March 21, 2016

Nashville’s Parnassus Books is firing on all cylinders


(Photo via Shelf Awareness.)

These days, it’s almost hard to remember that for a brief moment, the Athens of the South was (basically) without a serious bookstore (sorry Books-A-Million). Between 2010, when Davis-Kidd closed down for good, and November of 2011, when Ann Patchett opened Parnassus Books, your best options were to shop used books at the (amazing) Rhino Books and BookMan BookWoman (also amazing, and now selling a small number of new books).

But these days the book biz in Smashville is good. A new local indy, Howlin’ Books, has popped up on 8th Avenue South, next to Grimey’s Too, another example of a small business thriving on the strength of a supposedly dead medium: vinyl. And Patchett’s endeavor has, by all accounts, been a marvelous success.

How big of a success you ask? Oh, just about school bus sized.

Yes, Parnassus is now, officially, on wheels. On Sunday, “Peggy” —as the locals have dubbed here—became the “official automotive ambassador of Nashville’s roving bookshop, Parnassus on Wheels. The endeavor was inspired by the Christopher Morley novella of the same name (published by Melville House and AVAILABLE NOW!).

Patchett and co-owner Karen Hayes told Shelf Awareness last week,

“Before we even opened the store I imagined how much fun it would be to have our own Parnassus on Wheels one day, too.”  When she saw a listing for a retired bookmobile on eBay, she knew it was meant to be.

Co-owner Ann Patchett agreed: “Getting people to think about reading, then getting them to buy a real book, then getting them to buy a real book from an independent bookseller” is challenging, but the bookmobile “introduces an element of both whimsy and spontaneity to the experience…. I envision it like the ice cream truck of my youth. People see it coming down the street and run out to buy a book.”

For our part, we wish them a happy christening and advise them to stay sharp on the road—Nashvillians are terrible drivers.


Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.