The BIG 2017 Gift List! (Part I: For Grownups)

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If you want to feel some holiday spirit, pop into your nearest bookstore. It’s practically Santa’s workshop in here, as people browse the book tables with lists in hand, carefully choosing just the right book for each loved one. Among our favorite moments:

– When one member of a couple wanders to the other side of the store, surreptitiously pulls down a book and then sneaks it to a bookseller to have it wrapped for their significant other.
– When a grandmother sits down on our sofa and unfurls her two-foot-long list of grandchildren, annotated with their ages, likes, and dislikes. (We saw this exact thing happen the other day, and it was AMAZING.)
– When someone arrives at the register with two stacks of books: “for me” and “for them.” Hey, it still counts as a gift if you give it to yourself.

We hope you’ll stop by and let us help you select something perfect for everyone on your list. To get you started, here’s a list of our booksellers’ favorite gift recommendations:

For Animal-Lovers
Recommended by Ann

Endangered Cover ImageEndangered 

Give this book to everyone who likes animals, photography, or the planet. If you don’t know any people in those categories, avoid this book at all costs.

Recommended by Sissy

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.53.26 AMCritical Critters 

Steadman and Levi draw attention to endangered animals with humor and art. Know a conservationist? You’ve found the gift for them.

Recommended by Sissy

Ungrateful Mammals Cover ImageUngrateful Mammals 

Do you have a loved one with a bizarre sense of humor? Get that person this book.

Recommended by Grace

Treat! Cover ImageTreat! 

Give the gift of giggles this holiday season! Once you start turning pages you won’t be able to hold back your joy at seeing these pups in mid-treat poses. Shop dog-approved!

And don’t miss:

The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion--Surprising Observations of a Hidden World Cover ImageThe Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion–Surprising Observations of a Hidden World

For Fiction Readers
Recommended by Ann

Sing, Unburied, Sing Cover ImageSing, Unburied, Sing 

Winner of the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction! This is a beautifully written story of a family’s struggle through poverty, prison, and drugs, bound together by the tremendous protection of the love they feel for one another. If you’re lucky, you’ll come out of the experience with more compassion for the human condition. For people who want to be changed by what they read.

Recommended by Ella

Lincoln in the Bardo Cover ImageLincoln in the Bardo

A peculiar historical fiction book for readers who want to branch out. Also for anyone who reads the “best of the best” — this book won the 2017 Man Booker Prize!

Recommended by Mary Laura

Chemistry Cover ImageChemistry 

Weike Wang was named to the prestigious “5 Under 35” list of young authors honored by the National Book Foundation, and for good reason. You’ll fall in love with the unique narrative voice, dry humor, and emotional truth in this slim book. Give it to your type-A friends — they’ll relate.

Recommended by Kathy

Little Fires Everywhere Cover ImageLittle Fires Everywhere 

The picture-perfect Richardsons of Shaker Heights, Ohio, and the mother-daughter duo who upend their lives: these characters populate a novel perfect for the literary fiction fan who enjoys moral dilemmas.

Recommended by Catherine

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) Cover ImagePachinko

A finalist for the National Book Award, now in paperback just in time for the holidays! This family saga is perfect for the person who wants to WOW their book club.

Recommended by Catherine

American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West Cover ImageAmerican Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West 

Give this as necessary reading to the nature lover, environmentalist, or fan of wolves in your life. Or anyone interested in a good ol’ well-told story.

Recommended by Catherine

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 11.12.19 AMAll Our Wrong Todays 

The physical book is great; the audiobook is phenomenal. Perfect for the person who has a long drive home after the holidays. (Grab it on a CD or listen via the audiobook app — it’s easy and it supports indie bookstores!)

Recommended by Halley

Catalina Cover ImageCatalina

This novel is the perfect blend of witty, smart, unique AND under-the-radar — which makes it the perfect gift for your 20-something niece, nephew, wife, etc. who has read absolutely everything already. And it’s set in LA!

Recommended by Mary Laura

Artemis Cover ImageArtemis 

Give it to anyone who loved the The Martian (book or movie).

Recommended by John

Perfect Little World Cover ImagePerfect Little World 

Newly out in paperback! Full of Wilson’s trademark wit and dry sense of humor, Wilson’s follow-up to The Family Fang will simultaneously break your heart and make you laugh. With this fun balance, Perfect Little World makes a great gift for any member of the family — you can’t go wrong here.

