Parnassus Staff Goes Dutch, Plus Two Dozen Great New Reads

October has arrived, which means at least two things: the Southern Festival of Books will soon be here in all its book-nerd glory (see more on that below); and it’s time once again for our booksellers to offer up a fresh harvest of new reads. From sweeping novels to poetry, essays to literally just pictures of cute animals, you’ve got a new favorite waiting for you!

Recommended by Everyone

The Dutch House: A Novel Cover ImageThe Dutch House

As you might have guessed, everyone here at Parnassus loved The Dutch House. If you visit the store, you can find a whole wall of staff picks. Here is just a tiny sampling: Mary Laura says it “might just be the Patchett-est of all Patchett novels”; Cat adds, “The magic of Ann’s books is that she always get to the heart of some essential human connection in a way that is wholly unique yet relatable. The Dutch House is no different and you won’t be able to put it down. I couldn’t”; Sissy enthuses, “The brother and sister in this book began to feel like family — I just did not want it to end”; Jackie calls it “simply fantastic”; Niki says, “It’s really, really good. Please just trust us on this one.” Or, trust head shop dog Opie, who calls it “a tasty treat from Sparky’s mom.”

Recommended by Ann

The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale Cover ImageThe Testaments

Yes! It’s as good as everyone says it is! It’s thrilling, scary, weirdly funny, incredibly insightful, and you don’t have to read (or reread, or watch the Hulu series) The Handmaid’s Tale in order to understand what’s going on. I loved it.

Recommended by Karen

Red at the Bone: A Novel Cover ImageRed at the Bone

I’m always so amazed at the complexity of Woodson’s characters when her language is so spare. What a beautiful book.

Don’t miss Jacqueline Woodson at the store for a Salon@615 event on Thursday, Oct. 10!

Recommended by Rae Ann

The Giver of Stars: A Novel Cover ImageThe Giver of Stars

The Giver of Stars is an emotional story of friendship, resilience, and humanity. The book follows a group of strong women breaking down barriers and changing the lives of their community as members of the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky. Heart-wrenching and uplifting.

Don’t miss Jojo Moyes at MBA for a Salon@615 event on Tuesday, Oct. 15!

Recommended by Nell

Night Boat to Tangier: A Novel Cover ImageNight Boat to Tangier

Two middle-aged Irishmen, drug runners, wait at a Spanish port for someone who may or may not arrive. Inevitable comparisons to Samuel Beckett aside, this musical novel puts beautiful language to very ugly deeds, and it examines their consequences as a jeweler might inspect the facets of a gemstone.

Recommended by Rae Ann

The World That We Knew: A Novel Cover ImageThe World That We Knew

Alice Hoffman tells a unique World War II story of the human and the mystical. The World That We Knew is the journey of three women trying to survive in a world where the Angel of Death follows their steps, love means sacrifice, and connection is everything.

Recommended by Keltie

Frankissstein Cover ImageFrankissstein

A fantastical romantic tale interweaving the story of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, and a modern day transsexual, Ry, who is slowly being drawn into the public and secret worlds of Artificial Intelligence. Frankissstein is a mesmerizing and utterly original creation — with brilliant subtle underpinnings of big philosophical questions: What is life? What is love? Who decides?

Recommended by Cat

Akin Cover ImageAkin

A retired professor becomes caretaker to a great-nephew he hardly knows just days before the professor embarks on his first trip to his native Nice since leaving at the start of WWII. Naturally, the kid comes along and what follows is one of the best stories of bonding and trying to understand someone who is quite different from you that I have ever read. It doesn’t hurt that the kid is insanely hilarious.

Recommended by Sissy

The Warlow Experiment: A Novel Cover ImageThe Warlow Experiment

Think you’re the ultimate introvert? This guy pays a man to be locked in his basement for 7 years to prove people don’t really need other people. It does not go well. Set in an English manor house in 1793, the novel explores the themes of freedom and who deserves it — themes very relevant today.

Recommended by Kay

The Ten Thousand Doors of January Cover ImageThe Ten Thousand Doors of January

This story of magic doors and wandering hearts is written in beautiful, lyrical prose that leaves each page feeling more dazzling than the last. These are words to get lost in.

Recommended by Kathy

Out of Darkness, Shining Light: A Novel Cover ImageOut of Darkness, Shining Light

The fictional account of slaves who carried the body of their beloved master, explorer David Livingstone, across Africa to be buried in England. The voices of Halima and Jacob make this an unforgettable story.

