Literary Love Note: 50+ Bookseller Favorites


Dear Books,
Have we told you lately that we love you? You’re better than candy hearts and doilies. Be our Valentines.

Our latest book-loves:

Recommended by Ann

The Maze at Windermere Cover ImageThe Maze at Windermere

If you love Henry James, boy, are you going to love this book, which travels back and forth in time across five story lines and many James references. It’s smart and layered. Think Cloud Atlas.

Recommended by Karen

The Orphan Master's Son Cover ImageThe Orphan Master’s Son 

Are you marveling at North and South Korea joining forces for the Olympics set in South Korea this month? If you haven’t read Adam Johnson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from 2012 yet, the time to do so is now. After reading this horrific, but paradoxically beautifully-written book, you will understand that only the threat of nuclear annihilation can explain this unlikely partnership.

Recommended by Catherine

Brass Cover Image


I fell in love with the voices Xhenet Aliu created for mother and daughter Elsie and Lulu and found it heartbreaking how they tried so desperately to make their way in — and hopefully escape — their dead-end world. After I finished the last page and reluctantly closed the book, I felt like I had experienced something sorrowful and truthful, but not without hope.

Recommended by Catherine

Red Clocks Cover ImageRed Clocks 

For anyone who read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale and is ready for another strange dystopia where women’s control of their bodies has been legally taken away.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Eternal Life Cover ImageEternal Life 

Two thousand years ago, Rachel made a deal to save her son, and the price she paid was to be cursed with immortality. Now she’s still walking the earth — because she can’t die. Poignant, surprisingly relatable, and occasionally quite funny, this is a delightfully strange story.

Recommended by Betsy

The ImmortalistsThe Immortalists Cover Image

Four siblings visit a traveling psychic and learn the days they will die. The novel follows each character through several decades as the knowledge of death both haunts and invigorates them. For readers who loved the sibling dynamics in Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. I loved the nuance to how these four characters anticipated the end of life.

Recommended by Sydney

The Afterlives The Afterlives Cover Image

The novel begins when Jim Byrd dies for a few minutes but has no experience of an “afterlife.” He doesn’t see any lights at the end of the tunnel and he’s left obsessing about what comes after death. This humorous yet intelligent novel combines many different ideas without taking away from its cohesiveness. It’s a ghost story, a romance, and sci-fi somehow all in one.

(Read more about both The Immortalists and The Afterlives in our interview with both authors.)

Recommended by Mary Laura

Back Talk: Stories Back Talk: Stories Cover Image

Danielle Lazarin writes stories about the big, emotional importance of small, everyday moments — or, as she puts it, the “often unspoken ways women care for each other and ourselves.” In that way, her debut collection reminds me a bit of Elizabeth Strout’s stories. I loved them all and would have gladly read twice as many.

(Free sample! Read one of Lazarin’s stories now on BuzzFeed.)

Recommended by Katherine

Fire Sermon Cover ImageFire Sermon 

By Jamie Quatro
This is the best book about marriage, longing, and the intimacy of the everyday that I’ve read since Fates and Furies. Quatro weaves observations on theology and sexual desire into something wholly original. Dazzling.

Recommended by John

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden: Stories Cover ImageThe Largesse of the Sea Maiden: Stories 

I’d never read Denis Johnson before this. What a horrible mistake to have missed out for so long.

Recommended by Halley

The Friend Cover ImageThe Friend 

The Friend is a stunning portrait of grief and a reflection on art and love, a book for anyone who creates and anyone who has lost a friend. Plus, it has a remarkable dog character. Shop dog approved!

Recommended by Rae Ann

The Great Alone Cover ImageThe Great Alone 

This journey of hope and resilience is a must-read for anyone who loves family stories.

Recommended by Andy

Munich Cover ImageMunich 

I love Robert Harris’ political thrillers. This time it’s the 1938 Munich Conference that serves as the backdrop. Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini, and Daladier are all at the center of this electrifying spy novel.

Recommended by Halley

Freshwater Cover ImageFreshwater 

This book contains multitudes of surreal inner-worlds. A sharp debut from a writer who is quickly becoming one of today’s most remarkable new voices.

Recommended by Katherine

Behind Her Eyes: A Suspenseful Psychological Thriller Cover ImageBehind Her Eyes: A Suspenseful Psychological Thriller 

Looking for a thriller that’s easy to read and hard to put down? Behind Her Eyes is totally unpredictable, which is why I shrieked when I got to the final page! (Now available in paperback.)

