Staff Favorites, Book Club Picks, and a Cover So Beautiful We’d Wear It If We Could

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Read this if:
A) You need not-boring gift ideas for Mothers’ Day.
B) You’re out of books and want to be reading something fabulous by bedtime TONIGHT.
C) You’re the person in your book club who always knows about the newest releases.
D) You’re looking for a paperback version of a great story you might have missed.
E) All of the above.

Every month, we encourage our staff to speak up about the books they’re reading and recommending most. Because there’s no pressure to pick anything specific — just the books they truly love right now — it ends up being quite a mix. So take a look at the latest list, and come say hello if you’d like to check out these books or chat with our booksellers in person! (You can also click any title that interests you, and we’ll ship it to your door.)

For you / your mom / anyone who loves to read:
Two authors illuminate complicated relationships between mothers and grown children in these new books, both recommended by Ann Patchett:

Anything Is Possible Cover ImageAnything Is Possible

It’s hard to believe that a year after the astonishing My Name Is Lucy Barton Elizabeth Strout could bring us another book that is by every measure its equal, but what Strout proves to us again and again is that where she’s concerned, anything is possible. This book, this writer, are magnificent. (If you visit/order soon, we might still have signed copies!)

The Leavers Cover ImageThe Leavers

This story of a Chinese immigrant and her son starts off good and progresses into something great. It’s smart and moving and complicated and will surely build compassion in anyone considering the lives of immigrants. It’s the winner of Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellweather Prize too!

(Event note: Lisa Ko will visit Nashville on June 1 to appear in conversation with Ann and fellow novelist Weike Wang.)

Recommended by Karen

Johnny's Cash and Charley's Pride: Lasting Legends and Untold Adventures in Country Music Cover ImageJohnny’s Cash and Charley’s Pride: Lasting Legends and Untold Adventures in Country Music

This book is a delight for music lovers, even more so for those who grew up in Nashville. Cooper, a musician and music journalist, has interviewed and developed friendships with many of the fabulous characters who earned Nashville the moniker Music City.  Johnny’s Cash and Charlie’s Pride is by turns funny and touching. (Peter Cooper will be here on Tuesday, May 16 — don’t miss his event!)

Recommended by Mary Grey

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI Cover ImageKillers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

For true-crime lovers, here’s a narrative written like the most gripping murder mystery. It’s the story of five years of murders in the early 1920s and the manner in which 29-year- old Herbert Hoover used them to launch the FBI. With little known facts of how the Osage community became the richest on earth and the people in power who attempted to steal their wealth, this is documentation at its best. (Meet David Grann when he discusses and signs the book on Monday, May 8!)

Recommended by Mary Laura

The Last Neanderthal Cover ImageThe Last Neanderthal

Remember the seemingly impossible feat Claire Cameron pulled off with The Bear (a whole novel told in the voice of a five-year-old girl)? She’s done it again. This time the narrator is a young female Neanderthal in search of connection and survival. I was blown away. Please read this so we can talk about it. (It would make a lovely and unusual Mothers’ Day gift, too; themes of family and belonging run throughout.)

Recommended by Mary Laura

Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage Cover ImageHourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage

Did Ann Patchett’s This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage whet your appetite for lovely, real essays about adult commitment? Did you wish it had even more about marriage? Then you might love Dani Shapiro’s latest — a short, beautiful memoir made 100% of marriage! Give it to your best friend, your long-married mom, anyone celebrating an anniversary, or yourself.

Recommended by Kathy

The Women in the Castle Cover ImageThe Women in the Castle

For Mother’s Day? Oh, yes! A story of how three German women repair and rebuild their lives after WWII, living with the secrets they hold. (Rae Ann recommended this one last month, and author Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney picked it for our spring preview, too. Seems to be a crowd favorite!)

Recommended by Catherine

Salt Houses Cover ImageSalt Houses*

What happens when “home” is a different place for almost everyone in your family? In her debut novel, Hala Alyan weaves through the generations of one Arab family as they emigrate from Palestine to Kuwait to Lebanon and then to Paris and the United States. A story about family relationships we all can relate to with characters I still think about.

* Voted by staff as the book cover we’d most like to wear as a shirt or dress.

Recommended by Halley

The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington Cover ImageThe Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington

Gut-wrenching and strange, Leonora Carrington is the quiet master of surrealist fiction, and now her stories come in one beautiful package. Not for the faint of heart or faint imaginations. For the wackier readers and/or mothers out there.

Recommended by Lindsay

Priestdaddy: A Memoir Cover ImagePriestdaddy: A Memoir

You might recognize Patricia Lockwood from either poetry or Twitter — she’s a master of both — and now it turns out she can write a perfect memoir as well. Priestdaddy shifts effortlessly between the sacred and the profane as Lockwood recounts her childhood in the Catholic church. Pick it up for the hilarious dysfunction of Lockwood’s family and stay for her gorgeous prose.

Recommended by Devin

No One Cares about Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America Cover ImageNo One Cares about Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America

This book blends history, present day issues, and an account of lived experience in the subject of mental illness. Powers provides well researched information and his own insight from watching schizophrenia affect his sons, one of whom died by suicide. Reminder: May is also Mental Health Awareness Month.

