27 Books Perfect for Summer

FullSizeRender 297

Every month, our booksellers get into a heated (in a friendly way) discussion about who loves which book the most and who gets to claim it as a staff-pick on the front shelf. These are our latest summer-reading favorites, and they’re as hot (in a fun and interesting way) as July in Tennessee.

A mix of brand-new hardcovers, fresh paperback releases, and a few not-new-but-still-fabulous books our booksellers have discovered in their reading time:

Recommended by Ann

Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America Cover ImageGrocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America 

Feeling freaked out by Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods? Curious about how grocery stores work and why there are 500 different kinds of breakfast cereal? Michael Rulhman is smart, charming, and thorough. This is a man who LOVES grocery shopping and cooking, so it can also be read as a fantasy.

Recommended by Ann

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride Cover ImageAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride 

I read it because I was asked to interview Elwes after a showing of The Princess Bride at TPAC. Reading the book and then watching the movie immediately after was like sticking a piece of French bread in a jar of Nutella. It’s awfully fun if you happen to be into The Princess Bride.

Recommended by Karen

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate Cover ImageAl Franken, Giant of the Senate 

This memoir chronicles Franken’s life leading up to and including his work as a US Senator. Impressively, he has managed to keep his sense of humor intact during trying political times. Franken is the kind of plain-spoken celebrity who should hold public office.

Recommended by Sissy

The Reason You're Alive Cover ImageThe Reason You’re Alive 

Think about someone in your family whose politics and biases make your blood boil. Then think about what it would take to love them (and actually understand them). This book is a hilarious study in compassion.

(Come see Matthew Quick when he visit Parnassus on Thursday, July 20, for a book signing and discussion.)

Recommended by Sissy

We Are Unprepared: A Gripping Domestic Drama Cover ImageWe Are Unprepared: A Gripping Domestic Drama 

Hipster couple moves to Vermont seeking “authenticity.” Then global warming unleashes the mother of all storms. A bit funny and REALLY suspenseful.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Harmless Like You Cover ImageHarmless Like You

Buchanan’s writing is so crisp and entertaining right from page one. With its parallel stories — a young woman coming of age in the 1960s and ’70s in New York, and a young man in the present day searching for his mysteriously absent mother — this novel would make an interesting comparison/contrast to Lisa Ko’s The Leavers (which is also excellent).

Recommended by Mary Laura

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.: Essays Cover ImageWe Are Never Meeting in Real Life: Essays 

Treat this chatty, yet sometimes surprisingly poignant, memoir the way you would a book by Jenny Lawson. Keep it nearby and open it up to read a chapter at a time whenever you need a big, bawdy laugh.

Recommended by Catherine

Flesh and Bone and Water Cover ImageFlesh and Bone and Water

I love a good debut in the summer! Set in Rio de Janeiro and London, Luiza Sauma’s novel captures the tension that simmers when you revisit a past you thought was forgotten. I loved how vivid the places and characters were in this book.

Recommended by Kathy

The Marsh King's Daughter Cover ImageThe Marsh King’s Daughter

Want to feel the pull of an eerie, well-written thriller? This is it!

(See more below in Kathy’s book club report.)

Recommended by Sarah

Vacation Guide to the Solar System: Science for the Savvy Space Traveler! Cover ImageVacation Guide to the Solar System: Science for the Savvy Space Traveler! 

Have you ever wondered what’s the difference between walking on the moon and moonwalking on Earth? You can find out on page 45! This quirky book takes you on a journey through our solar system and what you can expect along the way, combining fun hypotheticals and real scientific facts.

Recommended by Peter

Jesus' Son Cover ImageJesus’ Son

This past May, America lost one of its most brilliant chroniclers of modern neurosis. Read this short story collection to experience the brunt of his genius and examine yourself in the process.

Recommended by Niki

The People We Hate at the Wedding Cover ImageThe People We Hate at the Wedding

A funny, irreverent look at a hilariously dysfunctional family’s grapplings with an upcoming wedding. Perfect to read on a beach with a cocktail in hand!

