Looking Back on 2020: Virtual Events, Laydown Diaries, Bestsellers & More

It has been a crazy year, and all we can really think to say is: Thank you. Thank you for supporting us, thank you for staying safe, thank you for ordering books and letting us carry books out to your car and ship them to you all over the country and beyond.

2020 felt like one long improvisation where sometimes we had no audience, sometimes we had no instruments, and sometimes we had no conductor. And sometimes if felt like we were missing all three. Still, there were some highlights, we think, so “enjoy” this look back at a year unlike any other, in the life of one independent bookstore.

Abby Wambach, Glennon Doyle and a gaggle of Parnassus booksellers at Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

On March 11, a little more than a week after a tornado devastated parts of Nashville, we hosted Glennon Doyle for the release of Untamed. We had already had some event cancellations but we really had no idea what was coming. From there, the cancellations rolled in one after the next until the rest of March was wiped out completely. Then the same for April, though we participated in our first virtual event, via Zoom, with author Ariel Lawhon.

The pandemic was fully upon us with no end in sight. Our doors were closed. We re-arranged the store for better physical distancing and worked to fill online orders.

We missed being able to talk to customers about all the new books each Tuesday, so Ann, Cat and Rae Ann decided to take it to the Internet — and thus, The Laydown Diaries were born. As it happened, the debut installment featured what would be some of our favorite books of the year — The Dragons, the Giant, the Women; A Burning; The Vanishing Half; and a new Deckawoo Drive book by perennial favorite, the life-changing Kate DiCamillo. One of the few things we want to take with us into 2021!

(Yes, that means we’ll keep the Laydown Diaries going.)

Watch them all on our YouTube channel!

In June, after much planning, training and set up, we launched our virtual events program on Facebook Live with YA author Patrick Ness, whose novel Burn was our ParnassusNext selection for that month. (Learn more about our subscription box for YA readers here.) That was the first Facebook Live author event of many to come. Here are just a few favorites:

Aimee Nezukhumatahil, discussing World of Wonders with Margaret Renkl.
Destiny Birdsong discussing Negotiations with Jenna Wortham.
Alice Randall presenting Black Bottom Saints.
Kwame Alexander discussing Light for the World to See with Charlane Oliver.
Molly Secours discussing White Privilege Pop Quiz with LaTonya Turner.

Visit our Facebook Live page to watch any of this year’s events, and click here to see what’s coming up!

Then some more good news: In September, we introduced a new subscription box for middle-grade — also known as “independent readers,” roughly ages 8-12. Spark Book Club made its debut with Tune It Out, by Nashville writer Jamie Sumner! (Click here to read an excerpt.) Learn more about Spark Book Club and sign up here!

When we finally did re-open for limited browsing, we wanted to make sure everyone knew about the new procedures in place. So we made a little movie starring Ann Patchett, in the style of another decade ending in “20.”

Through it all, our customers have been amazing. Thank you!

And what would an end-of-year post be without a list? Here are the top 10 bestselling books of the year.

No. 10

Clean Getaway Cover ImageClean Getaway

No. 9

All Adults Here: A Novel Cover ImageAll Adults Here: A Novel

No. 8

Black Bottom Saints: A Novel Cover ImageBlack Bottom Saints: A Novel

No. 7

Transcendent Kingdom: A novel Cover ImageTranscendent Kingdom: A novel

No. 6

The Night Watchman Cover ImageThe Night Watchman

No. 5

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

No. 4

The Dutch House: A Novel Cover ImageThe Dutch House: A Novel

No. 3

His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope Cover ImageHis Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope

By Jon Meacham, John Lewis (Afterword)

No. 2

Untamed Cover ImageUntamed

No. 1

The Good Fight: Wanting to Leave, Choosing to Stay, and the Powerful Practice for Loving Faithfully Cover ImageThe Good Fight: Wanting to Leave, Choosing to Stay, and the Powerful Practice for Loving Faithfully

See all 100 of our 2020 bestsellers here!


Parnassus Books is closed Dec. 31 and Jan. 1
Happy New Year!