18 Great Reads for Spring Breakers, Staycationers, and Everyone In Between


First — BREAKING NEWS: Did you hear? There’s a new Ann Patchett novel coming in September 2019! As fall gets closer, we’ll be sharing more about The Dutch House, a multigenerational family story about siblings, love, wealth, and memory. Meanwhile, trust us when we say you are going to LOVE IT. Here’s your peek at the cover, featuring custom commissioned art by Nashville-based artist Noah Saterstrom:

Can you pre-order your signed copies from Parnassus already? OF COURSE YOU CAN. Click right here.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled roundup of amazing reads: Whether you’re anxiously awaiting an upcoming spring break getaway or just counting down the days until winter’s officially over (12 days, in case you’re wondering), we’re happy to offer this reading list of bookseller-loved fiction and nonfiction titles perfect for enjoying beneath a beach umbrella or a cozy blanket. (If your spring break plans include some kind of outdoor adventuring, however, you might want to wait until you return to dive into Peter Heller’s The River.)

Have a browse:

Recommended by Katherine

The River: A novel Cover ImageThe River

Ever since I read Hatchet years ago, I’ve been drawn to survivalist narratives. The River follows the story of college friends Jack and Wynn on a wilderness canoe trip that takes a dangerous turn for the worse. Tense and propulsive. Think Jon Krakauer mixed with Cormac McCarthy.

Recommended by Catherine

Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel Cover ImageDaisy Jones & The Six 

It reads like a Rolling Stone documentary, but it’s about a fictitious band, a singer, and their tumultuous collaboration, blinding success, fallout, and the aftermath decades later. Get ready to stay up all night bingeing this one.

(Fun fact: Daisy Jones & The Six is the #1 favorite of booksellers nationwide on the Indie Next List for March!)

Recommended by Kathy

The Only Woman in the Room Cover ImageThe Only Woman in the Room 

Most people know Hedy Lamarr the beautiful actress, but few know Hedy Lamarr the brilliant woman who fled the Nazis, and who is credited by many with developing a communication system which became the foundation of our modern wi-fi. This novel is her fascinating story.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Leading Men: A Novel Cover ImageLeading Men

In a story that moves back and forth from Italy in the 1950s to New York in the 1960s to the present day, Leading Men takes us into the world of Tennessee Williams. But it’s not Williams this historical novel focuses on so much as the people in his circle: namely his longtime lover Frank Merlo and an actress they meet named Anja Bloom. It’s all very glamorous and enthralling. Take it on vacation.

Recommended by Sissy

The Stranger Diaries Cover ImageThe Stranger Diaries 

Do you love old British houses, literary quotes, and ghosts? Griffiths adds gothic elements to a contemporary thriller that’s perfect for cold nights by the fire.

Recommended by Katherine

Beautiful Bad Cover ImageBeautiful Bad 

Some thrillers are just plain twisted, and this is one of them. If you enjoy fast-paced, voyeuristic looks into other people’s messed-up lives, then Beautiful Bad is the spring break read for you. Plus, all the scenes set in Eastern Europe add an exotic flair.

Recommended by Kevin

Binstead's Safari Cover ImageBinstead’s Safari 

I call this a “reverse Hemingway.” That is, instead of a one-dimensional woman character dismissed by a self-serious jackass, the jackass is dismissed by his wife, Millie, whose rapid metamorphosis gets satisfyingly freaky and surreal.

Recommended by Betsy

A Place for Us: A Novel Cover ImageA Place for Us

For several booksellers on staff, this gorgeous debut and new paperback release from Fatima Farheen Mirza was a favorite of 2018. When a Muslim Indian American family gathers for a wedding, each family member begins to reconcile family, culture, and religious heritage with identity and individuation. This novel has all the marks of an engrossing family saga.

Recommended by Joy

Arturo's Island Cover ImageArturo’s Island 

This is a major new translation by Ann Goldstein, the translator of Elena Ferrante’s novels. Elsa Morante was one of Italy’s greatest post-war novelists, and Ferrante has said Morante’s writing has been an inspiration for her own work. If you loved the Neapolitan Novels, this will be a treat. It’s a beautifully written exploration of family and place and how the two are sometimes inextricably — and tragically — connected.

Recommended by Karen

Cry of the Kalahari Cover ImageCry of the Kalahari

If you read Where the Crawdads Sing, you know that Delia Owens writes beautifully about nature. But did you know that she lived in Africa for 30 years doing wildlife research and that Crawdads is not her first bestselling book? First published in the mid-’80s, Cry of the Kalahari recounts Owens’ and her then-husband’s experiences living in Botswana.

Recommended by Mary Laura

The Book of Delights: Essays Cover ImageThe Book of Delights: Essays 

Treat yourself to this truly delightful book of short prose, in which award-winning poet Ross Gay observes and celebrates little moments of humanity. Each piece is an ode to something (or someone) delightful: a flight attendant who calls him “baby,” the sight of a mother and child each holding one handle of a shared shopping bag, the “blessed desecration” of a friend who misuses air-quotes with wild abandon. Read one every day, and it’ll be as good for you as taking a vitamin.

Recommended by Steve

The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America Cover ImageThe Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America 

This would be worth the purchase price for any number of essays — Teju Cole’s “The Blackness of the Panther,” Fatima Farheen Mirza’s “Skittles,” Alexander Chee’s “Your Father’s Country,” to name just a few — but the sum here is incalculably more than its varied and beautiful parts. It’s an education full of exhales, a journey with many origins, many endpoints.

