The Lucky Tour: Parnassus Books


Intrepid former Algonquin intern David Bradley and his trusty sidekick, Lucky the Leprechaun, hit the road for a tour of (almost all) the coolest, hippest, greatest indie bookstores in the United States. Join us for the journey…

NASHVILLE — It seems the best way to know you’re in Nashville is to look for picturesque skies and church spires reaching high to that heavenly beauty. Nestled among these classic structures is a new classic, Parnassus Books, which has made an immediate splash in the business with its eloquent staff and beautiful store.

Parnassus Books is wonderfully modern while somehow maintaining the quaint feeling of  an older bookshop. It could be the piano Parnassus2tucked amongst the shelves (which Lucky was instantly attracted to) or the ladders rolling to and fro, but whether you’re looking to the future, peeking back at the past, or simply living in the moment, you’ll find yourself drawn to Parnassus’s shelves.

Karen Hayes, who owns Parnassus Books along with author Ann Patchett, answered our Algonquin questionnaire.

What inspired the name Parnassus Books?

It comes from the book Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley. In it, a man sells a horse-drawn cart to a young woman who then uses it to sell books. As a former traveling sales rep, this immediately struck a cord with me, but then we remembered that Mount Parnassus in Greece is believed to be the center of poetry, literature, and learning—which is exactly what we want Nashville to be for the United States—and it was too perfect to pass up.

What was in this store’s location before Parnassus?

It was a Tan 2000…we like to think this was a slight upgrade for the community.

What is the rarest/oddest non-book item on the shelves right now?

It’s actually not on our shelves right now, but for the winter holidays we carried infinity scarves with passages of classical texts printed on them. They were wildly popular and you can still find them on Etsy.

Parnassus6What is your favorite hand-selling recommendation for the summer? And what is your favorite hand-selling Algonquin title?

Actually, I’d say Jill McCorkle’s Life After Life is the best answer to both of those questions. I love her new novel, and we even had a great author event with her.

What is the staff’s cocktail of choice?

It’s not exactly a cocktail, but we host a monthly Wine With An Author event. There is a very nice and bookish owner at The Wine Shoppe at Green Hills who carefully selects the perfect wine to match the tone of the author’s book, and everybody has a great time at those events.

What is the most visited area of the store?

Probably the small door leading to our Children’s section. We usually have to dodge stampedes of kids sprinting through our store to get to that tiny door.


What is the strangest question you’ve been asked in the store?

A customer, after paying, saw one of our booksellers, Heidi, shelving at the second bay. He walked over to her and said “Excuse me, young lady, but I wanted to tell you you have the blessed face of the Madonna.”


Check back tomorrow for the next stop on The Lucky Tour: Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi.

*Note: The Lucky Tour posts are not in real time. David and Lucky have returned from their travels with great tales and many, many books. Stay tuned for more road stories…