Recommended by Rae Ann

Sullivan's Island: A Lowcountry Tale Cover ImageSullivan’s Island: A Lowcountry Tale

Full of Southern humor, this witty paperback is perfect for a coastal vacation or lunch-at-your-desk reading.

Recommended by John

Homesick for Another World: Stories Cover ImageHomesick for Another World: Stories 

Many authors like their characters to be evasive, masking their thoughts and motives. Ottessa Moshfegh does not play this game. Her characters—frequently pathetic, cold, unfiltered and all the more memorable—exist on their own terms. Not a single story in Homesick for Another World is less than wildly original. Ottessa Moshfegh is a star. Keep your eye on her.

Recommended by Halley

Broken River Cover ImageBroken River 

Don’t be fooled by the cover: Broken River is a dark, literary thriller. This novel will stay with you — the masterful narrative conscience and brilliant prose are unshakable.

Recommended by Katherine

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness Cover ImageBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness 

Susannah Cahalan was a 24-year-old reporter in New York when her brain was attacked by a rare autoimmune disease. Her resulting descent into madness — and, luckily, diagnosis — reads like a thriller mixed with long-form journalism.

Recommended by Keltie

We Come to Our Senses: Stories Cover ImageWe Come to Our Senses: Stories 

As a former Army wife (recovering Army wife?), I found these stories spoke to me more than a lot of other contemporary military writing I’ve read. They reflected what I know to be true: that wars also have casualties not obvious to the eye. (Available in hardcover now, in paperback later this month.)

Recommended by Keltie

Dear Mr. You Cover ImageDear Mr. You 

Yea, admitttedly, I adored Parker on The West Wing — but this sweet and short memoir will make you cheer and tear no matter where you stand on the Best TV Show Ever. Every woman can relate to the love letters we write (or don’t) to the ones we loved and the ones who broke our hearts.

Recommended by River

Beautiful Ruins Cover ImageBeautiful Ruins 

My favorite poolside/beach-side, page-turning, up-all-night summer paperback. Moving, surprising, original — and often downright brilliant. I could not put it down! If you’ve never read it, now’s the time.

Recommended by River

City of Women Cover ImageCity of Women 

I loved this WWII novel that Stephen King recommended this way: “Sigrid is seduced by two very different men (the sex in this book is hot-hot-hot), but the real seduction involves her reluctant participation in a scheme to ferry Jews to safety. You haven’t experienced such gray skies since season 1 of The Killing, but the feel is all Casablanca.” ( I couldn’t put it better!)

Recommended by Andy

Island Home: A Landscape Memoir Cover ImageIsland Home: A Landscape Memoir 

Winton’s love of Australia is evident throughout what he calls “a landscape memoir.” He is one of that country’s best authors, and this book illustrates how his homeland sustained him and made him the writer he is.

Recommended by Andy

The Outer Beach: A Thousand-Mile Walk on Cape Cod's Atlantic Shore Cover ImageThe Outer Beach: A Thousand-Mile Walk on Cape Cod’s Atlantic Shore 

Finch shares his recollections of more than 50 years walking Cape Cod’s coastline. His writing is full of salt air, sand, seagulls — and a few people — in its depiction of the constant battle between land and sea.

Headed out for vacation, or don’t live in Nashville? Just click any title in this list to order. We’d be happy to make you a bag of books to pick up on your way out of town — or ship to wherever you are!

The First Editions Club: July Selection


I find it unendingly interesting to see how people deal with something we all have — human bodies. In literature, there are myriad fascinating accounts in which people have processed their experiences and their twisting journeys of self-worth: how bodies look, how we feel about them, how other people react to them, and how our thoughts about bodies impact our culture. I would rank Roxane Gay’s work among the best, and I am so happy to send you her new book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.

