Time Marches On: 28 Great New Reads

“Can spring be far behind?” If this (hopefully rhetorical) question from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” has gotten you through a winter or 12, we feel your pain. There’s a glimpse of hope around the corner that maybe these cold blustery days are almost behind us, but just as importantly, there are lots of new books to read! Keep winter at bay with these fresh recommendations, hand-picked by our booksellers.

Recommended by Ann

The Night Watchman Cover ImageThe Night Watchman

Louise Erdrich is one of the greatest writers of our time and this is her best book so far. The night watchman is trying to save Native lands while a young woman is trying to save her sister. Gorgeous, brilliant, important — everything you could want in a novel.

(Don’t miss Louise Erdrich’s upcoming appearance at Parnassus for a Salon@615 event, in conversation with Ann Patchett, on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, at 6:15pm.)

Recommended by Karen

Writers & Lovers Cover ImageWriters & Lovers

What would you sacrifice to pursue your dreams? Casey is a writer, but life keeps getting in the way of this calling. She is grieving the loss of her mother, living in a converted garage while waiting tables in Harvard Square, when she meets two men who send her life in a different direction.

(Don’t miss Lily King’s upcoming appearance on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, at 6:30pm.)

Recommended by Cat

Deacon King Kong: A Novel Cover ImageDeacon King Kong: A Novel

I love my fiction populated with richly imagined, quirky characters with lots of depth and wow, does James McBride deliver that and more in his latest novel.

(Don’t miss James McBride’s upcoming appearance at the Nashville Public Library for a Salon@615 event on Monday, March 16, 2020, at 6:15pm.)

Recommended by Cat

Greenwood: A Novel Cover ImageGreenwood: A Novel

This fantastically wrought family saga spans from the Great Depression to 2034 (where the world is in the midst of a major environmental crisis) and is structured like a tree trunk in terms of time — working from 2034 to the past and back out again through five generations of the Greenwood family. Of course, trees and the natural world are constantly major characters.

Recommended by Marcia

Postscript Cover ImagePostscript

The followup to P.S., I Love You, Postscript takes the reader on Holly’s journey that begins with the letters Gerry left behind. It’s a story that is at times heartwarming, at times heart wrenching, but always beautiful.

Recommended by Jordan

Oona Out of Order: A Novel Cover ImageOona Out of Order

Time is a funny thing for all of us, but especially for Oona, who lives each year of her life in a nonconsecutive order. Each year on her birthday, she wakes up a different age in a different year, jumping around through life while everyone else lives their years normally. Of course, this leads to many surprises, as the character sees her life unfold out of order.

Recommended by Heather

The Holdout: A Novel Cover ImageThe Holdout

Graham Moore creates strong characters among the members of a jury who are coming together again, informally, on the anniversary of an acquittal that few celebrate. The promise of new evidence lures them in but the source dies before the information is revealed. Whodunnit? Every time I thought I had it figured out I was wrong. Once you start you will not want to put it down!

Recommended by Ben

Apeirogon: A Novel Cover ImageApeirogon

Highly experimental and deeply humanizing, Apeirogon fictionalizes the true stories of two fathers — one Israeli and one Palestinian — who have each lost a daughter to the conflict. The text spans a vast universe of countries, history, science, religion, geopolitics, ornithology, and more, creating artful and subtle connections among the vignettes. Out of the complexity, the power of grief and friendship emerges.

Recommended by Heather

Saint X Cover ImageSaint X

A captivating whodunnit that holds your attention through twists and turns to the very end. The author captures the minds and voices of the characters and draws you into the experience of a 7-year-old girl losing her sister and working to rediscover who she really was — and what happened to her — years later

Recommended by Becca

The Sun Down Motel Cover ImageThe Sun Down Motel

I tend to lean on mysteries and thrillers to get through the dark, dreary end of winter, and this book kept me distracted through several cold and rainy days. This is a twist-filled missing person(s) story with lots of flashbacks and a heavy dose of the supernatural. I would recommend reading this one during the day, with all of the lights on.

Recommended by Kevin

Weather: A novel Cover ImageWeather

Like a masterpiece of impressionism, the careful, muted, sometimes initially inscrutable strokes that comprise this novel — among them observation, joke, half-heard conversation, and open question — at a distance assemble into a living portrait.

(Don’t miss Jenny Offill’s upcoming appearance on Thursday, April 16, 2020, at 6:30pm.)

