In August, I had the joy of visiting Nashville, where I got the chance to stop by Parnassus, a bookstore that left me quite a bit poorer and thoroughly happy that independent bookstores still exist.
Parnassus is co-owned by author Ann Patchett, who you might know from her award-winning novel Bel Canto, among other works. Even though Patchett partially owns the store, it’s clear that its ties to literature don’t end there. The entire layout of the store, as well as its numerous clubs and events, seem tailored to readers. Not just people who like books, but readers. The store is lined with shelves, with lovely old fashioned ladders for employees to reach books on the taller shelves. And that’s really the highlight here--the books! There are books everywhere! Sure, there’s some book-related paraphernalia, some reading lights and bookmarks and such, but the books take center stage at Parnassus.
One thing I was particularly attracted to about the store--aside from their awesome staff--was the sheer amount of interactive events and clubs they host. Parnassus has a first editions club, where readers can get signed first editions of books handpicked by Parnassus staff. They also have ParnassusNext, a similar system for young adult books. ParnassusNext sends signed, hardcover, first edition YA books right to your HOME! This is a great option for people who don’t live near Nashville, but still want to support a great local bookstore. You can also order online and get your books shipped to you, no matter what you want to purchase.
Parnassus also frequently hosts authors for readings and events--and lots of authors come through Nashville! While I didn’t get to attend an event during my trip, I think the space would be great for it.
Ok, let me jump on my soapbox for a second. The thing that impressed me most about Parnassus--aside from their cute children’s section, extensive YA books and recommendations, and large regional section--was their poetry section. Poetry gets a bad rap these days, and I’m not entirely sure why. I used to be scared of poetry and unsure of how to read it, but once I discovered that you can, you know, just read it, the world of poetry opened up to me! Parnassus has a selection of classic, canonical collections--like Elizabeth Bishop or Keats--but they also carry newer works by poets like Terrance Hayes or popular poetry that spans audiences, like Rupi Kaur. It’s important to me that Parnassus has made poetry an important part of their shop.
One last thing to know about the store: they have many beautiful SHOP DOGS! While visiting, I only got to see a couple of these gorgeous dogs, and I’m sad I didn’t get to meet Eleanor Roosevelt Philpott. The dogs are not only very cute, but they add a relaxed atmosphere to the store. While I’ll always prefer a shop cat (because I love cats, of course), these are some grade A shop dogs.
You can find out more about Parnassus at their site, here, or by visiting them near downtown Nashville! Whether you’re near or far, you can always order books on their online store!