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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
By Julie Buntin
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
April – Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh (Note: Meetings are one week later than usual in April. More about the book in this interview.)
May — Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award!)
Classics Club – Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
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:
Last 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!
Have 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: