Smith proves that great literature can also be a great read. This book is a joy. – Recommended by Ann Patchett

A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life Cover ImageA Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life

Want a laugh-out-loud book about depression? A feel-good book about LSD? An engaging look at chemistry, history, and law? Look no further. Waldman is difficult and she knows it. She’s trying to get better. We root for her every step of the way. – Recommended by Ann Patchett

The Midnight Cool Cover ImageThe Midnight Cool

Nashvillian Lydia Peelle won the Whiting Award for her story collection, Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing. Now we have her first novel, set in Tennessee during WWI and following the story of two charming Irishmen, a rebellious heiress, and a tempestuous black mare named the Midnight Cool. Peelle is an excellent storyteller. You will be turning pages long into the night. – Recommended by Karen Hayes

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living Cover ImageScratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living

How DO you make money as a writer without losing your mind or your soul? The short answer is, “It depends.” The long answer is the entirety of this book: honest, engaging essays by writers including Cheryl Strayed, Roxane Gay, Nick Hornby, Susan Orlean, Alexander Chee, and Jennifer Weiner.  – Recommended by Mary Laura Philpott

Perfect Little World Cover ImagePerfect Little World

Thank you, Kevin Wilson, for writing a book that thoroughly entertained me and put me in a good mood. This is the book I’ll be handing anyone who comes in looking for a read that’s uplifting and fun.  – Recommended by Mary Laura Philpott

IQ Cover ImageIQ

This gritty, smart, wildly enjoyable thriller is set on the streets of LA’s toughest neighborhoods, where gangs and rap rule the streets. Perfect for anyone who’s recently loved Don Winslow. – Recommended by Niki Coffman

The Second Mrs. Hockaday Cover ImageThe Second Mrs. Hockaday

A young wife is bound for jail, accused of bearing a child and murdering it while her husband was off fighting in the Civil War. What really happened while he was away? I loved this gripping, well-written book! – Recommended by Kathy Schultenover

Transit Cover ImageTransit

Did I make you read Outline? No? Go read Outline. After you’re done, you can read Cusk’s continuation of the story in Transit. I promise you, Cusk remains at the top of her game here. It is gorgeous. – Recommended by Lindsay Lynch

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories Cover ImageWhatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories

The beautiful short stories of Kathleen Collins were nearly lost to history. Thankfully, her daughter literally unburied them from a trunk. Collins was a playwright and film director before her untimely death at the age of 46, and each of her short stories is a like a perfect scene in your favorite movie. – Recommended by Lindsay Lynch

Brideshead Revisited Cover ImageBrideshead Revisited

Have you ever wanted to read about rich English people in the framework of a story that’s not a marriage plot but still addresses themes of religion, power, wealth, and love, all within the romantically inviting setting of Oxford? [Ed. note: duh, YES.] This is your book. – Recommended by Peter Taylor 

Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England Cover ImageTroublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England

Here’s the story of the young Tory MPs who recognized the threat that Hitler posed to the European continent and Britian. At the risk of ruining their own political careers, they stood up to the leaders of their party to fight against appeasement. It reads like a thriller because Olson never lets you forget what is at stake. – Recommended by Andy Brennan

S.P.Q.R: A History of Ancient Rome Cover ImageS.P.Q.R: A History of Ancient Rome 

The winter months are a great time to read that book you’ve been putting off. For me, it’s Mary Beard’s SPQR — a sweeping history of all aspects of Roman history. A renowned classicist, Beard illustrates why Rome is still relevant today, with a passion for the subject that appeals to students of Roman history as well as newcomers. – Recommended by Andy Brennan

Innocents and Others Cover ImageInnocents and Others

This powerful, surprising novel examines our obsession with fame and the illusion of film. Beautifully told through the lives of several unique characters, it’s a book you’ll finish and then emerge in a daze. – Recommended by Halley Parry 

Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History Cover ImageCoyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History

Coyote America is a history not just of the coyote, but of America’s war against “predators” weaves mythology, legend, and the fascinating science behind coyote’s survival and how they have thrived and adapted to civilization despite all odds. For the lover of nature narratives and history (and animals of course). – Recommended by Halley Parry 

Get Your Sh*t Together: How to Stop Worrying about What You Should Do So You Can Finish What You Need to Do and Start Doing What You Want to D Cover ImageGet Your Sh*t Together: How to Stop Worrying about What You Should Do So You Can Finish What You Need to Do and Start Doing What You Want to Do 

If you can get past Sarah Knight’s (highly entertaining) potty mouth, there is some great advice packed into this tiny little book. Not only will you laugh hysterically, you’ll probably get your sh*t together as well.  – Recommended by Grace Wright 

Wool Cover ImageWool

I had missed this utterly riveting sci-fi thriller until a friend put it into my hands over the holidays. The twists and turns are as complex as the silo Howley creates, and the characters are so sharply rendered that they’re unforgettable.   – Recommended by Grace Wright 

The Bear and the Nightingale Cover ImageThe Bear and the Nightingale

In Katherine Arden’s enchanting debut, historical fiction entwines with magical realism to weave a stunning tale that reminds us of the dangers of fear and of not minding old tales about creatures from the forest.   – Recommended by Grace Wright 

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners Cover ImageUnmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners

I adore Jenny Lawson’s humor. When I saw that she recommended this book, I grabbed it and could not put it down. Go back in time with us and freak out about how gross it was.  – Recommended by Sissy Gardner 

