28 Novels, Memoirs, Essay Collections, Biographies, Sci-Fi, and Histories (Whew) to Read Right Now

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One of our favorite questions to ask visitors is, “What’s the last book you read and loved?” You can learn so much about people from their answers. And you know you’ve met a real book-lover when, after going on for several minutes about their most recent favorites, they lean in to the bookseller and ask, “And what are YOU reading?” Very often, that’s the start to a friendship that will continue every time that person comes into the store.

We’ll always have answers to that question. We’re all readers, after all. Here’s the latest list of staff favorites. (Meanwhile: What are you reading, anyway? Chime in and tell us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.)

Recommended by Ann

We Should All Be Feminists Cover ImageWe Should All Be Feminists

I listened to it twice (Libro.FM!), once alone, and once with my mother and husband in the car. Great conversation ensued. If you could play it while your kids are in the car you’ll save them years of therapy and heartbreak (boys and girls alike). It’s a wonderful primer for how to be decent and fair.

Recommended by Ann

South and West: From a Notebook Cover ImageSouth and West: From a Notebook

Imagine stumbling on ten Beatles songs that got cut from The White Album. South and West is like that, Joan Didion at her thrilling best. These essays were written in 1970, about the time she published, well, The White Album.

Recommended by Karen

This Land: An American Portrait Cover ImageThis Land: An American Portrait

Just pick it up and look at it. Then check the price. $45 for this gorgeous book by the nationally known photographer, Jack Spencer, and we even have signed copies! How can you resist? Buy one for a friend.

Recommended by Karen

Born to Run Cover ImageBorn to Run

If you have listened to Springsteen’s music over the years, you know this man has a way with words. His memoir proves that this is also true on the printed page. But if you find that you miss his voice, don’t worry: he reads the audio. Download it on Libro.fm.

Recommended by Rae Ann

The Women in the Castle Cover ImageThe Women in the Castle

This book has the feel of a classic World War II story while being unlike any other book I’ve read. The Women In The Castle are widows of the resistance after their husbands’ failed plot to assassinate Hitler. Jessica Shattuck’s magnificent storytelling transports the reader to another time and place and kept me awake at night thinking about these women and their stories. (Author Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney recommends this book in our spring preview, too!)

Recommended by Rae Ann

Miss You Cover ImageMiss You

What if you walked past the love of your life, but didn’t know it? Fate is a half-step out of time for Gus and Tess while their individual life journeys are compelling.

Recommended by Mary Laura

The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir Cover ImageThe Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir

Every so often, I like to break up my stack of fiction and throw in a memoir by a real person reflecting on real life — preferably by a fantastic, unflinching writer, which Ariel Levy is.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Marlena Cover ImageMarlena

“Tell me what you can’t forget, and I’ll tell you who you are.” (Beat that for an opening line.) Why can’t Cat forget her brief friendship with a wild, troubled neighbor? Find out as details build slowly and beautifully in this debut novel.

Recommended by River

Desperation Road Cover ImageDesperation Road

Seldom does a writer have the ability to restrain their poetic muscle with such precision, but Michael Farris Smith has achieved just that. Each word is measured out beat by beat, the story unfolding line upon line as it reveals one tragic mistake that changes the lives of two people forever. Readers will not relinquish Desperation Road until they reach the end of that brutally beautiful highway.

Recommended by Margy

Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast Cover ImageElizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast

We are supposed to keep these recs short, so I’ll just say: rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!

Ed note: If you enjoy reading about Elizabeth Bishop, you might also check out the new book by Kay Jamison on Bishop’s friend and fellow poet — Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character.

Recommended by Lindsay

The Correspondence: Essays Cover ImageThe Correspondence: Essays

I’m not sure even sure how to categorize this book, other than “beautiful bit of writing that you should absolutely read right now.”