Recommended by Kathy

The Flight Portfolio: A novel Cover ImageThe Flight Portfolio

Are you brave enough to pick up this long book? It’s so worth your time with its gorgeous writing, unforgettable characters and compelling, suspenseful story based on true events from WWII.

Recommended by Sissy

Pursuit Cover ImagePursuit

A young bride steps into traffic the day after her wedding — why? What secrets did she have? I love Oates’s style but this book in particular seemed like a nod to Shirley Jackson.

Recommended by Kim

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life Cover ImageDear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life

Hilarious. If you love Ali Wong and her stand up specials and movie, you’ll love this book. It’s written as letters to her daughters, but it’s still her brand of raunchy and funny. I laughed through the whole thing.

Recommended by Ben

Make It Scream, Make It Burn: Essays Cover ImageMake It Scream, Make It Burn: Essays

These essays blend journalism and memoir, running the gamut from Blue 52 (the “loneliest whale in the world”) to what Las Vegas’ architecture has to say about constructing a marriage. Jamison’s personal life is always at the surface as she explores the nuance of desire and memory, longing and loss, connection and separation, the distances between us and the bridges we build to reach each other.

Recommended by Keltie

How to Catch a Mole: Wisdom from a Life Lived in Nature Cover ImageHow to Catch a Mole: Wisdom from a Life Lived in Nature

Hamer writes of his life in the hidden tunnels and frosty fields of Wales with the spirituality of Wendell Berry, and heart of Helen MacDonald. “Life is rarely as neat and tidy as we would like. I prefer it that way. Reason is just one of the many important ways of experiencing the world.” He is much-sought after as a mole-killer, but finally lays down arms against his beloved enemy. May he not lay down his pen.

Recommended by Mary Laura

My Time Among the Whites: Notes from an Unfinished Education Cover ImageMy Time Among the Whites: Notes from an Unfinished Education

It’s 100% worth the cover price to get the first essay, “What We Pack,” about Crucet and her family’s bewildering experiences as she embarked on her first year at Cornell as both a first-generation American and first-generation college student. As a bonus, you get the rest of the book — a sharply observed, deeply felt collection about family, belonging, work, love, and so much more.

Recommended by Jackie

Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York Cover ImageMost Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York

This is an absolutely fascinating study of the Windows on the World restaurant. It delves into the history of New York, the creation of the World Trade Center, and the iconic restaurant at the top. The stories about the lives of those who worked there over the years — waiters, cooks, chefs, management, the sommelier — were just riveting.

Recommended by Keltie

Toil & Trouble: A Memoir Cover ImageToil & Trouble: A Memoir

Spoiler alert: Augusten Burroughs is a witch. As with his best-selling memoir Running with Scissors, the premise seems implausible. And like Dry (which I consider the best rehab memoir out there), his wicked sense of humor and deadpan delivery makes you believe every outlandish word. I am 100% certain that Augusten is a witch. Read it and see if you agree. At the very least, you’re going to laugh.

Recommended by Jordan

Things We Didn't Talk about When I Was a Girl: A Memoir Cover ImageThings We Didn’t Talk about When I Was a Girl: A Memoir

Part memoir and part true crime record, this book expands on the #MeToo discussion and the confusion and betrayal felt when a rapist was someone you knew, loved, and trusted. Vanasco wrote this memoir in real time as she was struck with the ideas behind it and worked up the courage to contact “Mark,” her high school best friend who she fell out of touch with after he raped her 14 years prior. The fair yet honest and relentless approach of the victim makes this an important story.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Excuse Me: Cartoons, Complaints, and Notes to Self Cover ImageExcuse Me: Cartoons, Complaints, and Notes to Self

Liana Finck puts the absurd and the profound into a cocktail shaker, mixes them up, and serves them up on the page in the form of these brilliant cartoons. I laughed aloud more times than I can count — and also put my hand on my heart in recognition of the more melancholy sentiments. She’s a genius.

Recommended by Sissy

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction Cover ImageMonster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction

This is no dry textbook — I felt like I was back in a beloved teacher’s classroom again while reading it! Authors I’d forgotten once I was out of school came back to life. I cannot wait to revisit old favorites and find new ones.

Recommended by Andy

The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution Cover ImageThe Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution

Eric Foner, a leading historian of the Reconstruction period, examines what it means to be a citizen. The Pulitzer Prize winner examines the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution and the rights they attribute. “Reconstruction remains a part of our lives,” he argues. Who is entitled to citizenship? Who should enjoy the right to vote? What should be the balance of power between states and federal government? All questions as pertinent today as they were in 1877.