Recommended by Katherine

The Power Cover ImageThe Power 

I’m choosy about dystopian novels, but this one caught my eye when The New York Times named it one of their coveted Ten Best Books of the Year. Alderman takes a striking concept (women, and only women, can suddenly emit electric power from their bodies) and delivers speculative fiction of the highest order.

Recommended by Catherine

The Living Infinite Cover ImageThe Living Infinite 

I fell in love with Chantel Acevedo’s writing in her debut, The Distant Marvels, and I’ve just had a chance to read this book as well. She is a master of weaving an absorbing, transportive story featuring otherwise glossed-over historical places and people.

Recommended by Grace

Misfit City Vol. 1 Cover ImageMisfit City Vol. 1 

I love this new series! The art manages to be at once adorably engaging while also building an eerie plot, and the writing is spot-on hilarious and suspenseful. This is where the Lumberjanes ended up in adulthood.

Recommended by Grace

Mother Panic Vol. 1: A Work in Progress Cover ImageMother Panic Vol. 1: A Work in Progress 

This delicious and chilling collection takes the foundation of Batman and turns it on its head. Though Violet’s origin story mirrors Bruce Wayne’s, her crusade for justice spirals down in a completely different direction. I was darkly delighted with every page.

Recommended by Ann

Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself Cover ImageAdvice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself 

Nothing says, “I love you” quite like a book called Advice Not Given. The author uses the tenets of Buddhism’s Eightfold Path to help us sit a little more easily with ourselves. If you’re not sure this is for you, just read the chapter called “Right Speech.” Wow.

Recommended by Kathy

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder Cover ImagePrairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder 

By Caroline Fraser

The Little House novels were the ones I loved most as a child. This is the true and fascinating “story behind the story” of those books.

Recommended by Devin

This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America Cover ImageThis Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America

Morgan Jerkins discusses feminism, racism, and black history — and how they intersect in a series of essays describing the experience of a Black American woman today.

Recommended by Mary Laura

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death Cover Image

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death 

We’re all walking the line between life and death all the time; at any moment, one thing could go differently and change the rest of our lives. That’s certainly true of every episode O’Farrell writes about in this perfect memoir-in-essays (especially the first one, about an encounter with a scary stranger, which gave me chills). Lots of us on staff love this one.

Recommended by Sissy

Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic Cover ImageTrumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic 

I’ve really grown to love Frum’s writing the past few years — his voice is so wise and energetic. The Atlantic has some of the best writers out there. (See below for Katherine’s pick, too!)

(Come see Frum at Parnassus on Saturday, February 24, 2018!)

Recommended by Kevin

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir Cover ImageWhen They Call You a Terrorist

Through her memoir, Patrisse Kahn-Cullors weaves the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement to reveal love as the movement’s driving force. This is an important story. Don’t miss it.

Recommended by Sissy

Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship Cover ImageText Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship 

I was surprised by the depth of Schaefer’s writing. I expected a “wine-sweaters and Sex and the City” vibe but got something much more genuine and serious.

Recommended by Grace

You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You've Got to Get What You Want Cover ImageYou Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You’ve Got to Get What You Want 

The self-proclaimed “anti-guru” with a potty mouth is back with some more great advice. For fans of her previous books: she’s still got it. For newcomers: this is a great way to jump in.

Recommended by Grace

Why Comics?: From Underground to Everywhere Cover ImageWhy Comics?: From Underground to Everywhere 

A smart, accessible look at the world of comics by a voice that’s part of the industry’s fabric. Hillary Chute writes an engaging story under different thematic chapters about not only comics themselves but about their vast cultural impact.

Recommended by Halley

Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe Cover ImageBorder: A Journey to the Edge of Europe

For lovers of narrative nonfiction, Border is a lyrical look at the force of history and place.

Recommended by Katherine

If Our Bodies Could Talk: Operating and Maintaining a Human Body Cover ImageIf Our Bodies Could Talk: Operating and Maintaining a Human Body 

The writers at The Atlantic are at the top of their game, and James Hamblin is no exception! Reading this is similar to watching Scrubs — I learned a lot about health and the human body while laughing my butt off.