Recommended by Devin

Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring Cover ImageRevolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring

All at once, Egypt’s most watched satirist went from having his face on every billboard in Cairo to fleeing for fear of retribution from those in political power. Bassem Youssef gives readers a crash course on the issues of the Arab Spring in a way that is not watered down for the sake of comedic relief. Great for fans of Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime.

Recommended by River

One Good Mama Bone Cover ImageOne Good Mama Bone

One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain was Pat Conroy’s last release under his new imprint as a publisher. That’s reason enough to pick up this great Southern novel, but the story readers and reviewers everywhere have loved stands on its own. I dare you to stand here in the store and read the opening pages.

Recommended by River

The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor Cover ImageThe Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

I am stuck on this collection of O’Connor’s letters to priests, editors, friends, family, and fans. I find myself laughing aloud and inspired by her brilliance and honesty and humanity.

Recommended by Peter

A Prayer for Owen Meany Cover ImageA Prayer for Owen Meany

As soon as I finished this book about a boy and his friend united by the accidental death of the boy’s mother, I made my mom read it. We still talk about it.

Recommended by John

The Shipping News Cover ImageThe Shipping News

By sending middle-aged Quoyal and his children off to Newfoundland, Proulx weaves a narrative of personal and familial rediscovery that will leave you with many knots to un-coil. Recipient of both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, The Shipping News is a subtle and poignant classic never to be overlooked.

Recommended by Sissy

61lNYoBgixL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Into the Water

This is not The Girl on the Train part deux. It’s still a mystery, but much more mystical. I loved the twist!

Recommended by Keltie

The Idiot Cover ImageThe Idiot

For anyone who went to college in the ’90s and lived through the advent of email, this book captures what happened when cyber-communication was added into the campus dating game. The narrator, a Turkish-American girl from New Jersey in her freshman year at Harvard, is mostly honest, sometimes funny, and often painfully unsure of herself (LIKE EVERY SINGLE FRESHMAN EVER). Her totally original voice reminded me of the first time I read Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. I messaged my crazy college roommates immediately to tell them to read it.

Recommended by Keltie

The Gene: An Intimate History Cover ImageThe Gene: An Intimate History

If you loved The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this is where to go next.  As in the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Emperor of All Maladies, Mukherjee tells a Big Story about Big Science through the framework of personal experience: his own family’s deadly legacy of schizophrenia. His narrative of the history of human genetics is sweeping, and this seriously sexy science asks the most fundamental questions about what it means to be human. Out today in paperback!

Recommended by Halley

The Book of Joan Cover ImageThe Book of Joan

Sci-fi for people who don’t like sci-fi. This book gives us a much needed hero in the form of a reimagined Joan of Arc. Curious yet?

(Read the review of The Book of Joan from the front page of this week’s New York Times Book Review.)

Recommended by Sissy

Man's Search for Meaning: Young Adult Edition: Young Adult Edition Cover ImageMan’s Search for Meaning: Young Adult Edition

Frankl does more than tell his own Holocaust story — he explains how the victims around him dealt with adversity. I’m the same age as Boyne, who wrote the intro, and although the title says “young adult,” I’d recommend this book for all ages, including parents of young adults. This edition’s timely message hits the contemporary reader in the head and the heart.

 Recommended by Katherine

You Will Know Me Cover ImageYou Will Know Me

If you’ve been on a thriller kick like me, Megan Abbot’s You Will Know Me, a murder mystery set in a high-stakes elite gymnastics community, awaits you in its new paperback edition. This fast-paced (and chilling) read kept me guessing.

 Recommended by Nathan

The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara & Lenin Play Chess Cover ImageThe Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara & Lenin Play Chess

The Dada movement emerged a century ago in response to crazy times. Dada never completely died out and is presently being kept alive by the ghost of William S. Burroughs and a doppelganger of Bill Murray living in an ancient parallel universe. This book is so next-tweet, you’ll want to read it immediately.

Recommended by Andy

Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War Cover ImageLast Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War

Britian was the lone holdout as the Nazis swept across Europe. Olson’s compelling narrative recounts how Europe’s monarchs and leaders sought refuge and set up governments in exile while the allies fought to take the continent back.

(Ed. note: Andy tried to sneak this book into our Mothers’ Day display by calling it, “A mother of a book!” We said: nice try, Andy.)

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More variations on a mom-theme in the store.
Speaking of books we love: 9780399185175This time last year, we were wild over a new laugh-out-loud story of office intrigue, a delicious revenge fantasy where the most put-upon staffers at a big media company plot a scheme to boost their income. The Assistants is pure, satisfying fun (we’re still wild about it), and it’s out today in paperback with a spiffy new cover.

Come get your copy and meet the author! Author Camille Perri joins us here in the store this Thursday, May 4, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the book and catch us up on life since the publication of her breakout hit.