Recommended by Sydney

The Companions Cover ImageThe Companions

In this dystopia, society is quarantined due to a new pandemic. To aid in people’s loneliness, a tech company creates “companions” for those who are living. These companions are humans who have passed on. Their consciousnesses have been uploaded to robotic bodies. When first-gen companion Lilac learns she is to be scrapped, she defies commands and goes on a search for the person who murdered her when she was human.

Recommended by Kathy

American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel Cover ImageAmerican Dirt

I continue to recommend this compelling and important book. A terrific, exciting and very thought-provoking read. Ignore the negative press and don’t miss this one!

Recommended by Rae Ann

Blackwood Cover ImageBlackwood

Vivid characters with compelling backstories are thrown together in this story of a small Mississippi town bordered by a kudzu-covered valley where secrets are hidden. Reading this book feels like tumbling into a mirage.

Recommended by Kay

The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) Cover ImageThe Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1)

The Unspoken Name begins with a young girl, raised from birth to be sacrificed to a dark and unspeakable god, choosing to flee her predestined death and live instead. What follows is an epic journey full of magic artifacts, angry gods, and lost worlds that will test what “loyalty” really means for everyone involved.

Recommended by Jordan

The Authenticity Project: A Novel Cover ImageThe Authenticity Project

A little green notebook floats its way through an unlikely group of people, bringing them together and teaching them to live more authentically. This book is full of twists and turns and lovable character development.

Recommended by Erin

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line: A Novel Cover ImageDjinn Patrol on the Purple Line

Children are disappearing from the basti, a sprawling slum in an unnamed Indian city. Jai is nine years old, obsessed with TV police procedurals, and determined to solve the mystery that local police are ignoring. This debut has a warmth and brightness to it that celebrates the spirit of the basti children, the missing but not forgotten. It’s writing you’ll want to savor, and a story you won’t forget.

Recommended by Sissy

Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America; Essays Cover ImageHere for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America

R. Eric Thomas has carved out a very special place for himself on social media. He is hilarious and relatable, while also being the smartest guy in the room. His memoir of growing up in Baltimore is fascinating. Anyone who has struggled with the question “Who am I?” will relate to his tales of being different, sometimes failing, and moving on.

(Don’t miss R. Eric Thomas’ upcoming appearance on Thursday, May 14, 2020, at 6:30pm.)

Recommended by Steve

Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America Cover ImageGolden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America

A smart, accessible and highly readable look at the post-Great Recession affordable housing crisis, Golden Gates focuses on San Francisco but delivers insights that are also applicable to other rapidly growing cities (ahem, Nashville). And this is no dry policy tome. Dougherty tells his story through a series of colorful characters, each with their own priorities and motivations.

Recommended by Andy

Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote Cover ImageAuthor in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote

Fascinating look at the books authored by our chief executive. From Jefferson to Reagan, Fehrman examines the impact of presidential writing. In the appendix the author offers his 12 most important works. Perfect read for history and book lovers.

Recommended by Kevin

Why We're Polarized Cover ImageWhy We’re Polarized

Employing an impressive collection of social science and systems analysis, Klein argues that the American demographic and ideological sorting of the past half-century has left us with political superidentities — a problem accelerated by the feedback loop of our political system. Though short on solutions, it’s an insightful analysis of how we got here and where we might be going.

Recommended by Andy

The Hope of Glory: Reflections on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross Cover ImageThe Hope of Glory: Reflections on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross

Meacham explores the seven last sayings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, combining rich historical and theological insights to reflect on the true heart of the Christian story.

(Don’t miss Jon Meacham’s upcoming appearance at Montgomery Bell Academy for a Salon@615 event on Sunday, April 5, 2020, at 2pm.)

Recommended by Steve

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning Cover ImageMinor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning

This is a book I wish I’d had when I was younger. It complicates Asian American identity and examines what it means to be an artist in such an honest and insightful way. Minor Feelings would be worth the cover price just for the chapter on the murder of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, which flat-out messed me up.

Recommended by Chelsea

American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI Cover ImageAmerican Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI

For true crime fans, this fascinating biography does not disappoint. The writing is never dull or boring, with each chapter detailing how Heinrich, the “American Sherlock Holmes,” collected and processed evidence in a certain case. American Sherlock perfectly captures not only Heinrich but his long-lasting influence in our present legal system.

Recommended by Suzanna

The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here Cover ImageThe Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here

The narrative climate change book you’ve been hoping to find, Jahren’s The Story of More takes a well-researched yet accessible look at the grim reality of excessive energy consumption and its consequences on the modern world. Without shying away from the seriousness of our current situation, Jahren manages to leave her readers with a subtle sense of hope — humans have created a major problem, but every day, we have the chance to take real steps in the right direction.