Recommended by Grace

The Blinds Cover ImageThe Blinds 

For the adult in your life who has already finished season two of Stranger Things and loved Jim Hopper the most. A little more Western than ’80s nostalgia, this is a fabulous mystery for those who like a touch of strangeness in their stories. Something sinister is happening in The Blinds, but there is a good chance it was there from the very beginning.

Recommended by Stephanie

A Darker Shade of Magic Collector's Edition Cover ImageA Darker Shade of Magic Collector’s Edition

Do you enjoy swashbuckling? Thievery? Wit? Intrigue? Magic? Creeping darkness? Peculiar coats? If you answered yes to any of those questions, please do not leave this bookstore without a copy of this gorgeous collector’s edition of V.E. Schwab’s smashing first book in her Shades of London trilogy. If you answered no to any of those questions, please re-evaluate your life choices immediately.

Recommended by Grace

Old Man's War Cover ImageOld Man’s War 

No, it’s not new — but listen: this is a perfect stocking stuffer for sci-fi lovers of all kinds. This classic delivers a wonderful combination of charm and sharp, refreshing wit. Give the gift that keeps on giving: a love of John Scalzi’s work.

Recommended by Rae Ann

To Capture What We Cannot Keep Cover ImageTo Capture What We Cannot Keep 

For historical fiction readers who want to try a new time period, I love this novel centered around the construction of the Eiffel Tower. Now out in paperback!


For lots more fiction favorites, scroll through past issues of our Staff Picks column here on Musing Among our many best-loved literary fiction titles of 2017, you’ll find:

Know someone who loves a good mystery or thriller? They might enjoy these 2017 staff picks:

For the Home Chef
Recommended by Mary Laura

Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites Cover ImageSmitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites 

For your friend who likes to look at the delicious pictures more than she actually likes to cook. (Of course, you can cook from this excellent cookbook!)

Recommended by Mary Laura

Salad for President: A Cookbook Inspired by Artists Cover ImageSalad for President: A Cookbook Inspired by Artists 

Salad: the nonpartisan choice for the greens-eater in your life. It’s a really beautiful book, too. Get one for yourself and display it in your kitchen.

Recommended by Keltie

Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South Cover ImageDeep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South 

Give this to anyone who fell in love with Vivian Howard and her food on the PBS series A Chef’s Life. Or anyone who loves to cook really good Southern food. (Or anyone, like me, who just loves reading GORGEOUS cookbooks.)

Recommended by Devin

BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts Cover ImageBraveTart: Iconic American Desserts 

This is the cookbook of my DREAMS. Perfect for the passionate baker.

Recommended by Halley

The Southern Foodways Alliance Guide to Cocktails Cover ImageThe Southern Foodways Alliance Guide to Cocktails 

For the mindful drinker in your life, this book is packed with more than 100 cocktail recipes from the South, essays about Southern drinking culture, and some snack recipes too!

Recommended by Halley

Paladares: Recipes from the Private Restaurants, Home Kitchens, and Streets of Cuba Cover ImagePaladares: Recipes from the Private Restaurants, Home Kitchens, and Streets of Cuba 

The dining culture in Cuba is unique, and some of the most exciting, vibrant food is coming out of its private restaurants. For the adventurous, meat-loving cook on your list!

Recommended by Betsy

The Laura Lea Balanced Cookbook: 120+ Everyday Recipes for the Healthy Home Cook Cover ImageThe Laura Lea Balanced Cookbook: 120+ Everyday Recipes for the Healthy Home Cook 

Get this for the folks who enjoy cooking but not mile-long ingredient lists. Laura Lea is a local chef and truly a food wizard. I started with her Turmeric Tahini Cauliflower and haven’t looked back.

 And don’t miss: 

Autentico: Cooking Italian, the Authentic Way Cover ImageAutentico: Cooking Italian, the Authentic Way 

Pok Pok the Drinking Food of Thailand: A Cookbook Cover ImagePok Pok the Drinking Food of Thailand: A Cookbook 

Old-Fashioned Economical Cooking: Healthy Culinary Ideas on a Budget Cover ImageOld-Fashioned Economical Cooking: Healthy Culinary Ideas on a Budget 

Dining in: Highly Cookable Recipes Cover ImageDining in: Highly Cookable Recipes 

For When Only the Best Will Do
Recommended by Mary Laura

IMG_5278The “Best” of 2017

There are lots of best-of series and special editions to choose from. A stack of these makes a can’t-go-wrong gift for that person who has already read everything. Surely there’s something in here they’ve missed!

