50 Staff-Picked Books For Readers of All Ages

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Love mysteries and thrillers? Known to stay up far too late, entangled in a family story or a quirky romance? Are you a literary fiction fan or a sucker for little-known histories? Or maybe you’ve got a young reader at home who’s ready to be spellbound by a new story. Look no further. Your next read is right inside this HUGE new list of bookseller recommendations.

Our latest favorites for all ages:

FICTION
In the news . . . 

Less Less Cover Image

CONGRATULATIONS to Andrew Sean Greer, author of Less, the recipient of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for fiction! In her blog post about it last summer, Ann Patchett wrote, “If I started typing up all the sentences I liked in this book I would wind up typing out the entire book.” Read her whole post here, and get your copy now. Less is more!

(See the rest of the Pulitzer Prize winners in the full announcement.)

Recommended by Ann

Alternate Side Cover ImageAlternate Side

This novel is a little bit like looking at an ant farm: it’s a microcosm sandwiched between two panes of glass, but in this case the world we’re watching is a dead-end street of well-to-do New Yorkers. Quindlen keeps the ants marching while the world around them falls apart.

Recommended by Ann

The Overstory Cover ImageThe Overstory

It’s HUGE! It’s about trees and the people who love them. I thought the book was straight-up genius. There’s nobody better (or smarter) than Richard Powers.

Recommeded by Karen

Circe Cover ImageCirce

Miller won the Orange Prize for her fascinating debut novel, The Song of Achilles. Her second book, Circe, is just as engrossing as it brings the stories from Greek mythology to life. I had the pleasure of being in Rome recently and had so much fun noticing the depictions of these characters in the centuries-old art displayed there. I hope Miller continues to write about the gods and comes to the Athens of the South for each book.

Recommended by Cat

Varina Cover ImageVarina 

Add this one to the ever-fascinating category of Women Who are Extremely Interesting On Their Own But Were Also Married to Famous Men. The titular Varina is Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis. Frazier treats her with such honesty and depth that I was pulled into the story immediately. Pick this up if you want thought-provoking historical fiction.

Recommended by Sydney

The Oracle Year Cover ImageThe Oracle Year 

Manhattan musician Will Dando has a dream one evening in which he is given 108 predictions. Once these predictions prove to be the real deal, Will publishes them online and ends up gaining enough money and power to also earn him a few enemies, including the United States government and a well-known televangelist. The humorous undertones of this novel provide a nice balance with what becomes a serious thriller.

Recommended by Keltie

Tangerine Cover ImageTangerine

Two college roommates estranged by an event in their senior year are reunited in Tangiers a year later when one shows up unexpectedly on her former friend’s doorstep. This is a thriller you didn’t see coming, set against the lushness of Morocco. Read it in one sitting.

Recommended by Betsy

The Female Persuasion Cover ImageThe Female Persuasion 

The best novel I’ve read in a long time! Greer Kadetsky is a college freshman, aimless in an age-appropriate way, when she meets Faith Frank, a pillar of the women’s movement who awakens Greer’s vocation. It is a novel about love, friendship, the Yodas who change us and disappoint us, and becoming wise. If there’s someone in your life who’s graduating from college, this is the book they must read as soon as finals are over.

Recommended by Devin

The Wedding Date Cover ImageThe Wedding Date

I could not put this book down. Seriously. I intended to read a chapter or two before bed, but every time I tried to put it down and go to sleep, I jumped up 10 minutes later to read a little more. Flash foward to 3:30 a.m. on a work night and I’m reading the epilogue, grinning from ear to ear at this romantic novel. It’s smart, funny, and perfectly balanced, in that the characters’ lives apart from each other were as much a motivator to keep reading as their romance.

Recommended by Sissy

Sometimes I Lie Cover ImageSometimes I Lie

I love a British thriller, even a mediocre one. THIS debut, however, is the most surprising one I’ve EVER picked up — flawless writing and a fantastic plot.

Recommended by Niki

Anatomy of a Miracle: A Novel* Cover ImageAnatomy of a Miracle: A Novel* 

This novel is wholly unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk meets Where’d You Go, Bernadette? meets “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” in this beautifully human novel.

Recommended by Ginger

The Coincidence Makers Cover ImageThe Coincidence Makers 

I love a book with a hint of science fiction! Not so much that it could never happen, just enough to make you think, “what if . . .”

