Fall’s Big Books Are Starting to Arrive (And You’re Going to Love Them)


Hellooooo, September. Just as fashion-lovers grab the giant new issue of Vogue and give their closets an overhaul at this time each year, book-lovers know it’s time to clear off some space and give the bookshelves a makeover. Here are the new fiction and nonfiction titles we’re wild about right now — plus a few we’re just getting around to that absolutely deserve a mention. 

Have a look — and let us know: what are YOU reading? Chime in on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Recommended by Ann

Read about Ann’s recent raves in her blog:

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Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

And some phenomenal paperback titles by authors of upcoming hardcover releases!

Recommended by Halley

My Absolute Darling Cover ImageMy Absolute Darling

Don’t be scared off by warnings that this book is harrowing and heartbreaking. You need to have your heart broken by this novel, then stitched back together a stronger muscle. My Absolute Darling will leave you breathless, white-knuckled, and rooting for the protagonist with your heart full of fire. The language is so visceral you will find yourself feeling what the characters feel, looking up and for a moment seeing their world around you, not yours. This is the novel you’ll attempt to savor but end up speeding through, that you’ll push into other people’s hands.

(My Absolute Darling is the #1 IndieNext pick of September! That means it’s the most-recommended book by independent booksellers across the country.)

Recommended by Halley

The Burning Girl Cover ImageThe Burning Girl

Claire Messud has hypnotized me. The Burning Girl is a haunting portrait of adolescence, friendship, and identity that resonates beyond the scope of the story itself, built impeccably on language that stuns. It’s as though Messud is whispering the story directly into your ear and you won’t dare to pull away, not even for a moment.

Recommended by Sissy

Motherest Cover ImageMotherest

Alone in a crowd in college, 1993: The sly humor really grabbed me in this touching story of a girl raising herself.

Recommended by Sissy

The Heart's Invisible Furies Cover ImageThe Heart’s Invisible Furies

This novel immediately transported me back 25 years, making me feel like I did when I read John Irving for the first time.

(Note: So many booksellers at Parnassus loved this book that we drew straws to see who got to claim it on the staff picks shelf. Catherine, Mary Laura, Keltie, and Kathy join Sissy in heartily recommending this one.)

Recommended by Mary Laura

Stay with Me Cover ImageStay with Me

This jewel of a book packs love, loss, and heart-stopping drama into just 260 pages, and it’s one of my favorite books of 2017. Adebayo studied with both Margaret Atwood and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, but in her debut novel she reveals her own unique voice and style.

(Read more about this breakout novel and its author here.)

Recommended by Mary Laura

The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and the Year That Changed Literature Cover ImageThe World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and the Year That Changed Literature 

One year: 1922. Four writers: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, and D. H. Lawrence. This new book about the birth of modernism belongs on English professors’ radar (and will appeal to any English major who secretly enjoyed reading literary histories). This is nonfiction, but I’m recommending it up here in the fiction section because it makes a great read-along to any book by Woolf, Eliot, Forster, or Lawrence. Or pair it with Priya Parmar’s Vanessa and Her Sister, below:

Vanessa and Her Sister Cover ImageVanessa and Her Sister 

Historical fiction in the vein of Circling the Sun and Loving Frank, this juicy tale of the loves, grudges, and jealousies between two sisters came out a few years ago but pairs nicely with the new nonfiction book The World Broke In Two. It imagines what the life of Virginia Woolf looked like to her sister, Vanessa Bell, and features many of their famous artistic contemporaries from the “Bloomsbury Group.”

Recommended by Keltie

The Wonder Cover ImageThe Wonder 

If you just love a tiny gem of a historical novel (think Geraldine Brooks), and a bit of magical storytelling, plus some good old-fashioned Irish melancholy, pick this up. Now available in paperback!

Recommended by Kathy

Beautiful Animals Cover ImageBeautiful Animals

A Mediterranean vacation takes a terrifying turn for two young women when they befriend a young Syrian refugee. A gripping, un-put-down-able story.

Recommended by River

A Boy in Winter Cover ImageA Boy in Winter

From the opening pages my heart was captivated by a story that should be an old one but is as fresh and relevant as the daily news. Beautifully and painfully rendered, A Boy In Winter reminds us of the power of choice and the value of hope.

