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Parnassus Books, Nashville

Reading refuge in the Athens of the South

Written By:  MaryBeth Roberts

Photographers:  The Tennessean

Karen Hayes and Ann Patchett

It’s simple. Novelist and Nashville native Ann Patchett didn’t want to live in a place that didn’t have a bookstore. And after the closing of Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Green Hills in December 2010 and Borders on West End Avenue not long after, Nashville readers were lacking a place to walk into and buy a new book. 

“A bookstore is part of the fabric of the city,” says Patchett.

So, in November 2011, the writer best known for penning bestsellers such as Bel Canto and State of Wonder, opened her own.

“This is the best decision I’ve ever made,” says Patchett, whose partner in the project is book business veteran Karen Hayes. “It’s been such a source of joy.”

The inviting and bustling 2,500 square-foot Green Hills store with the warm, wooden floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and sliding ladders was named for Mount Parnassus, a sacred site in ancient Greece associated with poetry, song and knowledge. Like its namesake, Nashville’s Parnassus is a magnet for inspiration.

“The bookstores that are still around are part of their communities,” says Hayes. “Our store is uniquely Nashville.”

Case in point: the donated piano in the back of the store which patrons are encouraged to play. Or, the hefty music section featuring everything from Steve Earle’s Hank Williams-inspired novel, I’ll Never Get Out of this Town Alive to The Complete David Bowie, which is complimented by musical events such as a monthly visit by the Nashville Jazz Workshop.

Other neighbor-friendly gatherings include author signings, book club meetings and the new “Let’s Talk Books” series, organized by former Nashville Public Library Director Donna Knicely.

“Mayor [Karl Dean] was one of the 90 people that came to our last event,” says Patchett. “If the mayor has time to read and discuss Great Expectations, then so do I.”

A major point of pride at Parnassus is the weekly story hours in the children’s section. (Just look for the big train set under the illuminated stars suspended from the ceiling).

“The children’s section is where everything starts,” says Hayes. “If you go into a bookstore as a child you’re going to establish a connection to reading and make memories for life.”

Ann touts the best of Nashville on the colbert report

The Colbert Report
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Parnassus Books Nashville
3900 Hillsboro Pike, Suite 14
(615) 953-2243

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