Recommended by Grace

Stray City Cover ImageStray City 

An engaging and lovely look at family, identity, and what it takes to create both. You will fall in love with Andrea and the many happy, confusing, daring, and complex lessons she learns.

Recommended by Halley

What You Don't Know about Charlie Outlaw Cover ImageWhat You Don’t Know about Charlie Outlaw 

I love the rare book that blends humor, suspense, and a searing insight into the phenomena of fame and love. Therefore, I love this book.

Recommended by Kathy

The Last Ballad Cover ImageThe Last Ballad 

Based on a real case in Depression-era North Carolina, this is the story of the tragedy that befell Ella May Wiggins as she tried to advocate for poor textile workers. It makes for such a suspenseful and riveting read.

Recommended by River

Paris by the Book Cover ImageParis by the Book 

A missing husband and a literary mystery lead Leah and her daughters to Paris where they embark on a new life in a bookstore and almost escape their past. But truth lurks around every corner and things are not what they seem. A novel that surprises and charms at every turn.

Recommended by River

The Fighter Cover ImageThe Fighter 

Michael Farris Smith is burning his way across the literary landscape of the South and leaving the imprint of his name blazing behind him. Read this book.

Recommended by River

I Was Anastasia Cover ImageI Was Anastasia

Ariel Lawhon is at her best! Anastasia steps out of the ashes of the past and tells us her story with such power that it’ll keep you up turning pages all night. Our obsession with one of the most elusive, romantic characters of all time is finally, completely satisfied.

Recommended by Alethea

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover: Stories Cover ImageThe Sea Beast Takes a Lover: Stories

Reading each story in this surreal book was a bit like watching an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror, but every time I reached a story ending, I found myself feeling more, rather than less, human.

Recommended by Grace

My Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel Cover ImageMy Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel

Ready for a rousing romp through Regency romance? Every twist and turn of this choose-your-own-adventure romance novel is a delight — no matter which path you choose!

Recommended by Andy

Greeks Bearing Gifts (Bernie Gunther Novel #13) Cover ImageGreeks Bearing Gifts (Bernie Gunther Novel #13) 

Unfortunately we lost Philip Kerr in March of this year. He left us with an intriguingly complex story in his 13th Bernie Gunther novel. Bernie assumes a new identity as he investigates an insurance claim in 1957 Greece. Kerr vividly describes the atmosphere in Athens and the pursuit of World War II criminals.

(Kerr was editing his 14th Gunther novel at the time of his death, which will be published next year. In the meantime enjoy this master storyteller whose great writing brought to life one of the most memorable characters in the detective genre.)

Recommended by Kathy

The Only Story Cover ImageThe Only Story 

Paul, now in his 70s, tells of a love that shaped and altered the course of his entire life: a relationship that began when he was 19, with his 48-year-old tennis partner, Susan. This convention-defying relationship lasts years despite her husband and daughters, his parents, and their various friends knowing all about it. As Paul looks back, he analyzes the nature of love, sex, feelings, and aging, and what eventually went wrong over the many years of their life together. Brilliant.

NONFICTION
Recommended by Katherine

See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary Cover ImageSee What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary 

Here’s a delightful cornucopia of brilliant commentary on literature, film, and pop culture. Reading Lorrie Moore’s essays is like listening to your smartest friend examine books and TV shows with razor-sharp insight and wit.

Recommended by Katherine

Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country Cover ImageBad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country 

Wondering what the hell happened to our country? Steve Almond writes with stunning clarity about an anguished American psyche that begs to know how we got to the present moment, and how we can move forward.

Recommended by Cat

The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath Cover ImageThe Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath 

This is not your typical addiction book. It’s part memoir and part social study of alcoholism and addiction. Jamison is such a beautiful and lyrical writer that even as she talks about the devastations of alcoholism and how our society venerates the “drunk artist,” I am taken aback by the sheer magic of her scenes and descriptions of what it was like to be at her lowest points.

Recommended by Mary Laura

And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready Cover ImageAnd Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready

Are you thinking of having a baby? I’m giving you this book.

Recommended by Mary Laura

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays Cover ImageHow to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays 

This collection is such a fine example of its form, it could have been called “How to Write a Memoir-in-Essays.” As you read about episodes from his school days as a young gay man, to the riotous 1980s, to his early life as a writer, friend, activist, and thinker, you’ll understand how Alexander Chee — the novelist we know from Edinburgh and Queen of the Night — became who he is, but you’ll also think about how you became who you are.

