Ann’s Blog

Notes from Ann: A Day at the Races

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(All photos in this post: John Midgley / National Book Critics Circle)

The National Book Critics Circle Awards is a two-night event. The first night each of the finalists reads for three minutes. Some years it doesn’t work so well — someone decides to read for 20 minutes and everyone else gets grumpy — but this year was magic. Every reader was both wonderful and on time. I can’t remember when I’ve felt luckier to be anywhere. New York was freezing and snow banked, and some of the authors got snowed out, but many of the people who missed the first night made it to the awards ceremony the second night. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: Turning the Tables

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(On location at Parnassus for A Word on Words. This new episode premieres Sunday, February 19, at 10:26 a.m. on Nashville Public Television.)

Mary Laura Philpott, the author of Penguins with People Problems, is often interviewing people, and whether she’s doing it on A Word on Wordsthe television series that discusses books, or right here on Musing, Parnassus’s online literary magazine (which, by the way, she created), she’s awfully good at it. So good at it, in fact, that she won an Emmy a couple of weeks ago. When one of your employees wins an Emmy, it’s best to call them into the office to have a little discussion, see what’s going on. For the record, Mary Laura strenuously objected to this interview. That’s because she always likes to be in control. But I still own half this bookstore, so I have some authority. I told her to just sit down and answer questions. – Ann Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: Thought for the Day

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Bel Canto at the Lyric Opera of Chicago (photo: Todd Rosenberg)

I’ve got a card on my desk from my friend Charles Strobel’s ordination as a priest in 1970. It’s the size of a holy card but it’s plain — no prayer, no saint — just a quote by Robert F. Kennedy. I used to pick it up once or twice a year and read it, but recently I’ve been reading it every day. It goes like this, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lots of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: A Knockout Year for Books

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The New York Times Book Review asked me (and many, many other people) to recommend our favorite books of 2016 in 300 words or less. At first I planned to just recommend Jane Hamilton’s The Excellent Lombards and Patrick Ryan’s The Dream Life of Astronauts, because those are the two books I loved this year that I think got short shrift. The popular books, I figured, would get plenty of attention from other people. But in the end I couldn’t contain myself. There were some fantastic popular books this year, and I wanted to cram in as many titles as I could. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: Shelter

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I had meant to write a post about my adventures on book tour, but book tour just isn’t interesting anymore. A lot of things that seemed attention-worthy up until the evening of November 8th have fallen flat for me. I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out what I should be doing now, today, in order to be helpful to my country and my community. I would like to be useful and loving. I would like to fill my toolbox with decency, kindness and respect, patience and bravery. You know, live by example. What to do? What to do? Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: The Read Harder Challenge

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I was talking to my friend Gail Vinett at Ingram Content Group — the distributor where the store gets a lot of our books — this week while I was there to sign 1,800 copies of Commonwealth. (Yes, eighteen hundred copies. Lucky me! Poor me! Take your pick.) Gail was there to keep me company and she told me that, along with her family — her husband in Nashville, a son in Auckland, and a daughter in Oakland — she was doing the Book Riot 2016 Read Harder Challenge. She said it was proving to be an excellent two-continent family bonding exercise. Because it takes a long time to sign 1,800 books, she had time to pull out her phone and started reading off the list. I got so into it! Read the rest of this entry »

“None of it happened and all of it’s true” – Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth

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Photo by Heidi Ross
Ann Patchett in the back storeroom at Parnassus Books with her dog, Sparky (photo: Heidi Ross)

Those of us who work and shop at Parnassus Books have a unique perspective on Ann Patchett’s novels, because we witness their creation at somewhat close range. We’re here in the store when Ann comes in to pick up a stack of books she has ordered for research. We’re hanging around when she finishes a morning of writing and brings her pup Sparky over to run around the shop. We weigh in on characters’ names and book cover designs, and we celebrate when the manuscript has finally been turned in. But we’re not inside Ann’s head. We know some things about the story, but we don’t know all the ins and outs and whys and hows — unless, of course, we ask. Read the rest of this entry »