Recommended by Ginger

This Book Is Literally Just Pictures of Cute Animals That Will Make You Feel Better Cover ImageThis Book Is Literally Just Pictures of Cute Animals That Will Make You Feel Better

By Smith Street Books (Editor)

The title says it all! This book is wonderful and happy. A great addition to your nightstand or coffee table.

Recommended by Ben

A Clearing Space in the Middle of Being Cover ImageClearing Space in the Middle of Being

These poems are enchanting, full of tiny epiphanies, reveling in mystery. Hardin doesn’t jump to conclusions, but he is so attentive to the natural world around him, meandering toward revelation through the ambiguous and transient. How many poets do you know who effortlessly leap from R.E.M. to the Apostle Paul in the span of two lines? These are poems to pause over and drink deeply from.

First Editions Club: October Selection

The Shadow King Cover ImageThe Shadow King

Along with so many other readers, I am deeply in love with historical fiction. Knowing that a well-written story, even if it’s fictional, lives within a real time and place is one of the best discoveries a bookish kid can make. (Shout-out to the Dear America series that comprised the bulk of my reading in the fourth grade.) Surely this is one reason book clubs are consistently drawn to historical fiction for their discussions. So many of these books focus on telling the lesser-known stories that took place just below the surface well-known moments in history — librarians in war zones or women who married famous men and lived fascinating lives. Stories that deserve to be told and talked about.

But what about big moments in history that never quite made it into history books in the U.S.? And what about the even lesser-known stories within those moments? This is a territory where some serious magic can happen. And here is where The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste shines.

The Shadow King transports us to Ethiopia during WWII. Italy is invading and Emperor Haile Selassie is forced to flee the capital of Addis Ababa for refuge in England. While the Emperor is an active character in Mengiste’s novel, along with an Italian soldier/photographer, the real heroine is Hirut, an orphan now living as a maid in a noble household. As war encroaches, the women become just as instrumental as the men in the battles ahead. As Maaza Mengiste says herself in the author’s note, “Women have been there, we are here now.” This is not only a deeply compelling story, masterfully told, with gorgeous lyrical prose to boot. It’s an important one, too — the product of both meticulous research and great imagination.

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. 

“It’s all about the book.” More thoughts on reading from Kathy Schultenover, Parnassus Book Clubs Manager:

It’s October, month of pumpkins, fall leaves, cooler weather, and Southern Festival of Books, this year October 11-13. What a wonderful weekend it is — full of author talks, panel discussions and children’s events, a great place for any reader or book club to sample the latest offerings in the literary world. This year we at Parnassus Books are very proud and excited to have five current or former staff members who are featured at the festival:

Ann Patchett (co-owner) — The Dutch House

River Jordan (bookseller) — Confessions of a Christian Mystic

Mary Laura Philpott (founding editor of Musing) — I Miss You When I Blink

Heidi Ross (former bookseller, sidelines buyer and merchandiser) — Nashville: Scenes from the New American South

Courtney Stevens (bookseller) — Four, Three, Two, One

There are also lots of book club favorites back with new books this year:

Karen Abbott (Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, 2014) — The Ghosts of Eden Park

Louis Bayard (The Pale Blue Eye, 2006) — Courting Mr. Lincoln

Melanie Benjamin (The Aviator’s Wife, 2013) — Mistress of the Ritz

Tara Conklin (The House Girl, 2013) — The Last Romantics

Ottessa Moshfegh (Eileen, 2015) — My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Julie Orringer (The Invisible Bridge, 2010) — The Flight Portfolio

Chris Pavone (The Expats, 2012) — The Paris Diversion

Paul Theroux (Deep South, 2015) — On the Plain of Snakes

Karen Thompson Walker (The Age of Miracles, 2012) — The Dreamers

This is only a partial list of the many authors scheduled to appear. Be sure to check out the local writers as well as those with first books, all who want to share their work with you. Come with your book group friends and make the most of this fascinating weekend.

Parnassus Book Club — Upcoming Meeting Schedule

October — Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Monday, October 14 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, October 16 at 6:30pm
Thursday, October 17 at 10am

November — Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Monday, November 18 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, November 20 at 6:30pm
Thursday, November 21 at 10am

Classics Club — The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
Monday, December 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!