Coming Up for the First Editions Club . . .  The May Selection

“The breaking of bonds requires energy,” notes the narrator of Weike Wang’s debut novel, a chemist trying to finish her graduate studies while navigating an increasingly serious relationship with her boyfriend, a fellow scientist. Indeed, it requires energy to form and maintain bonds, too. It also takes self-awareness and acceptance of imperfection, both of which this young woman struggles to gain as she seeks to reconcile her past (academic excellence, demanding Chinese parents, certainty about her path in life) with her future, which — in light of her failing research — suddenly looks less sure.

Ann Patchett blurbed the book like so: “Chemistry starts as a charming confection and then proceeds to add on layers of emotional depth and complexity with every page. It is to Wang’s great credit that she manages to infuse such seriousness with so much light. I loved this novel.” I agree 100%.

You’ll fall in love with the unique narrative voice, dry humor, and emotional truth in this slim book. (If you’re an off-the-charts type-A person, you’ll find it deeply relatable, too. Or, um, so I hear.) Smart, refreshing, and unexpected, it’s the story in-the-know readers will be talking about this summer and for years to come. There’s nothing formulaic about Chemistry.

Yours in Reading,
Mary Laura Philpott
Editor of Musing

Parnassus Book Club


25733983-1May — 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

JuneLaRose by Louise Erdrich
Monday, June 19 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, June 21 at 6:30pm
Thursday, June 22 at 10am

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:

SunshineState_Large-690x1024When I travel, I like to read books set in the area I’m visiting. It adds so much to my enjoyment of the whole experience. My all-time favorite travel tie-in has to be Death Comes for the Archbishop, read on a week’s vacation in the American Southwest. Willa Cather’s reverent descriptions of the mountains, bluffs and desert-scapes matched what I saw each day.

I make it to South Florida often, which means I have read many books about Florida while I’m there: classics such as Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, or more recent works like Swamplandia! by Karen Russell and Last Train to Paradise by Les Standiford. On my latest trip, I visited the independent bookstore, Annette’s Beach Book Nook near our hotel on Ft. Myers Beach. The Book Nook is primarily a used bookstore with some new books — a book browsing paradise! During a conversation with Annette about Florida books, I was reminded of Randy Wayne White, well-known as the author of 24 Doc Ford mysteries. (Among other jobs, Randy has been a full-time fishing guide on Sanibel Island, and a columnist for Outside magazine, covering adventures and extreme sports all over the globe. Currently he lives on Pine Island and spends a lot of time writing and hanging out at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille on Sanibel.) I started with the first book in his series, Sanibel Flats, which introduces the character of retired NSA agent Doc Ford and kicks off this series of engrossing, fast-paced page-turners, perfect for a Florida beach vacation or anytime you want true escapist reading.

I also chose a new book, Sunshine State by Sarah Gerard. Its stunning cover — Florida wildlife and sea creatures — practically calls, “Pick me up!” In essays that reflect her experiences growing up in Florida, Gerard weaves aspects of her own life, such as tough times with her best friend and her parents’ relationship with religion, into broader philosophical statements that all lead back to Florida itself, a microcosm of our greater society and culture. I found the collection thought-provoking, troubling, and moving.

Next time you’re traveling to Florida, I recommend Sanibel Flats and Sunshine State — two very different books that added so much to the fun of my Florida vacation this year.

— Kathy

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Kathy’s book-home away from home.


grishameventLove living in a literary city? Don’t take it for granted! Help fund the important work of Humanities Tennessee (ie, Chapter 16, the Southern Festival of Books, Salon@615, and more) — and meet the legend of legal fiction, John Grisham. On Thursday, June 22, Grisham will be here at Parnassus for a very special reception and signing of his new book, Camino Island. (It’s a two-part event, with the book signing taking place from 2-6 p.m., and the discussion from 6-7 p.m.) Tickets are $100 and include a copy of the book. Note: The signing line and Q&A are limited to just 200 ticket-holders, and tickets are going fast. Get yours — and more details — here.

Meanwhile: Don’t miss A Word on Words on Nashville Public Television (and online!). New interviews feature John Hart, Megan Abbott, Robert Hicks, and Yaa Gyasi — with more coming up this weekend! #keepreading

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Want more? As always, you can find more reading recommendations in our Bookmark column in the latest issue of Nashville Arts Magazine — grab a copy here in the store or around Nashville.

THANK YOU to everyone who came out to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day with us last weekend. We LOVE being a part of this literary community and we’re so grateful for your support! (And speaking of thanks, we appreciate being named one of the Best Bookstores in All 50 States by BookRiot!)

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And finally: #WheresPeggy? Come get food for your mind and soul from our version of a food-truck, Peggy the Parnassus on Wheels bookmobile! Find her at your favorite weekend gathering spots:

Saturday, May 6 – 10am-6pm: Sevier Park Festival (3021 Lealand Ln, 37204)
Sunday, May 7 – 12-4pm: 1st Sundays at the Shops at Porter East
(723 Porter Rd, 37206)
Saturday, May 13 – 8am-12pm: Nolensville Farmers’ Market
(7248 Nolensville Rd, 37135)
Sunday, May 14 – 11am-5pm: The Sunday Market @ The Factory at Franklin
(230 Franklin Rd, 37064)