Books We Love So Much, We’re Reading Them in Our Off-Time

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Want to know what the bookworms of Parnassus are reading and loving in their spare time? We’ll open up our book-bags and show you — right here:

(Click any title to get your own copy and read along with us!)

Recommended by Ann

33155774Do Not Become Alarmed

I’m pretty sure that what Maile has written is a blockbuster, a bestseller, the hot book of summer. Do Not Become Alarmed is too well-written to be written off as a mere thriller, and yet it’s undeniably thrilling.

(Read more of Ann’s thoughts on Do Not Become Alarmed in her latest blog post, and see below for your chance to get a signed first edition!)

Recommended by Ann

Chemistry Cover ImageChemistry

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.

(Bonus: Read more from Ann, plus five other novelists who own bookstores, in The New York Times!)

Recommended by Karen

Mozart's Starling Cover ImageMozart’s Starling

This charming book, written by a naturalist and musician, reveals the finer qualities of a bird considered by many to be the avian equivalent of an invasive species. True story: Mozart adopted and fell in love with a starling that could mimic his complex concertos. This book is the perfect mix of history and tribute to a misunderstood bird.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) Cover ImageTheft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)

Will there ever come a time when we say, “That’s it, we’ve had enough Sedaris now”? Nope. Never. Behold the glory of his collected journals . . . volume one. (Yes, that means we can look forward to a volume two!)

Note: The seated and standing-room tickets for the evening with David Sedaris on June 9 are sold out, but you can still get signing-line tickets for after his speaking event. He will stay and sign books as looooooong as it takes. Get your signing line ticket and more details here.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Woman No. 17 Cover ImageWoman No. 17

If you like your characters conflicted and not always well-behaved, this one’s for you. Ideal for anyone who liked The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. Read more about it here — and come pick up (or order) a signed copy while they last!

Recommended by Niki

Extraordinary Adventures Cover ImageExtraordinary Adventures

I love fiction that is quirky, funny, and smart. Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish, has hit that nail on the head with this delightful story of a man whose whole life is shaken up when he wins a weekend at a timeshare. Perfect for readers who loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

(Read Daniel Wallace’s interview with fellow author Grant Ginder.)

Recommended by Sissy

Based on a True Story Cover ImageBased on a True Story

A psychological thriller about a strange relationship between two writers. Imagine Stephen King’s Misery (but more literary, less campy), set in Paris.

Recommended by Kathy

Miss Burma Cover ImageMiss Burma

The love story of a Jewish man and a woman from the ethnic group called the Karen in Burma during the turbulent WWII years when each were persecuted minorities. Based on the author’s own grandparents and mother, this is a fascinating tale of love, war, and struggle.

Recommended by Sarah

The Kite Runner Cover ImageThe Kite Runner

For every reluctant, teenaged summer reader (or any adult who hasn’t read it). Don’t let them skip over this thought-provoking modern classic.

Recommended by Heidi

Lives of the Monster Dogs Cover ImageLives of the Monster Dogs 

This book has been haunting me for 15 years. When a pack of genetically modified, talking dogs shows up in New York City after generations of covert experimentation, they become overnight celebrities, and Vanity Fair hires a young writer to interview them. Rather than spelling out every detail of the dogs’ mysterious past, author Kirsten Bakis leaves shadows lurking everywhere, pulling both readers and narrator into the strange undertow of a current we can’t quite name, wandering a forest we can never fully map. Unforgettable.

Recommended by Andy

All the President's Men Cover ImageAll the President’s Men 

What were you doing the summer of ’73? America was watching the Watergate hearings. This is the story of Woodward and Bernstein’s dogged pursuit of the truth and the Senate Committee’s (led by Sam Ervin and Howard Baker) inquiry into “What did the President know and when did he know it?” A history lesson worth reviewing.

Recommended by Devin

The Reminders Cover ImageThe Reminders

I adored the unlikely friendship between Gavin and Joan. The former is a 30-something television actor, and the latter is a 10-year-old who remembers every detail of every day perfectly, which comes into play when Joan recounts to Gavin the occasions she came into contact with his late partner. This endearing and heartwarming novel will appeal to fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time.

Recommended by Peter

The Shell Collector: Stories Cover ImageThe Shell Collector: Stories

Did you enjoy All The Light We Cannot See but leave it wondering whether Doerr’s lush lyricism was a one-time thing? Wonder no more. His debut short story collection — the one that got him tagged as a “writer to watch” years ago and which is still available in paperback —  is brilliant. The standouts are the title story, about a blind conchologist, and “The Caretaker,” about a Liberian refugee who befriends a blind girl through his garden tending. Each sentence is in each story is like music.