Recommended by Katherine

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer Cover ImageI’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

I’m a sucker for true crime, but this transcends the genre. McNamara passed away tragically before finishing the book, so her lead researchers used her notes to piece together what you’ll find here: the shocking story of the serial rapist and murderer known as the Golden State Killer, and McNamara’s voracious (and ultimately, lethal) commitment to solving the case.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Sharp Cover ImageSharp

The subtitle of this book is “The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion.” If that describes you — or if you’re a fan of Nora Ephron, Joan Didion, Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Renata Adler, and/or Janet Malcolm — you need this fascinating cultural/literary history by National Book Critics Circle award-winning writer Michelle Dean.

Recommended by Keltie

Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage Cover ImageDisappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage 

Iraq Veteran Brian Castner sets out to paddle the same 1,200-mile route Scottish adventurer Alexander MacKenzie took in search of the fabled Northwest Passage to the East in 1789. Told as a dual narrrative — MacKenzie’s failed attempt (hence, Disappointment River), and Castner’s successful one (global warming, anyone?) — this memoir has a narrative as compelling as a Sebastian Junger tome.

Recommended by Keltie

Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class Cover ImageRitz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class 

By Luke Barr

The story about a how an unlikely meeting between a Swiss hotelier and a French chef in London in 1889 changed the way we dine out — and live large — forever. Told in the same riveting style as Barr’s previous book, Provence, 1970. For those who dream about living (and eating) at the Ritz.

Recommended by Andy

The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I; Barbara W. Tuchman's Great War Series (Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books) Cover ImageThe Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I; Barbara W. Tuchman’s Great War Series (Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books) 

Several times in the last few days I’ve heard reference to Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1963, Tuchman brilliantly illustrates how Europe fought a war that nobody wanted. JFK is said to have read it shortly before the Soviets began moving missiles into Cuba; its lessons helped forge a peaceful resolution to that crisis. A gripping narrative so full of detail and nuance, it virtually transports the reader to Europe at the start of World War I. There’s never been a better time to read it.

And a highlight from our events calendar . . . 

Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead--My Life Story Cover ImageMake Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead–My Life Story 

From Cecile Richards — president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund for more than a decade, daughter of the late Texas Governor Ann Richards, featured speaker at the Women’s March on Washington, and a “heroine of the resistance” (Vogue) — comes a story about learning to lead and make change, based on a lifetime of fighting for women’s rights and social justice. Tickets to see Cecile Richards in Nashville on May 9 are available NOW — get yours here!

First Editions Club – April Selection

Circe Circe Cover Image

It all started with Madeline Miller.

I remember getting galleys of her first novel, The Song of Achilles, from both her U.S. editor and her U.K. editor. Before I’d even opened it, my friend Donna Tartt called to say how much she’d loved the book, and how completely accurate it was. Miller isn’t just a brilliant writer, she’s a first rate scholar of antiquities who’s taught Greek and Latin. To read this book is to catch up with the gods and the whole cast of characters from The Iliad. I loved it. Everybody loved it. We thought if we were going to launch a First Editions Club, we should do it with this amazing first novel. 

The Song of Achilles went on to win England’s Orange Prize and be an international bestseller. Miller not only set the stage for us, she set the standard. From here on out we would always strive to find books as good as this one. It was a tall order, but this month the choice was easy. We’re thrilled to be bringing you Miller’s new book Circe, the story of a witch’s life and all the gods and mortals she comes across over the course of countless thousands of years. It’s yet another masterclass in mythology, but it’s also so entertaining you may as well power off your phone, clear you calendar, and plan to devote yourself to reading. Once I started I really couldn’t stop.

Since we first picked Miller’s first book, Parnassus has doubled in size, the club has grown exponentially, and our friend Madeline has had two fantastic little girls. Everyone’s been busy. I love all our First Editions Club picks, but this one is a true cause for joy.

Happy reading!
Ann Patchett

More about our First Editions Club: Every member receives a first edition of the selected book of the month, signed by the author. 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. There’s no membership fee or premium charge for these books; just the monthly cost of each book (+ shipping if you’d like yours mailed to you). Build a treasured library of signed first editions and always have something great to read! Makes a FABULOUS gift, too. 

