I love visiting indie bookstores and will try to duck into one (and buy a book – or several!) anytime I am in a new city, or even familiar stomping grounds like my much loved previous neighborhood of Old Town Alexandria. Of course, as a reader and a traveler and a lover of bookshops, I have a running list in my head of famous indies I’d like to get to someday – Powell’s in Portland; Tattered Covers in Denver; the Mysterious Bookshop in NYC, and so on. And Parnassus Books, the famous Nashville indie founded by Ann Patchett, was definitely on that list. So when my team at work decided on Nashville for one of our periodic weeklong offsite meetings, my first order of business was to scan the schedule and figure out when I could squeeze in a visit to Parnassus. Monday afternoon ended up working out the best – I arrived in Nashville on an early flight, put in some time working at our downtown corporate office, and then, with a couple of hours left before the rest of my teammates arrived and we reunited for a late dinner, grabbed an Uber down to Parnassus.
I was surprised to find the legendary bookshop a nondescript storefront at the cusp of the suburbs – all the more magical, then, knowing that there were treasures inside.
First view when you walk into the store – did I do a little dance? Yes, yes I did. I’d left myself a good hour and a half for browsing; this was my one planned solo activity of the week. Cue excitement.
They had two shelves dedicated to bookseller recommendations and books “picked and penned by Patchett.” Now that I am looking at this picture, I’m really regretting not picking up one of those gorgeous hardcover editions of Bel Canto. Well, next time.
The children’s section was in the back, suitably reached through this cute little door with miniature Grecian columns – a playful nod to the name of the bookstore. There were a few little kids who gleefully ran under the portico as I browsed. Adorable… I wished I had my own anklebiters with me, because they’d have loved it.
Suitably for Nashville, they also had a big and well curated music section. Not sure if it was the twinkle lights, the star lanterns, or the general vibe, but the whole place seemed to sparkle.
Now, to what I know you all want to know: what did I buy? Enough that I needed this cute tote bag to carry it all. Don’t mind if I do. Here’s (most of) the haul:
A pretty good haul indeed, don’t you agree? After making sure I took in every shelf in the fiction, poetry and children’s sections, I picked up:
- Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor – I’ve already read this and had my eye on collecting the Virago editions of Taylor’s books, but I couldn’t resist this NYRB Classics edition (I’m starting to build up quite a collection of those).
- The Windsor Knot, by S.J. Bennett – This mystery starring a sleuthing Queen Elizabeth caught my eye awhile ago; it looks cute, and I was still feeling a little weepy about the Queen.
- Theater Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild – Another one I’ve had my eye on for awhile. Kathleen Kelly recommends “the shoe books” and we all know Kathleen Kelly is never wrong. (Yes, I know she’s not real. Don’t harsh my mellow.)
- How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons), by Barbara Kingsolver – I had no idea Kingsolver wrote poetry! After flipping through this at the poetry shelf and reading a few selections, I decided I definitely needed it for my own.
- Unlock Your Storybook Heart and Flower Crowns and Fearsome Things, both by Amanda Lovelace – Every time I go into my favorite indie, Old Town Books, I find myself browsing Lovelace’s poetry. It was time to finally pick some up for my shelf. Flower Crowns and Fearsome Things is not pictured above because I’ve already finished it and now I can’t find it. It was gorgeous; highly recommend.
- Still Life, by Sarah Winman – This just caught my eye with its striking cover; I don’t know much about it other than that it’s about World War II and art and portions of it take place in Italy during and after the war. Historical fiction isn’t my usual jam, but this one sounds good!
What fun to visit Parnassus and treat myself to more than an hour of book shopping! I don’t think I’ve gone to a bookstore and just puttered around for a long time in ages – probably not since COVID. It felt good. And whet my appetite for more bookshop visits to come.
Have you been to Parnassus Books?