Recommended by Catherine

The Bones of Paradise Cover ImageThe Bones of Paradise

Set in the Sandhills of Nebraska in the years following the massacre at Wounded Knee, this haunting novel follows Dulcinea and Rose as they navigate the future they are thrust into following the murder of Dulcinea’s husband and Rose’s sister. I loved the dark, brooding feel of Agee’s writing and the desolation and tenderness of the American West.

 Recommended by Mary Laura

Sycamore Cover ImageSycamore

Eighteen years before this novel starts, high school junior Jess Winters went missing. Did she run away, or was she killed? A slow-burn of a disappearance story that’s perfect for a few long sittings on the beach or a couple nights of staying up way past bedtime. Beautiful writing and a carefully constructed mystery take this a notch above your typical summer read.

Recommended by Cameron

Dragon Teeth Cover ImageDragon Teeth

This book was found in Crichton’s files by one of this family members after he died. It’s about a mission to find dinosaur bones in the Wild West, set in the late 1800s. If you liked other Michael Crichton books, you’ll like this one. It’s a great vacation book.

Recommended by Keltie

Personal History Cover ImagePersonal History

My favorite biography of all time — and it couldn’t be more timely now. Newspaper owners who love journalists (in this case, Woodward and Bernstein) and NEWS take the cake. I love stories about women who just had to show up and kick ass when it mattered. Plus, you just have to love the woman who Nixon said was “gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer.” Nevertheless, she persisted.

Recommended by Halley

Isadora Cover ImageIsadora

Isadora is a masterpiece. Sitting down to read this novel, based on the tragic life of Isadora Duncan, is like diving into a deep well with no bottom. I have never encountered a work of historical fiction that is so inventive. It’s hard to believe Amelia wasn’t alive then, watching Isadora’s every move and recording her thoughts.

(Don’t miss Halley’s interview with author Amelia Gray.)

Recommended by Mary Laura

The Hopefuls Cover ImageThe Hopefuls

I recommended this in hardcover last summer, when the world was a different place. This month it’s out in paperback, and it’s still a really fun DC insider’s tale (even if the very concept of political dramedy has evolved wildly in real life). A delightful summer read for fans of Veep and House of Cards.

(Come meet author Jennifer Close when she visits Parnassus on Tuesday, June 27!)

Recommended by River

Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy Cover ImageHallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy

For fans of Anne Lamott’s real-life spirituality, her latest is a must-have, must-read. I don’t know of another writer who is more honest and transparent about their faith while remaining relevant to today’s culture.

Recommended by Grace

The Essex Serpent Cover ImageThe Essex Serpent

Already a beloved book in the UK, The Essex Serpent is as gorgeous and complex as its cover. The narrative subtly blends together a rich cast of characters and manages to feel familiar even as it travels down unexpected paths.

A few that made us think of dads (and Fathers Day) . . .
Recommended by Katherine

Mark Twain's America: A Celebration in Words and Images Cover ImageMark Twain’s America: A Celebration in Words and Images

A perfect gift for anyone who loves presidential biographies and Ken Burns documentaries. (Father’s Day, perhaps?) Put together by the Library of Congress, this breathtakingly detailed and entertaining book full of American history, shown through the lens of one of its greatest icons, is perfect for any coffee table.

Recommended by River

The Road Cover ImageThe Road

Dark, violent, and beautifully written, this story of a father’s love that prevails against all odds in a dystopian world is breathtakingly unforgettable. If you missed this classic before, pick it up now.

Recommended by Keltie

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill Cover ImageHero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill

History nerds unite! My dad introduced me to Churchill at a young age. Get this for any history-lovin’ dad for Fathers Day — it’s an unexpected take on Churchill’s early ambition and devotion to country.

Recommended by John

Wintering Cover ImageWintering

One morning an elderly Harry Eide disappears into the brutal Minnesota winter, leaving behind a turbulent family history. It is not the first time Harry has left, however: 30 years before, he fled his broken marriage with his 18-year-old son. Drawing comparisons to McCarthian literary thrillers and Faulknerian blood-feuds, Wintering has launched Peter Geye into the likes of these American giants and is a perfect Father’s Day gift for the outdoor dad.

 Watch for a list of more Father’s Day gift ideas next week on Musing!

The First Editions Club: June Selection

33155774Do Not Become Alarmed

One minute, two families are basking in the warmth of a shared tropical vacation. The next, every parent’s worst nightmare has come true: their four children have vanished.