 It’s All About the Book

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

FC9780143111016.jpgMaybe it’s because I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately (Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser, The Kings of Big Spring by Bryan Mealer, God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright) or maybe it’s because the Nashville Reads selection this year is nonfiction: The Potlikker Papers by John T. Edge. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the discussion of a book that’s not a novel, the usual territory of most book clubs. Questions of plot, character, setting and theme often don’t apply, or these elements appear in very different ways than in a fiction work. It’s often difficult to know where to start in planning a discussion. The following questions (some my own, some from a book club site called LitLovers.com) may help your club:

1.) What do you think was the author’s purpose in writing this book? (Surprisingly, this can elicit very different responses and be the springboard into the discussion.)

2.) Was the author successful in accomplishing her/his purpose? (This can lead to an examination of sources, evidence, stories, anecdotes, opinions, observations, places, people, etc. in the book) 

3.) What kind of language does the author use to support the book’s ideas? Is it easy to understand? Earnest, inflammatory, biased?

4.) How controversial are the issues/situations raised in the book? Did this affect your reading/understanding/opinion of the book?

5.) Do you think this book will “last” or stand the test of time in both scholarship and in the court of public favor? Why or why not?

6.) Talk about specific passages that struck you as significant or particularly interesting, sad, disturbing, funny, etc.

7.) What have you learned after reading this? Has it broadened your perspective about a difficult issue, time period, or person?

8.) What was the most enjoyable part of this book to you?

Hopefully, using some or all of these questions can make for a successful book club meeting. Don’t be afraid of the memoir, history, or political science book! – Kathy

Parnassus Book Club

April – The Potlikker Papers by John T. Edge
Wednesday, April 18 at 6:30pm
Thursday, April  19 at 10am

 FC9780062563675.jpgMay – The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
Tuesday, May 15 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, May 16 at 6:30pm
Thursday, May 17 at 10am

Classics Club – Miss Lonelyhearts/The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
Monday, May 21 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!

 * * *

And now some books for young readers!

Recommended by Jackie

Up in the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses Cover ImageUp in the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses

As a teenager, Bob Redman built 12 treehouses in Central Park. Each one was taken down, but he grew up to become an arborist and now runs his own tree care company. For anyone who dreams of creating a small retreat in the midst of a busy place.

Recommended by Jackie

Backyard Fairies Cover ImageBackyard Fairies 

Perfect for those who love all sorts of fairy stories. The beautiful illustrations make me want to go right outside and peek around the next tree or flower to see what I might find.

Recommended by Devin

May I Come In? Cover ImageMay I Come In? 

Curl up with your little one and read this story about kindness and helpfulness during this neverending rainy season we’ve endured in Nashville.

Recommended by Katherine

Not 'Til Tomorrow, Phoebe Cover ImageNot ‘Til Tomorrow, Phoebe 

Why does everything fun have to happen . . . tomorrow? Join Phoebe in this sympathetic tale of waiting. There’s a lesson for all ages in this sweet picture book.

Recommended by Stephanie

Love, Mama Cover ImageLove, Mama 

Kipling the baby penguin’s mama has to go away on a business trip, and Kipling really misses her. Then one day a package arrives in the mail with a special note from Mama to Kipling. The text of Jeanette Bradley’s debut picture book reads with self-assured economy and just the right amount of lyricism. Her rotund, friendly illustrations are full of lots of wonderful, whimsical details, like Mama’s glasses and the clotheshanger mobile in Kipling’s bedroom.

Recommended by Rae Ann

How the Cookie Crumbled: The True (and Not-So-True) Stories of the Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie /]Cgilbert Ford Cover ImageHow the Cookie Crumbled: The True (and Not-So-True) Stories of the Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie

Ruth Wakefield invented the chocolate chip cookie. (Thank you, Ruth!) She was recently profiled in The New York Times’ “Overlooked” series, too. This picture book tells the story of how the delicious dessert was created.

POETRY (ILLUSTRATED!)
Recommended by Rae Ann

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship Cover ImageCan I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship 

Poets Irene Latham and Charles Waters imagine themselves as children meeting in fifth grade, tackling issues of race and friendship. This collection is perfect for celebrating National Poetry Month.

