All things literacy — Authors, Books, Connections . . .

Friday, September 06, 2013

Bookstore Tour -- Parnassus Books Nashville, Tennessee

Parnassus Books

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Parnassus Books  is often referred to as Ann Patchett's bookstore.  Ann Patchett is a native of Nashville, Tennessee, and well-known for her own love of books and for her writing.  She is the author of several well-known books: State of Wonder: A Novel (Harper Perennial, 2012); This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (HarperCollins, 2013); [bel canto]: a Novel (HarperCollins, 2008); and several other titles -- all published since the beginning of her career that began in 1992.  And while this store is often known as Ann Patchett's bookstore she is actually just one of the co-owners.  Her partner is Karen Hayes — a long time veteran of the book business.  The two owners are supported by a staff that is described on the book store's website as including "a New York Times best selling author, a publishing veteran, an anthropologist, poets, musicians, and extraordinary booksellers.  Each of the store's managers and book sellers provide lists of recommended books on the store's website and regularly help book seekers select just the right book from their shelves.

Parnassus Books

by Tracy Barrett
Photographs courtesy of Parnassus Books and Tracy Barrett

Nashville, Tennessee, is a literary city. Home of the Fugitive movement of poetry (centered at Vanderbilt University) and of so many universities that it has long been called “the Athens of the South,” for years the city supported several large and profitable bookstores as well as many used and special-interest bookstores (religious, children’s, and others).

So Nashvillians were taken by surprise in 2010 when two of the city’s largest bookstores, each about 30,000 square feet in size, were closed in quick succession. In both cases the stores were profitable but their owners made a decision on the corporate level that they had to go.

Enter Nashville native Ann Patchett. The author has lived in the city since she was six years old, and she couldn’t stand the thought of living in a city without a good independent bookstore. She funded the 2,500-square-foot Parnassus Books, which opened in a strip mall in November, 2012, working with her friends, co-owner Karen Hayes and general manager Mary Grey James, both veterans of many aspects of the book industry.

Parnassus is an inviting space, with high ceilings, shiny wood floors, and a bright and welcoming children’s area whose child-sized entrance is based on Nashville’s iconic Parthenon (a larger side door makes it possible for adults to enter easily). Aside from a few cards and bookmarks, all you can buy at Parnassus is books, with the help of friendly and knowledgeable staff. Patchett says that while on book tours she asked bookstore owners for tips, and one of the best was to locate the children’s section in the back of the store so that if any of the young customers takes off running, you have time to catch them before they reach the door!

Parnassus is a regular stop for other authors on their own book tours. Al Gore, Rachael Ray, Pat Summitt, Gregg Allman are recent visitors, and the list of authors of children’s books who have spoken and signed there is impressive, including Mo Willems, Jane O’Connor (Fancy Nancy), Barbara Park (Junie B. Jones), Sharon Creech, Jon Klassen, Ruta Sepetys, Peter Brown, and many others.

Jessica Young, author of My Blue is Happy 
, 2013; Walker Books UK) and  
Spy Guy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
forthcoming, 2015)
Local authors look on Parnassus as the logical place for their book launches, and the store’s calendar is full of those events as well as story times and book club meetings. Parnassus is a sponsor of literacy programs and provides discounted books to local schools hosting author visits. Two book clubs—a First Editions club and a Young Adult club—keep members supplied with new and interesting reads.

Ann Patchett says, “Parnassus is a small store with a carefully selected inventory of books that you are actually going to want to read. And here’s another thing we have going for us: a friendly, intelligent staff comprised of people who read the books they sell.”


The author of this article, Tracy Barrett, is an accomplished author with her own published books.  Dark of the Moon (Harcourt Children's, 2011) is a retelling of a Minotaur Myth, and her twentieth book and tenth novel -- a Cinderella retelling (with a new twist), The Stepsister's Tale, will be released in 2014 by Harlequin Teen.  A second fairy-tale built on the motifs and themes of Snow White, Mirror, will be released in 2015. Learn more about Tracy Barrett on her website at


  1. Thanks for letting me participate, Sharron! And for those of you contemplating a trip to Nashville--y'all come!

  2. Tracy - thank you for being a guest blogger. Hope others will not only visit the store but discover your books while they are there. Appreciate having you as a guest.

  3. Fantastic review of a fantastic bookstore! Parnassus has changed the literary landscape in Nashville, and we're so grateful! The warm atmosphere, regular author events, and expert staff who genuinely appreciate books make it a frequent destination for our family. My kids feel right at home in the children's section, browsing and settling in with their selections while I research and shop. It's a big part of a welcoming community of book lovers, so as Tracy said, "Y'all come!"

  4. Jessica - thanks for visiting our blog -- and Tracy's post. Good luck with your career as an author. We'll all be watching for your books as they come along. Always great to have an author's perspective of a bookstore or any of our blog entries.

  5. Excellent article. I enjoyed my brief author visit at Parnassus bookstore. It's right down the street from where my son lives.

  6. Joyce - I am envious of your nearness to this store. The store seems to be awesome and to be so close must be fun. However, I might be booted from the family financial checkbook if I were too close.
    Thanks for your comment.