For those of you who had the pleasure of reading her essay collection Bad Feminist (which I strongly believe has one of the best titles in recent publishing history), then you know that Gay writes with a truthfulness that gets at the soul of the issue at hand and a dedication to fully exploring her ideas. Hunger is a bit different from her previous books; it is more raw, more brutal. At times, it shows us pain we might prefer to look away from. But it also reveals a sense of pride in enduring and living — something that turns all that pain if not to joy, then at least into something bittersweet. And to me, that is more honest than the happily-ever-afters you see in triumphant weight loss headlines and promises of a get-thin-quick diet.

Immerse yourself in the lived experience of someone else, and see everyone around you differently when you’re finished.

Yours in reading,
Catherine Bock
Special Sales and Office Manager, Parnassus Books

“It’s All About the Book”

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

Think of a show you’ve “binge-watched.” My husband and I, for example, have been a long time coming down from watching Friday Night Lights. We finished the five-season series in under two months. Of course, book-lovers that we are, we found ourselves discussing the classic elements of fiction in the show as we viewed: setting, characters, plot, tone, and theme. They worked together to propel us forward, compelling us to keep watching.

Those elements are also what make a great novel and a satisfying discussion. After all, isn’t that exactly what we look for in a book club selection? We all want a book that feels like “binge reading” — that is, a book we can’t put down, that pulls us back in and makes us want to ignore everything else and keep reading. Here are some I’ve felt that way about recently:

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 10.59.44 AMInto the Water by Paula Hawkins
This is a novel of secrets that leaves the reader constantly guessing as to which of its multiple narrators is telling the truth, and which is lying. Over the years, several women have ended up dead in the river near a small British town. People have assumed suicide as the cause, but two new deaths have cast doubt on this old assumption, and fear now grips the area. It’s different from The Girl on the Train, but it nonetheless provides the similar suspense that Paula Hawkins delivers so well.

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
See my staff pick above. Called “a psychological thriller of the highest order,” this novel tells the story of a woman hunting down the father who raised her, after he escapes from prison. Using the survival skills he taught her as a youngster, she tracks him through the wilds of the Upper Michigan Peninsula, all the while trying to understand the bizarre life he forced on her and her mother. Will Helena be able to exact her revenge? Suspense!

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne DuMaurier
Is Rachel, the mysterious recent widow of Philip Ashley’s beloved cousin, out to destroy Philip or to woo him and his fortune? Did the beloved cousin die of an illness or was his death really by nefarious means involving Rachel? These questions drive this tale of passion, love, and mystery set on a Cornwall estate, in a splendidly written gothic romance just as compelling as DuMaurier’s Rebecca.

The After Party by Anton DiSclafani
The glitter and glitz of the 1950s Houston oil-and-money set provide the backdrop to this story of female friendship. Two girls from prominent families grow up inseparable, yet as they reach their teenage years the relationship changes in ways one friend does not foresee. A secret drives the narrative, and the period details are just right, really making you feel as if you’re there.

Give any of these “binge reads” a try, and I think you’ll be eager to discuss them with your book club!

— Kathy

Parnassus Book Club

9780399573187July — 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

August — The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Monday, August 14 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, August 16 at 6:30pm
Thursday, August 17 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!

FullSizeRender 2.jpg

What would Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers look like with a banjo for a head? (See above for the answer.) Renowned photo-journalist Michael Weintrob brought together more than 500 musicians from across the globe for this unprecedented project. INSTRUMENTHEAD is now an installation on our store stage *and* a gorgeous fine art book. Meet Weintrob here at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 9, for exciting program moderated by award-winning Nashville writer Craig Havighurst, including local musicians featured in the book (Jeff Coffin, Dave Pomeroy and more), who will perform live. And keep an eye on our events calendar for more great in-store happenings!

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

#WheresPeggy? Pegasus (“Peggy” to her friends), the Parnassus on Wheels bookmobile, is hitting all your favorite summer stops. Keep tabs on the rolling bookshop by following her dedicated Twitter.

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 12.34.39 PM
Look closely: that’s Leonard, occasional roving canine bookseller, behind the wheel. Beep beep, Leonard, back in the passenger’s seat please.