Recommended by Kathy

Twain's End Cover ImageTwain’s End

Mark Twain: funny, witty, beloved author. Also Mark Twain: moody, selfish, cruel philanderer. His secretary, Isabel Lyon, knew both sides of the man very intimately. This novel tells her story. So compelling!

Recommended by Margy

East of Eden Cover ImageEast of Eden

I missed this one somehow until now. It’s the best way to get American history: in a story. California cornucopia of weird and wonderful. Tender souls and delicious villains, recognized and celebrated as only a few writers can do.

Recommended by Peter

Stoner Cover ImageStoner

This classic novel about a young farmer who goes to university to get a degree in agriculture and falls in love with literature is a silent killer. Before you know it, your heart will be equally in anguish and awe at the story of passion subdued by the ordinary struggles of life.

Recommended by Niki

All Our Wrong Todays Cover ImageAll Our Wrong Todays

This spectacular (and spectacularly weird) debut imagines 2016 as an alternate universe full of technological advances — including time travel — that we can only dream of in our 2016. But thanks to Tom making a series of small-to-catastrophic mistakes, we’ve all gotten stuck in the wrong universe. As delightful a novel as I’ve read in ages.

Recommended by Catherine

The Devil's Bible Cover ImageThe Devil’s Bible

This book has an edgy, gothic darkness to it that kept me turning the pages. Perfect for fans of the TV show Supernatural and anyone who enjoys a fantastical element to their stories of good vs. evil.

Recommended by Catherine

Pachinko Cover ImagePachinko

I’m a sucker for a family saga, especially one that takes place in another country. Lee is transportive and lyrical in her telling of this engrossing story, beginning in Korea in the early 1900s and ending around present day. If you liked Cutting for Stone or Homegoing this is for you.

 Recommended by Halley

Animals Strike Curious Poses Cover ImageAnimals Strike Curious Poses

This collection of essays dips into so many genres I can’t even explain it. Passarello tells the stories of 16 famous animals immortalized by humans and examines how their stories shape our understanding of humanity. It is witty, informative, and she even takes the perspective of Darwin’s tortoise. Yes.

Recommended by Halley

History of Wolves Cover ImageHistory of Wolves

This book is like a perfect cake. A delicately layered plot makes every bite surprising. Filled with fascinating, real characters, the icing on this book/cake is the stunning prose (and genius metaphors).

Recommended by Grace

The Collapsing Empire Cover ImageThe Collapsing Empire

Do you love great sci-fi? Do you think you might love great sci-fi? Do you love gorgeous, hysterical, thought-provoking writing? BOOM. Here is your next amazing read.

Recommended by Andy

The Children Cover ImageThe Children

Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam returns to his roots and his coverage of the early days of the Civil Rights movement for The Tennessean. An excellent go-to after you’ve read 2017’s Nashville Reads selection, March. Incredibly powerful, both timeless and timely, this may be Halberstam’s best.

Recommended by Sissy

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery Cover ImageThe Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery

I like big books . . . but not everybody does. Finally there’s a handy, brief overview of the Enneagram. Cron and Stabile are lighthearted and concise, and anyone curious can understand the system without a great deal of study.

Recommended by Rumaan Alam (author / honorary guest bookseller)

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace Cover ImageSorry to Disrupt the Peace

One of the smartest and most well-read of my friends brought this book up in conversation recently. She grabbed me by the arm and said, “You have to read it.”  I find this kind of urgent in-person recommendation so persuasive I didn’t even bother to figure out what this debut novel is about; I just knew I would buy it.

(Note: Alam had so much fun contributing to our spring reading preview that he wanted to throw in an extra book, too!)

First Editions Club — April Selection

In the book world, we frequently talk about reading the right book at the right time in your reading life. I am a huge believer in that: delving into Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall was a perfect contrast to all the Victorian reading I was doing one semester in college. Finding Harry Potter as a child who hated reading helped me discover the magic that is falling into a great new book.