Nonfiction Favorites for Those Who Prefer Their Stories True
Recommended by Ann

Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship Cover ImageBarking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship 

Father Greg is the founder of L.A.’s Homeboy Industry. Think Thistle Farms on a massive scale. He meets the suffering of the world with fierce love and sense. He’s also a world class storyteller. Give this to everyone. (And if you’ve got a drive coming up, get the audiobook on, as I just did. It’s perfect for listening.)

Ann also loves:

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating Cover ImageIf I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating 

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body Cover ImageHunger: A Memoir of (My) Body 

Recommended by Halley

Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News Cover ImageBunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News 

The subtitle of this one really says it all. A finalist for the National Book Award, Bunk would make a great gift for the inquiring mind or anyone with a love of sometimes unbelievable truths.

Recommended by Sissy

What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism Cover ImageWhat Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism 

After a year filled with division, this slim volume is a beacon of hope leading us forward. There’s a chapter called “Books.” Give this to an idealist you admire.

Recommended by Keltie

Holidays on Ice Cover ImageHolidays on Ice 

You do have this classic in your home, right? In my nerdy family, we were all required to read something aloud on Christmas Eve — but everyone got to choose their reading. Introducing this completely inappropriate book into the mix was a game-changer; no one could stop laughing. My dad guffawed. I think sometimes we laughed so hard, we forgot to go to midnight Mass. This one also makes for a fabulous listening experience — give someone a membership to the audiobook app and make this their first download.


(And of course, make sure to give all the Sedaris fans in your life a copy of Theft By Finding, his fantastic volume of journals released this year!)

Recommended by Devin

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

Shout-out to the Tinder generation: Pick this book for the funny people in your life, especially those who have ever had to swipe right to find their soulmate.

Recommended by Keltie

The Year of Magical Thinking Cover ImageThe Year of Magical Thinking 

Another classic for anyone who needs it at this time of year . . . The holidays can be hard. I read this memoir years ago and thought it beautiful, but didn’t really get it until this year. “Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be.” A fresh copy makes a great gift for anyone who loved this year’s new documentary about Joan Didion, The Center Will Not Hold.

South and West: From a Notebook Cover ImageSouth and West: From a Notebook 

While you’re at it, make sure the Didion-fans in your life have a copy of her latest book, newly released excerpts from a notebook she kept on a roadtrip with her husband John Gregory Dunne in 1970.

For the Wannabe Scientist
Recommended by River

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve And/Or Ruin Everything Cover ImageSoonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve And/Or Ruin Everything 

Smart and funny! From fusion to androids, Soonish unwraps the future with just the right combination of fact and humor.

Recommended by River

American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World Cover ImageAmerican Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World

Having experienced totality once, I’m now an official eclipse-chaser. This captures the ‘magic and awe’ of this incredible wonder. Give it to anyone who shares the obsession.

Recommended by Andy

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry Cover ImageAstrophysics for People in a Hurry 

Who couldn’t stand to learn more about astrophysics? And who isn’t in hurry?

Recommended by River

Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery Cover ImageEndurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery 

After I heard an interview with Scott Kelly on NPR I couldn’t wait to read his fascinating story of his year in space.

Also check out:

Where the Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics Cover ImageWhere the Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics 

How to Read Nature: Awaken Your Senses to the Outdoors You've Never Noticed Cover ImageHow to Read Nature: Awaken Your Senses to the Outdoors You’ve Never Noticed 

Travel Books for Wanderers
Recommended by Katherine

On Trails: An Exploration Cover ImageOn Trails: An Exploration 

Pair this with the 2018 Radnor Lake Calendar (available in-store) or Sierra Club planner and satisfy the nature-minded person in your life.

Recommended by River

Paris: An Inspiring Tour of the City's Creative Heart Cover ImageParis: An Inspiring Tour of the City’s Creative Heart 

Living in a Paris state of mind is my New Year’s resolution. This is the perfect ticket to start my “trip.” Give it to your favorite Francophile.

Recommended by Andy

Atlas of Improbable Places: A Journey to the World's Most Unusual Corners Cover ImageAtlas of Improbable Places: A Journey to the World’s Most Unusual Corners 

For the armchair traveler: A journey into the world’s lost cities, remote corners and extraordinary environments. Accompanied by stunning, unique illustrations, this is the world with all its obscurities, displayed like never before.