Recommended by River

The Hidden Light of Northern Fires Cover ImageThe Hidden Light of Northern Fires

Lovers of historical fiction will adore Daran Wang’s debut novel set during the American Civil War and discover why Kirkus Reviews calls it “a vivid, compelling portrayal of the heartbreaking price exacted for freedom.”

Recommended by Catherine

Music of the Ghosts Cover ImageMusic of the Ghosts 

For anyone who still can’t get over how beautiful and haunting Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan was, this is your next must-read. Set in Cambodia during and after the Khmer Rouge, it’s a devastating and touching story of family.

Recommended by Devin

Hum If You Don't Know the Words Cover ImageHum If You Don’t Know the Words

Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman, and Robin Conrad, a nine-year-old white girl, are brought together from worlds apart in the same country of South Africa during Apartheid. In a story told through alternating perspectives, the women of Hum if You Don’t Know the Words are faced with love, loss, despair, and hope.

Recommended by Karen

The Silkworm Cover ImageThe Silkworm

OK, OK . . . I know I’m really late to the game on this. Like most people I devoured the Harry Potter books as each one was published. Like those, this pseudonymously written mystery is also populated with great characters and is a pleasure to read. And now I have two more in the series ready for me to enjoy!

Recommended by Kevin

The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi) a Novel Cover ImageThe Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi) a Novel (Paperback)

Hesse’s well-known Siddhartha is so often required reading in high school for a reason – few authors have explored the pursuits of Buddhism in a narrative of clearer or more beautiful prose. In the novel, Hesse’s last, a young man seeks fulfillment in the ranks of a cultish academia, who play a strange, sanctified game – and in the process digs deeply into the intersection between Eastern philosophy and – quite literally – the entirety of Western culture. Bonus: it was banned by the Nazi party. You know it’s good if it was banned by the Nazis.

Nonfiction Selections
Recommended by Sissy

We Are All Shipwrecks: A Memoir Cover ImageWe Are All Shipwrecks: A Memoir

Another gorgeous memoir from a Sewanee graduate. If I told you it was about a murder, a porn shop, and a boat you wouldn’t believe me, so you’ll have to just trust me and read it.

Recommended by Keltie

Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook Cover ImageComing to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook

The truth is, I am such an unabashed Alice Waters fan that she probably could have written utter drivel and I still would have eaten it up (pun intended). But this book is so sweet and humble and beautiful that I now love her even more.

Recommended by Catherine

Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History's Most Iconic Extinct Creatures Cover ImageWoolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures 

This is popular science writing at its finest. The world of woolly mammoths (and a host of other extinct animals) is not as far away as we might think.

Recommended by Andy

Rogue Heroes: The History of the SAS, Britain's Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War Cover ImageRogue Heroes: The History of the SAS, Britain’s Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War 

A compelling narrative written with a flair normally found in novels: During WW II, British Lt. David Sterling assembled a collection of misfits who could not conform to military standards to form the Special Air Service — or SAS. Macintyre combed the SAS archives to uncover the heroic efforts of these “Rogue Heroes” as they carried out sabotage behind enemy lines and helped change the course of the war.

Recommended by Tristan

The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage Cover Image

The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage 

In the not-so-distant past, back when Trump started leading the 2016 Republican primary field, many people were (mercifully) stumped as to who his supporters were. A major breakthrough came that summer, when Sexton’s live-tweeting of the vitriol and racism on display at a South Carolina rally lifted the veil and allowed us to see just who was so excited to elect Donald Trump. Jared’s book on the rage that propelled Trump to victory, and the rage that erupted between Bernie and Hillary voters and subsequently tanked the modern Democratic Party, is not only the story of 2016, but the story of America’s long and inexorable fall away from all the principles it presumed to espouse.

Recommended by Tristan

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land Cover ImageAmerican Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land

In 2012, Virginia’s Accomack County saw more than sixty arsons in a matter of months. The arsonist targeted abandoned buildings, husks of Accomack’s happier past as one of the richest rural counties in the nation. This story of the county, and of the arsonist, is told with depth and compassion, making this a riveting treatment of 21st century America.