Recommended by Andy

See You on Sunday: A Cookbook for Family and Friends Cover ImageSee You on Sunday: A Cookbook for Family and Friends

New York Times food critic Sam Sifton offers this wonderful guide to rediscovering Sunday supper with family and friends.

Recommended by Ben

The Galleons: Poems Cover ImageThe Galleons: Poems

In his latest collection, Barot tackles a dizzying expanse of history, focusing on the lingering effects of colonialism while revealing his family’s story as Filipino immigrants. His hopeful, “grudging faith in the particular” positions the significance of the individual within the globe he crisscrosses. Using uncomplicated language, he mounts a singular internal exploration and a sweeping outward voyage through these layered, lyrical poems.

Recommended by Steve

Good Boys: Poems Cover ImageGood Boys: Poems

Every now and then a book of poetry comes along that knocks the wind out of you every few pages. Good Boys is one of those books. In “White People Always Want to Tell Me That They Grew Up Poor,” Megan Fernandes writes, “my daddy holds storms / from a world you’ve never seen // He is a doctor / because // it was a way / to unbury // his dead. // I want to say: / It is not me you hate.” You need these poems.

First Editions Club: March Selection

The Night Watchman Cover ImageThe Night Watchman

If there is one thing that I find myself re-learning time and time again as I watch and listen to what is going on in the world, it is that we dismiss the stories and lessons in our history to our own detriment. The past is never truly past and we must reckon with decisions made by those in the generations before us. This lesson is especially evident in Louise Erdrich’s masterful new novel The Night Watchman. As she writes in the author’s note, it was inspired by her own grandfather and the legal battles he and so many other Native peoples fought year after year and the against-all-odds victories that came in between their defeats.

The Night Watchman is a story that encompasses so much of what Native Tribes have experienced in the wake of White European settlement and what life looked like on a reservation in mid-century North Dakota. And within that, Erdrich brings to life the character based on her grandfather and the community he lived in. I couldn’t help but root for Thomas Wazhashk, Patrice, Wood Mountain, and all the other characters in the Turtle Mountain Reservation and hoped against hope that all their efforts at better lives came to fruition.

But more importantly, this is a story that is not finished. The battles Erdrich’s grandfather fought and the legislation pitted against Native tribes are not a thing of the past. And here we can learn from those who came before what it means to strive for justice, even if we know it is an uphill battle.

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

March — Little Faith by Nicholas Butler
Monday, March 16 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, March 18 at 6:30pm
*Thursday, March 19 at 10:30am* Nick Butler will join us for this meeting!
*Note change of time for this meeting.*

April — The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin
Monday, April 13 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, April 15 at 6:30pm Tara Conklin will join us for this meeting!
Thursday, April 16 at 10am

Classics Club — Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
Monday, April 6 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:

Book clubs and wine … an inevitable pairing?

In a scene from her upcoming novel Friends and Strangers, J. Courtney Sullivan dramatizes a neighborhood book club meeting where her main character, journalist Elizabeth Ronson, is a first-time attendee. Being a new neighbor and eager to make friends, Elizabeth has spent hours reading Mary McCarthy’s classic The Group, and looks forward to participating in a lively and intelligent discussion. To her chagrin, the club spends a grand total of 6 minutes talking about the book. As one woman in the group says, “Look ladies, it’s only a book. It doesn’t matter. Agree to disagree.” And then they were off on a two-hour jag, hashing over neighborhood gossip, all the while refilling large wine glasses over and over. When they finally adjourn to a nearby bar, Elizabeth has had enough and is able to bow out gracefully.

This whole scene is one played out all to often with many book clubs. Two common complaints reported in the publication The Inner Lives of Book Clubs were the over-serving of wine at meetings which leads to too little time spent in book discussion. I too have heard this voiced repeatedly in talking with members of local clubs over the years — too much wine served and too little discussion about the book. What to do?

First, limit the wine served to one glass per person. This way, meetings can still be relaxed, enjoyable, yet not out of control. Or, perhaps your group can agree to omit wine entirely, or serve it after the discussion ends.

Second, commit to reading the book and to its thoughtful discussion at the meeting. It doesn’t have to be work to make a few notes or underline meaningful thoughts as you read so ideas will flow easily during the discussion beyond just “I didn’t like it”, or I couldn’t identify with the characters.”

These two issues often lead to the demise of a book club. Don’t let your group become like the one in Friends and Strangers, a victim of too much wine and too little book talk.

Need more recommendations? Head to the Staff Picks archive!