Hannah Tinti’s new novel seems to be an exception — a wonderful book, perfect for almost every point in someone’s life. Want a complex parent-child relationship? Check. Need a bit of career escapism (in the form of a professional criminal)? Got it. Want something that hits close to home with the reminder that our pasts never leave us? Done.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley checks so many boxes that I want to recommend it to everyone, no matter where they are in their reading life. I can’t wait for the world to fall in love with Loo and the world Hannah Tinti has expertly woven.

Yours in Reading,
Catherine Bock
Special Sales Manager, Parnassus Books

Parnassus Book Club

FC9780061763496.JPGAprilHeat and Light by Jennifer Haigh (Note: Meetings are one week later than usual in April. More about the book in this interview.)
Monday, April 24 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, April 26 at 6:30pm
Thursday, April 27 at 10am

May — Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award!)
Monday, May 15 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, May 17 at 6:30pm
Thursday, May 18 at 10am

Classics Club Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
Monday, May 22 at 10am and 6:30pm

Are you a member of our store book club? Would you like to be? Parnassus Book Club and Classics 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:

IMG_8574Last week I read an article called “How to Train Yourself to Read a Book a Month.” (Die-hard book lovers might think, “Really? Only one?”) I love any advice that helps people get more books into their lives and think these suggestions can be very helpful to book club people and readers everywhere:

1) Watch three fewer hours of TV per week. Who doesn’t love binge-watching a good series? But this practical idea for cutting back on screen time a bit — reading 40 pages/hour for 3 hours when you might have been watching a miniseries — makes for 120 pages in a week. Maybe you’ll finish that book in 3 weeks?

2) Carry a book everywhere you go. I’ve always done this and it does make a difference. Waiting in carpools, at doctor’s appointments, for a friend at a restaurant, etc. — it’s all a great reading occasion. (Bonus: you’ll never be bored.)

3) Put reading time on your calendar. We plan everything else in our day. Why not schedule designated reading time? It’s a fun appointment with yourself.

4) Set goals. Figure out how many pages you need to read in a day in order to finish the book in a month. Setting these smaller daily goals makes the task more do-able. I do this regularly when I’m on a reading deadline to make sure I don’t get overwhelmed by a book.

5) Join a book club. Book clubs operate on accountability, so if you commit to meeting and discussing a book each month, chances are you’ll actually read it.

6) Visit your local bookstore. Peruse the wide variety of appealing books and keep a list of the ones that seem interesting to you. Looking at that list may motivate you to read more books quicker. Also, being around booksellers and other book people could inspire you to join a community of readers.

With one or two of these ideas, you may even find you can read more than one book a month!

— Kathy

Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice Cover ImageHave writing aspirations of your own? Don’t forget to check out the workshops and events offered by The Porch Writers Collective. And grab a copy of Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice by Colum McCann to keep on hand when you need encouragement.

Don’t miss A Word on Words on Nashville Public Television. New interviews featuring Emma Straub and Jacqueline Woodson are now live, with John Hart coming up this weekend! #keepreading

Want more? As always, you can find more reading recommendations in the latest issue of Nashville Arts Magazine — grab a copy around town!

Speaking of roaming around town . . . Come see Peggy the Parnassus on Wheels bookmobile this weekend! Find her this Saturday, 4/8, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Cheekwood in Bloom, and this Sunday, 4/9, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at the *new* Sunday Market at the Factory at Franklin! And remember, you can find out #wherespeggy anytime on Twitter.

And finally . . . Mark your calendar! Saturday, April 29, is Independent Bookstore Day, the holiday that’s all about you. Come join the party atmosphere in the store and nab some of the merchandise created exclusively for the occasion. These amazing offerings include the Author’s Best Friend Canine Canvas Pouch — featuring our own shop dog Sparky! — plus lots more collector’s items, shown below:

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 11.40.42 AM
Fine print: Independent Bookstore Day merchandise is available only in-store (not online); first-come, first-served; some items may be limited to one per customer.