Recommended by Keltie

Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap Cover ImageTogether: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap 

This is one of those snapshot-of-a-moment memoirs that speaks volumes of truth about marriage: the impact of a crisis, the realignment of roles, the gut-level grind-it-out stuff that gets you through, and the love that just had to be there all along.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls Cover ImageUnder Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls 

Lisa Damour is the guide every parent needs for the years when we’re raising teens. Seriously, I don’t know how I’d do it without her advice. In her latest book, she takes on the topic of stress in teen girls (although I’d say this is also useful for raising boys).

Recommended by Andy

Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler Cover ImageMadame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler 

With extraordinary research and gripping prose, Olson recounts the dangerous and daring methods Madame Fourcade’s French network of spies used to provide crucial intelligence to the Allied war effort. Olson brings to life a person who put a cause above her personal welfare, beautifully illustrating the strength and tenacity Fourcade exhibited in the face of Nazi atrocities.

Join us when Lynne Olson visits Parnassus Books on Thursday, March 14, 2019.

Recommended by Katherine

Afoot and Lighthearted: A Journal for Mindful Walking Cover ImageAfoot and Lighthearted: A Journal for Mindful Walking 

My daily walks are really important to me, and I credit them in reducing my anxiety and improving my overall health. I am thrilled to add this guided journal to my routine. I love how it’s made with fill-in-the-blank dates so that you can flip through the pretty pages, choose which one suits you that day, and walk your way into well-being.

(Meet the author! Come see Bonnie Smith Whitehouse at Parnassus on Thursday, March 7, 2019, at 6:30 p.m.)

Recommended by Betsy

The Faraway Nearby Cover ImageThe Faraway Nearby

Told as a memoir in essays, The Faraway Nearby takes scraps from Solnit’s life and pieces them with broader landscapes, such as fairy tales, environmental science, and the ominousness of Antarctica. In this merging, she shows how these landscapes, both old and ever-expanding, take us deeper into our selves, into our daily lives — the faraway with the nearby. This came out in 2013, but it’s a perfectly timely read right now.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir Cover ImageLong Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir 

If you’ve been mesmerized by the excerpts coming out online from this gutsy memoir, go ahead and get the book — it’s 100% worth the buy. Lauren Groff called it “frank and funny and powerful and surprising,” and I’m not going to search for more adjectives because those are perfect.

Recommended by Steve

Heavy: An American Memoir Cover ImageHeavy: An American Memoir 

Newly out in paperback, Heavy was my staff pick when it came out in hardcover last year. Here’s what I said about it then: What does a radically honest reckoning with the past look like? It looks like Heavy, a memoir that confronts trauma — both personal and political — and never turns away when the answers are painful. Beautiful, hard-earned, and illuminating.

First Editions Club: March Selection

The Parade: A novel Cover ImageThe Parade

This month we have the extreme joy of sending you something truly special — a signed first edition of Dave Eggers’ new novel, The Parade.

Eggers is a giant in the literary world, and — regardless of whether you read his blockbuster novel The Circle or took Ann up on her recommendation of his latest work of nonfiction, The Monk of Mokha — we invite one and all to devour the intensely allegorical and sharp masterpiece that is The Parade. I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll refrain from commenting on specifics, but rest assured that Eggers has brought his A-game.

The novel is short, so I’ll keep this note short as well this month and let the book speak for itself.

Yours in reading,
Catherine Bock
Inventory Manager

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. Plus, there’s no membership fee or premium charge for these books. Build a treasured library of signed first editions and always have something great to read! Makes a FABULOUS gift, too. 

Parnassus Book Club — Upcoming Meeting Schedule  

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

March – Tangerine by Christine Mangan
Monday, March 18 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, March 20 at 6:30pm
Thursday, March 21 at 10am

April – House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
Monday, April 8 at 6:30pm*
Tuesday, April 9 at 6:30pm
Thursday, April 11 at 10am

*Date change for this month

Classics Club – The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
Monday, March 25 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:

Are you looking for a fun theme for your next book club meeting? This is a great activity for a busy month when you don’t have a designated book.

buddha.pngStart by giving this list of questions to each member well in advance, then ask everyone to bring their answers to share at the meeting. This list comes from a questionnaire in Shelf Awareness, a daily online publication for readers and book industry professionals which also features weekly interviews that probe into the reading lives of authors.

It never fails to elicit revealing — and often surprising — answers, which means some fascinating conversation can happen for your club. (I can even envision devoting more than one meeting to this, depending on how much discussion time you allow for each question.) What a great way to get to know your fellow book club members and share book favorites!

Here’s a sample of the questionnaire — and if you don’t already subscribe to Shelf Awareness, you should do that, too.

“By the Book”
1. On Your Nightstand Now
2. Favorite Book When You Were a Child
3. Your Top 5 Authors
4. Book You’ve Faked Reading
5. Book(s) You’re an Evangelist For
6. Book You Bought for the Cover
7. Book You Hid From Your Parents
8. Book That Changed Your Life
9. Favorite Line From a Book
10. 5 Books You’ll Never Part With

Is your club part of our book club registry? Local book groups can order and purchase their club’s reading selections at a discount! Your club’s chosen titles are also displayed in the store on the book club shelf with the club’s name, so members can come in and find their selections easily. Registered clubs also receive notices of special book-club-related author events and seminars. To register a club, simply stop by the store and fill out a short form at the counter.

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Literary hors d’oeuvres: A Word on Words — the show-between-shows on Nashville Public Television — is back with new episodes, including chats with authors such as Tayari Jones, Silas House, Alexander Chee, Craig Johnson, and Rebecca Makkai. Watch for them on NPT, or view them online right here at AWordOnWords.org.