A Tale for the Time Being Cover ImageA Tale for the Time Being

Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the beach of her remote island home. It is the diary of a 16-year-old girl named Nao, written in Japanese, along with an old watch and some letters. Switching between Ruth deciphering the contents of the lunchbox and Nao struggling through her life in Tokyo, this novel is such a beautiful and smart exploration of finding meaning and happiness. If you didn’t read it when it came out, pick it up in paperback now. – Recommended by Catherine Bock  

Big Little Lies Cover ImageBig Little Lies

Sometimes when the going gets tough I like to set aside that serious literary novel that’s collecting dust on my nightstand and hole up with a fun, breezy whodunit that’s just plain brain candy. This funny thriller did the trick for me, so I’m looking forward to tuning into HBO on February 19 for the much buzzed-about six-episode miniseries adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman.  – Recommended by Katherine Klockenkemper

Unf*ck Your Habitat: You're Better Than Your Mess Cover ImageUnf*ck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess

I’m so excited that Unf*ck Your Habitat, a lifestyle blog I follow, is finally a book! I’ve employed many of Hoffman’s tidying and simplifying tips in my own home and life, and recommend this book to anyone who wants to declutter their lives and spaces with the help of straightforward, no-BS advice that cuts to the chase and actually WORKS. – Recommended by Katherine Klockenkemper

First Editions Club — February Selection

When a book has a lot of buzz behind it or is by an author I admire a great deal, I bring a certain amount of skepticism to reading it. I worry that it might not measure up to my hopes, so I try to minimize how excited I get and remind myself to lower my expectations. (Maybe not the best approach for all of life, but I find it works for reading.)

Well, my plan didn’t work for Lincoln in the Bardo. I barely got my eagerness in check before diving right in, and I was immediately struck by the ambitious originality of the concept and the magic George Saunders creates on every page.

Set in the sorrow-filled days after the death of Abraham Lincoln’s young son, the story shows us a despairing Lincoln visiting his son’s tomb. We watch as Willie’s spirit interacts with his father and with the Greek chorus-like cast of souls that populate the cemetery. I’ll stop there and let you enjoy the rest yourself. I can say without hyperbole that this novel is unlike anything I have read before, so don’t worry — there’s no need to lower your expectations.

Yours in Reading,

Catherine Bock
Special Sales and Office Manager, Parnassus Books

Parnassus Book Club

FC9780062220516.JPGFebruary – The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
Monday, February 13 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, February 15 at 6:30pm
Thursday, February 16 at 10am

March – March (vol.1) by John Lewis (the 2017 Nashville Reads book)
Monday, March 13 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, March 15 at 6:30pm
Thursday, March 16 at 10am

Classics Club – So Big by Edna Ferber
Monday, March 27 at 10am and 6:30pm

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:

What’s the best book you’ve read with your book club in the last year? Surveys of our store clubs in years past have named Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, Shotgun Lovesongs by Nick Butler, and The Paris Wife by Paula McLain as annual favorites.

FC9781101911921.JPGIn this year’s store survey, two “quiet” choices emerged as the most popular titles. In the Parnassus Book Club (which reads primarily contemporary fiction), members chose Kent Haruf’s final novel, Our Souls at Night. It was also the book that drew the highest attendance of the year, with nearly 90 people showing up to discuss it. Our Souls is a “little book” — short, sparely and beautifully written, the story of two 70- year-old neighbors who form a friendship, then a deeper relationship, all becoming complicated by neighbors, adult children, and grandchildren. Kent Haruf explores the need all of us have for acceptance and love.

The favorite of the Parnassus Classics Club was Stoner, written more than 50 years ago by John Williams. It tells the story of a quiet, unassuming, and rather undistinguished English professor at a midwestern university — and his teaching, navigation of academic politics, long unhappy marriage, eventual discovery of love, and relationship with a distant daughter. He’s an everyman the reader can identify with. Like Our Souls at Night, Stoner deals with the many forms love takes in a person’s life and how love directs and drives us all. I think it’s this universal quality that makes these two such popular titles with our clubs and with book clubs everywhere.

I’d love to hear about what your clubs are reading. Stop by and let me know!

— Kathy

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 1.54.18 PM.pngMore fun bookish news:

When the National Book Critics Circle Award finalists were announced, we were delighted to see that among the honorees were four Parnassus First Editions Club selections — plus a little book called Commonwealth — and a whole bunch of 2016 staff picks!


It’s an Emmy for A Word on Words! The literary interview show, co-hosted by Nashville writers JT Ellison and Mary Laura Philpott and produced by the Nashville Public Television team of Beth Curley, Linda Wei, Matt Emigh, and Will Pedigo, received the award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for its first season. Catch up on the show online before new episodes start airing soon. #keepreading

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Left: Lesley Stahl and Ann Patchett. Right: Roxane Gay

Earlier this week, some of our booksellers attended Winter Institute, a conference of the American Booksellers Association where indie bookstore folks from all over the country get together to share ideas, make plans, and shape the future of the bookselling industry. Our own Ann Patchett appeared in conversation with journalist and author Lesley Stahl one morning, with several other writers and publishers presenting throughout the event. You can read the full text of author Roxane Gay’s stirring keynote address here.

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The Sewanee Review has a new look, new feel, and new editor. Nashville’s Adam Ross is at the helm for the first new issue, which will be available here in-store. Read more about it in The Nashville Scene.

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Want more? As always, you’ll find our Bookmark column in Nashville Arts. (Speaking of which, don’t miss Hunter Armistead’s profile in the magazine on our own resident poet — and bookseller — Nathan Spoon!)

Coming up next: Our latest staff picks for baby, kids, and young adult literature! Make sure your teachers, librarians, and friends with kids are subscribed to Musing so they don’t miss it.