A dozen years ago, two bookstores closed in Nashville. Tennessee’s largest city, the Athens of the South, was suddenly without a bookshop. Thankfully, the novelist Ann Patchett came to the rescue. Along with publishing industry veteran Karen Hayes, Patchett founded Parnassus Books—fittingly named for Mount Parnassus, Greece’s mythic source of creative inspiration. We spoke with Sarah Arnold, marketing and communications director for Parnassus, about the bookstore.
ZYZZYVA: What’s the coziest spot in your store for reading?
SARAH ARNOLD: There’s a bench by the front window in our cookbook nook that gets nice and warm in the sun in the midafternoon. Some of our shop dogs have discovered this, too, and sometimes we find them sunbathing there. Books, dogs, and sunshine. What could be cozier?
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Z: What’s a little-known fact about your store?
SA: We have a nonprofit! The Parnassus Books Foundation supplies books and coordinates author and illustrator visits for Title I schools here in Nashville. We had a formal launch for the Foundation all planned out for … drumroll please … March 2020. Obviously, some bigger things were happening in the world then, so we never got the chance to give it the celebratory introduction to the world that we imagined, but that hasn’t stopped our team from working hard to bring authors and illustrators to classrooms across Nashville and send students home with books.
Z: How would you describe the smell of your shop?
SA: It smells like new books and old wood. Perfect.
Z: Which new book would you recommend most to readers?
SA: OK, I may be a little biased here (and perhaps I’m bending the rules a tad), but Do Tell, by our very own Lindsay Lynch, will be released on July 11, and if you’re reading this, you should pre-order it right now! A failed character actress turned gossip columnist in the Golden Age of Hollywood finds herself entangled in the secrets, lies, and power struggles of the Hollywood machine. If you liked Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo or Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls, you won’t want to miss it.
Z: Aside from your own, what’s your favorite bookstore?
SA: There are so many incredible bookstores out there that I could choose, but I’m going to give a shoutout to Loyalty Books in Washington, D.C. Hannah Oliver Depp has created such a wonderful and inclusive space.