History & Biography For Those Looking to the Past for Answers
Recommended by Karen

Leonardo Da Vinci Cover ImageLeonardo Da Vinci 

Do you have an art or history lover on your list? This book has both covered. This is the biography of the original and unmatched Renaissance man. Text thoughtfully interspersed with color illustrations.

Recommended by John

Grant Cover ImageGrant 

I’m not typically a nonfiction reader, but last winter I read Alexander Hamilton and was surprised at how engaging Chernow’s writing was. Grant is much the same. Informative, excellently written, it will keep Civil War history buffs as well as new-to-nonfiction readers glued to the page.

Recommended by Andy

Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit Cover ImageBobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit

For history and political buffs: Chris Matthews gives a refreshing look at Bobby Kennedy’s life, from forgotten son to tragic run for President. His extensive research and deep understanding of the Irish Catholic community provide a personal look at a man who was that rare combination of pragmatist and idealist.

Andy also recommends:

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 

The Vietnam War: An Intimate History Cover ImageThe Vietnam War: An Intimate History 

More to think about: 

For Athletes (and Fans)
Recommended by Andy

The Arena: Inside the Tailgating, Ticket-Scalping, Mascot-Racing, Dubiously Funded, and Possibly Haunted Monuments of American Sp Cover ImageThe Arena: Inside the Tailgating, Ticket-Scalping, Mascot-Racing, Dubiously Funded, and Possibly Haunted Monuments of American Sport 

For every sports fan who has ever stopped to wonder: how DO they coordinate the fighter jet flyover with the national anthem?

Recommended by Andy

Fire on the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women Cover ImageFire on the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women 

Check this out, sporting enthusiasts: Montillo reveals the remarkable stories of those who blazed the trail for women’s athletics. A fascinating look at the courage and determination of woman like Betty Robinson who overcame physical and social obstacles to triumph on the track and change the course of Olympic history.

Business Books with Personal Applications
Recommended by Mary Laura

Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World Cover ImageTribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World

Give it to the young professional in your life and/or the person who has the Tim Ferriss Show in their podcast feed. Who doesn’t need more mentors? Success tips from 100 folks at the top of their game in art, science, entertainment and more.

Recommended by Mary Laura

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact Cover ImageThe Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact 

For anyone who works in retail, plans events, is a teacher, runs a business, or in any way serves fellow human beings, this is a business book with real-life relevance, and — like all the Heath brothers’ books — is actually fun to read.

For Music Lovers
Recommended by Devin

The Jacksons: Legacy Cover ImageThe Jacksons: Legacy 

Kick back and listen to the Jackson 5 Christmas album while flipping through the pictures and stories from one of the greatest musical groups of all time. Perfect for the Motown lover.

 Recommended by John

Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll Cover ImageSam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll 

This came out last year, but it’s essential that nobody miss it: an excellent biography on one of the most iconic record producers in the history of rock n’ roll. One of the earliest names from Sun Records’ historic log, Phillips amassed an extensive list of impressive names such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and many more. A great gift for any music fanatic interested in emergence of the record business.

Recommended by Sissy

For You to See the Stars Cover ImageFor You to See the Stars (Book + CD)

Anyone who went to Sewanee needs this collection of short stories with accompanying music. So does anyone who loves songwriters with a literary bent.

A Little Poetry
Recommended by Betsy

The Sun and Her Flowers Cover ImageThe Sun and Her Flowers

By Rupi Kaur

For the woman who needs some poetry to find and make her way in the world.

And Finally: Some Irresistible Miscellany
Recommended by Karen

Books Make a Home: Elegant Ideas for Storing and Displaying Books Cover ImageBooks Make a Home: Elegant Ideas for Storing and Displaying Books 

For the book hoarder on your list. (Maybe that’s you.) This book is full of inspirational home libraries.

Recommended by Catherine

This Land: An American Portrait Cover ImageThis Land: An American Portrait 

This big, gorgeous coffee table book of Spencer’s photographs from around the U.S. is the ideal hostess gift or a stunning addition to any living room. Bonus: We’ve got signed copies!

Recommended by Ella

Hamilton: The Revolution Cover ImageHamilton: The Revolution 

For all those Hamilton-lovers who want to learn more about the making of their favorite musical.