FOR OLDER INDEPENDENT READERS
Recommended by Katherine

You Go First Cover ImageYou Go First 

Recently crowned Newbery medalist Erin Entrada Kelly is back with another winning novel about navigating middle school. Twelve-year-olds Charlotte and Ben live more than a thousand miles apart, but interact every day via an online Scrabble game. Readers will love how each chapter alternates between the characters’ perspectives, providing insight into their mutual lunchtime woes, growing pains, and triple word scores.

Recommended by Rae Ann

The Last Grand Adventure Cover ImageThe Last Grand Adventure

Bea’s boring summer turns into an adventure. Her grandmother thinks her sister, the famous aviatrix, Amelia Earhart, is still alive, and she needs Bea’s help to travel across the country to find her. Perfect for historical fiction readers and anyone who likes a road trip story.

Recommended by Devin

Ghost Boys Cover ImageGhost Boys

Jewell Parker Rhodes explores culture and traditions, socioeconomic status, and the historical context of violence against black boys in a way that is interwoven around the central story of Jerome’s death. Jerome narrates his story as a Ghost Boy, and along the way, he meets the other Ghost Boys who have met the same fate.

YOUNG ADULT
Recommended by Grace

Chaotic Good Cover ImageChaotic Good 

I couldn’t have been more utterly delighted by this fun but important story. A great discussion of who we include and exclude and how to make room for difference.

Recommended by Devin

Tyler Johnson Was Here Cover ImageTyler Johnson Was Here 

By Jay Coles

I’ll be honest with you. I’m exhausted enough by current events that I wonder why I continue to pick up books about police brutality when we’re inundated by it already. Then a book like Tyler Johnson Was Here comes along and reminds us that the characters are more than how they died. Learn about the young man, the people around him, and the world they exist in, and remember how relatable this is to our world today.

Recommended by Stephanie

Blood Water Paint Cover ImageBlood Water Paint 

This is the true story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a teen girl during the Italian Renaissance whose art dealer father let her paint in his workshop; who was raped by a client of her father’s; and who found the courage not just to press charges against her attacker but to paint some of the most revelatory depictions of women on canvas the world has ever seen. It is a breathtaking, heart-shattering, and deeply necessary book.

Recommended by Ella

And She Was Cover ImageAnd She Was 

Dara lives with her mom, Mellie, and has never met her father. When she finds her birth certificate, in which neither of the names on it are her mother’s, her world implodes. She finds out her mother is transgender, and decides to go find her birth mother’s parents. This book offers a fantastic and intruguing adventure story, while also showing the importance of accepting people for their true selves. Anyone who loves road trips, farms, and stories about mother-daughter relationships should read this book.

FOR ALL AGES (MAKES A GREAT GRADUATION GIFT!)
Recommended by Devin

For Every One Cover ImageFor Every One  (Signed copies available while they last!)

“This letter is being written from the inside. From the front line and the fault line.” For the dreamer who might need a touch of encouragement for whatever path they’re on.

Parnassus Next – April Selection

Picture Us in the Light Picture Us in the Light Cover Image

Once in a while, a novel comes along that is, from its first word to its last and every word in between, perfect. Every sentence, every scene, every narrative beat builds to a whole that becomes greater than the sum of each part. Reading a book like this feels like stepping into a pool, but every time you turn the page, the water gets deeper and deeper, until your toes can no longer touch bottom and you can no longer see the pool’s edges. It turns out the book isn’t a pool, it’s an ocean. Kelly Loy Gilbert’s sophomore novel, Picture Us in the Light, is one such novel. 

Gilbert reveals both her story and her characters slowly and intentionally through the eyes and voice of Danny Cheng, a young artist coming of age in a high-achieving academic environment. Danny’s voice is pitch-perfect, his perspective masterfully constructed. Through Gilbert’s skillfully crafted prose, we see Danny’s world and Danny himself, as even he sometimes cannot: thoughtful, imperfect, and ultimately full of hope. His story is one of long-hidden secrets brought painfully to light; of the lengths families will go to protect the ones they love; and of all the ways that human hearts can be broken and can begin to mend. Picture Us in the Light is a stunning and luminous literary achievement.

Every member of ParnassusNext receives a first edition hardcover of each month’s  selected book, signed by the author. There is no membership fee to join — and no line to stand in for the autograph. You’re billed just for the cost of each book (+ shipping). Not only will you have one of the best YA books of the month when it comes out, you’ll have it straight from the author’s hands, with an original, authentic signature! Choose 3, 6, or 12 months for yourself, or buy a gift membership for your favorite YA reader.

Happy reading!