Recommended by Stephanie

Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children's Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books Cover ImageWas the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books

If you are a parent or you work with young people in any capacity, this is perhaps the most important book you could read this year. In clear, methodical prose, Nel unmasks and makes explicit the overwhelming whiteness of beloved classics, suggests how we can balance our affection for our favorites while addressing their problematic elements, and lays the groundwork for how a more diverse world of children’s literature could be achieved. This is a brilliant and vital read.


The First Editions Club: September Selection

Sing, Unburied, Sing Cover ImageSing, Unburied, Sing 

How do we begin to describe a book as memorable, as devastating, and as beautifully crafted as Sing, Unburied, Sing? So many of our booksellers at Parnassus — not to mention critics and fellow writers — have been rendered almost speechless by this story. Maybe all we should say is that when you hold this novel in your hands you are holding masterpiece.

But if we were to say more, we’d tell you a bit about the people in it: Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Their father is in prison. Their mother, Leonie, struggles with addiction. Elements of the other-worldly appear in the form of Leonie’s drug-fueled visions of her dead brother. When Jojo and Kayla’s father is released from the infamous Parchman prison, Leonie packs them up and takes them on a harrowing road trip to retrieve him.

Set aside some time to read in your favorite chair, maybe with a mug of tea but with no interruptions. You’ll want to steep yourself in Jesmyn Ward’s words and fully absorb what she has created.

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:

Screen Shot 2017-09-03 at 2.06.45 PMRecently I hosted the fourth annual book club seminar at Parnassus Books — actually the 18th one I’ve done if you include my years at Davis-Kidd Booksellers. In these workshops, I have covered a variety of topics of interest to book groups ranging from how to make great book selections to how to troubleshoot problems. In this year’s get-together, I distributed a three-question survey to each participant. Here are some take-aways from the survey:

1,) Which book has generated the best discussion for your group over the past year? (This may or may not be your favorite book!)
Books mentioned repeatedly were: Our Souls at Night, Commonwealth, A Man Called Ove, A Gentleman In Moscow, The Nest, All the Light We Cannot See, and The Nightingale.

2.) What do you see as the best thing about your book club, its greatest strength?
Many people mentioned the intelligence of their members and how their various backgrounds and points of view enhanced discussions. They also liked how book club gave them the opportunity to read books they might not read otherwise.

3) What (if any) problems exist in your club?
People cited (in no particular order) challenged such as:
– Overly dominant members: those who interrupt and talk over others; those who tend to dominate the discussion every time; and those who drink too much wine and talk and talk and talk and talk…
– When politics is injected into the discourse and divides the group
– Veering “off-topic” from book discussion into personal subjects
– Difficulty choosing books
– How to deal with members who don’t want to read books that are dark, gritty, or sad, or who shy away from challenging, deeper reads
– Attendance issues — people not showing up for meetings
– When people don’t read the book yet feel free to enter into the discussion
– People who want to socialize instead of talk about the book
– How to mix up the club, particularly how to get more men in the group

What would happen if your book club answered those questions? Consider having your members fill out the survey and then discuss your responses together. You might find that opening up to each other about what works and doesn’t work makes your club better and stronger than ever!

— Kathy

Parnassus Book Club


FC9780062409218.jpgSeptember — News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Monday, September 18 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, September 20 at 6:30pm
Thursday, September 21 at 10am

Classics Club — The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
Tuesday, September 26 at 10am and 6:30pm

                Monday, October 9 at 6:30pm
                Wednesday, October 11 at 6:30pm
                Thursday, October 12 at 10am
                *Note: this is one week earlier than usual.

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!

Speaking of books and bookstores . . . 

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The American Booksellers Association posted the name of every indie bookstore in the United States on this fabulous sign at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC, last week. (And this is just a partial view!) Seeing this gets us excited about the Southern Festival of Books, coming up here in Nashville in just over a month: Oct. 13-15, 2017!

Also: Don’t miss this lovely essay by Rebecca Fitting of Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY, all about the role of bookstores and booksellers in uncertain times.

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Did you hear the news? Parnassus Books is in the Nashville airport!

PS: There’s a new shop dog in training. Meet Frankie:Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.05.01 AM.png