Recommended by Halley

IMG_5258Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series 

From whale songs to dust, these beautiful little books are a crash course in the mundane and bizarre. Give Password to your techie friend, Personal Stereo to your nostalgic uncle, Earth to the environmentalist on your list.

Recommended by Halley

Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore Cover ImageLegendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore 

A perfect gift for the fashionable nerd in your life.

Recommended by Catherine

Marvel Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the Marvel Universe Cover ImageMarvel Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the Marvel Universe 

A gift to knock the socks off the comic book nerd you love. Bonus: They’ll be able to fact-check all the movies and shows.

Recommended by Catherine

DC Comics Encyclopedia All-New Edition Cover ImageDC Comics Encyclopedia All-New Edition 

It’s Wonder Woman’s world — we’re all just living in it. Get this for the person who can’t remember which year Superman first appeared and wants to look it up in the nerdiest way possible. Don’t forget the Marvel Encyclopedia, too.
Recommended by River

Heroes of Tolkien Cover ImageHeroes of Tolkien 

For everyone who grew up on Tolkien: a beautiful special edition full of your favorite heroes. This belongs out on a table where people can pick it up.

Recommended by Kathy

The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong . . . and You Can Too! Cover ImageThe RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong . . . and You Can Too! 

This book is NOT a joke! Excellent, easily-done exercises for anyone of any age.

Recommended by Karen

Blitt Cover ImageBlitt 

A must for the lover of political satire in your life. Barry Blitt is a legendary political cartoonist with more than 100 New Yorker covers under his belt. This book is a hoot, with delightful full color illustrations throughout.

Recommended by Sissy 

The Sewanee Night Before Christmas Cover ImageThe Sewanee Night Before Christmas 

A brand new Sewanee book for both young ones and us older alums. Beautiful art by Christi Teasley.

Recommended by Halley

The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine Cover ImageThe Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine 

This book was put together from notes left by Mark Twain describing a story he told his children. With gorgeous, magical illustrations from Philip and Erin Stead, this longer picture book is perfect for adults who love sharing a good story with young readers. Give it to a grownup with children in their life.

Recommended by John

Paradise Lost: A Graphic Novel Cover ImageParadise Lost: A Graphic Novel 

For the art lover as well as the classical literature enthusiast, Pablo Auladell’s illustrations of Paradise Lost are hauntingly beautiful and give full life to Milton’s lasting work. You do not want to overlook this incredible work of art.

Recommended by Halley

Highbrow, Lowbrow, Brilliant, Despicable: Fifty Years of New York Magazine Cover ImageHighbrow, Lowbrow, Brilliant, Despicable: Fifty Years of New York Magazine 

Know anyone with their nose in a New York magazine most of the time? (You?) Let this be their new bible.

The First Editions Club

A book subscription makes a PERFECT gift! Every member of our First Editions Club receives a first edition of a selected book, signed by the author, each month. 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. Choose a 3-month ($100), 6-month ($200), or 12-month ($400) subscription. There’s NO additional membership fee or premium charge for these books, and shipping is included! Help someone you love build a treasured library of signed first editions and always have something great to read! Sign up and get a subscription for yourself AND a friend!

Our pick for December is Improvement by Joan Silber, and here’s what Catherine, our office manager, says about it:

Improvement Cover Image


“At the holidays, it often feels like everyone’s vying for your attention (and money), and with all the things you need to do in December there’s never enough time to do the things you want to do. I find that at this time of year what I want most is something that doesn’t take away from the fun and festivities, but gives me a little mental breather. This book is just that: a small respite. It isn’t flashy, it isn’t ‘trendy’ —  it’s just beautifully written and very truthful to its characters.”

Gift subscriptions to the First Editions club purchased this month will begin with January’s selection (it’s so good — just wait!), but if you’d like a signed copy of Improvement, we’d be happy to send you one as well, as long as supplies last.

Now for the logistics . . . May we be your holiday book fairies? Here’s how to shop Parnassus Books even if you don’t live in Nashville:

  • Just click any title above to read more about it and toss it into your online cart.
  • If you’d like us to gift-wrap it for FREE, write “wrapped” in the notes section on the checkout screen.
  • If you want to make sure your packages get to you or your recipients before Christmas, select PRIORITY MAIL and place your order as soon as possible, or at least BEFORE WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 20.
  • If you have any questions, feel free to email us at or give us a buzz by phone at (615) 953-2243.

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Coming up next week on Musing: the big gift list for kids and teens!