Versatile storyteller Maile Meloy (Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It; Liars and Saints) dials the tension all the way up in this literary thriller. You’ll be breathlessly turning pages to find out what happens, but you’ll keep thinking long after you close the book, too, because Meloy takes the disappearance drama in surprising directions. She alternates narrators — telling the story from the perspective of the different adults and children and letting her focus linger on each person long enough to make the unimaginable concretely imaginable. As the international cast of characters collide, questions of privilege and prejudice percolate as well. You can’t help but ask yourself, “What would I do in that situation? What would I say to that person?” as you contemplate how even the closest relationships can bend or break in a crisis.

Fair warning: Despite the title’s instructions, you will probably become alarmed. Go with that feeling. See where it takes you.

Yours in Reading,
Mary Laura Philpott
Editor of Musing

“It’s All About the Book”

More thoughts on reading from Kathy Schultenover, Parnassus Book Clubs Manager:

A few years ago, many of us at Parnassus Books were reading and raving about J. Courtney Sullivan’s book Maine. It concerns an elderly mother wanting to sell the family beach house and the reactions of her adult family members to this news. On a last stay at the cottage, the women of the Kelleher clan recall and reinterpret their memories of a lifetime of summers spent there. The book delves into the backstories of 83-year-old Alice; her unmarried adult granddaughter, Maggie, who shows up pregnant; Maggie’s mother Kathleen, the black sheep of the family; and Ann Marie, the daughter-in-law whose marriage to Alice’s son might be only a façade of perfection. They all grapple with Alice’s decision and with each other in this month-long farewell to the family place.

9780307959577.jpgCourtney Sullivan’s latest book, Saints for All Occasions, was just deemed “the year’s best book about family” in The Washington Post by Ron Charles, who called it “a quiet masterpiece.” It tells the story of two young sisters who come over from Ireland in the 1950s to start their lives as Americans. Nora is engaged to a man she isn’t sure that she loves; Theresa is only 17, gregarious and eager for fun. Their futures will turn on a secret they both decide to keep. The next 50 years of these women’s lives are told in flashbacks as we learn what has motivated each of them for a lifetime.

The author, having grown up in an Irish Catholic family, knows this milieu. Details such as the table of holy cards, the women’s hair coverings for church, fish every Friday, the grates that hide cloistered nuns, and the rustle of their habits and rosary beads all recall my own Catholic girlhood. Nora’s and Teresa’s stories put me in mind of my own grandmother and her four daughters (one of them my mother), second and third generation Irish Catholics, and how that heritage shaped their lives and indeed, my own. So many lines resonated with me, including these: “The moment a woman was born determined so much of who she was allowed to become,” and, “Taken together, the small choices anyone made added up to a life.” I loved this book as much as I did Maine.

Courtney Sullivan has shown herself to be a master of the family story. Both books would make wonderful summer (or anytime) reads, and great book club choices.

— Kathy

Parnassus Book Club

9780062277039_p0_v4_s192x300JuneLaRose by Louise Erdrich
Monday, June 19 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, June 21 at 6:30pm
Thursday, June 22 at 10am

July — The After Party by Anton DiSclafani
Monday, July 17 at 6:30pm — Join us for an author-led discussion!
Wednesday, July 19 at 6:30pm
Thursday, July 20 at 10am

Classics Club — My Cousin Rachel by Daphne DuMaurier
Monday, July 24 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!

DAyBjvuXYAAP99bThe Sewanee Review is new! Have you seen the latest issue? Let us know if you’d like us to set aside a copy for you. (And don’t miss the profile in The New York Times: “New Life for a 125-Year-Old Literary Journal“.)

As always, don’t miss our monthly roundup of great reads in the Bookmark column of Nashville Arts Magazine.

#WheresPeggy? Pegasus, the Parnassus on Wheels bookmobile, is rolling through town this summer. Catch her at these upcoming stops:

June 16-18 — American Artisan Festival at Centennial Park
2500 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203

June 22, 4-7pm — Book Launch with Kristin O’Donnell Tubb for A Dog Like Daisy
The Kings’ Chapel Neighborhood Clubhouse
4980 Meadowbrook Blvd., Arrington, TN 37014
Including special guests Courtney Stevens, CJ Redwine, Mary Uhles, Susan Eaddy, Jessica Young, Andrew Maraniss, Jeff Zentner, Alisha Klapheke . . . and more to come!

June 24-25 — Nashville Pride at Public Square Park
3rd Ave & Union