 The First Editions Club: February Selection

An American Marriage Cover ImageAn American Marriage 

I am endlessly fascinated by the inner lives of other people, mainly because a.) they’re none of my business and b.) I find them crucial to my understanding of the world. Since it’s rude to ask people probing questions about their marriages and deeply personal experiences, I find that books are the best way to get inside people’s heads and lives. Novels may be fiction, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t true.

Tayari Jones accomplishes the extraordinary feat of bringing the truth of fiction to life in An American Marriage. It is a story about love and marriage, but also about independence and becoming. It deals with injustice. It looks at the pressures that push us in one direction or another. It is a story about being a person in the world, but also specifically being a black person in America.

With An American Marriage, Jones is releasing into the world a truly fantastic work that we at Parnassus are beyond thrilled to share with you.

Yours in reading,
Catherine Bock
Inventory manager

Read more about An American Marriage here — and plan to join us in the store this Saturday, February 10, 2018, at 5 p.m. for an author reception!

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Parnassus Book Club

FC9780316353045.jpgFebruary – Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith
Wednesday, February 21 at 6:30pm
Thursday, February 22 at 10am
Join us for author-led sessions at both meetings! (Note: there will be NO Monday meeting in February.)

March – National Book Award finalist Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Monday, March 19 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, March 21 at 6:30pm — Author Min Jin Lee will lead this discussion!
Thursday, March 22 at 10am

Classics Club – A Lost Lady by Willa Cather
Monday, April 2 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!

“It’s All About the Book”

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

How many books do you read in a year? More than I do, I bet. But at the end of last year when I decided to make a list of all the books I had read in 2017 — other than the 16 I read for the Parnassus Book Clubs meetings — I surprised myself with the number of titles. In keeping with our February theme of books we love, I decided to share my list, in order of those I loved most:

Lilac Girls – Martha Hall Kelly
The Women in the Castle – Jessica Shattuck
Saints for All Occasions – J. Courtney Sullivan
Dispatches From Pluto – Richard Grant
The Twelve-Mile Straight – Eleanor Henderson
The Woman in the Window – A.J. Finn
Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
Anything Is Possible – Elizabeth Strout
The Marsh King’s Daughter – Karen Dionne
Twain’s End – Lynn Cullen
The Hearts of Men – Nickolas Butler
Signals – Tim Gautreaux
Savage Country – Robert Olmstead
History of Wolves – Emily Fridlund
Swing Time – Zadie Smith
Miss Burma – Charmaine Craig

Any of these would make an interesting and provocative choice for your book club this year, as would News of the World (Paulette Jiles) or The Nest (Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney) — the two 2017 favorites of Parnassus Book Club members as determined in our recent annual survey. Or try their top-voted classic read, My Cousin Rachel (Daphne DuMaurier) for your group. Also, come check out our newly-expanded book clubs shelf in the store, where we’ve displayed more selections from more clubs to help you with your club’s next pick.

— Kathy

More about books . . .

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Several of our booksellers made a pilgrimage to Memphis last month for Winter Institute, the annual educational conference of the American Booksellers Association, where folks from indie stores nationwide gather to share ideas. Our group took a detour to Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, where they found something fun on the store’s history wall — a signed photo of Ann Patchett!

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Expand Your Southern Canon: If you could pick just six novels from the past two decades or so to promote to the ranks of “classic Southern literature,” what would you choose? Our Mary Laura Philpott took on that challenge for Garden & Gun magazine’s latest issue.

The National Book Critics Circle announced this year’s finalists for the NBCC Awards. Nominees include past Parnassus First Editions Club selections Exit West (Mohsin Hamid), Improvement (Joan Silber), Sing, Unburied, Sing (Jesmyn Ward), and Hunger (Roxane Gay) — plus lots of our 2017 staff picks. The winners will be announced on March 15, 2018.

Speaking of awards: This year the National Book Awards will add a category for works in translation!

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 1.19.38 PMA boring-yet-important note about Facebook: The algorithm that controls what you see is changing again, making posts from business pages much less likely to show up in your newsfeed. (Sigh . . . You know how we feel about algorithms.) If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss breaking news about Parnassus events, great articles, shop dog pictures, fun conversation, and behind-the-scenes info, make sure to go into your newsfeed preferences (top left corner of your FB screen) and “prioritize” Parnassus Books. Thanks!

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

Coming up next on Musing: more books we love — this time for kids and teens!