I have been working at Parnassus Books in Nashville for about a year and a half. My one day a week behind the cash register gives me insight into this truth: people are reading books.
Lots of people are reading such a wide variety of books that it’s mind-boggling, books that range far beyond the best seller lists. Customers confidently request a title, assuming you will be familiar with it. Most often one of the talented booksellers will know it, and where to find it on the shelf.
Once a month I host a program in the store called Let’s Talk Books, where we ask notable Nashvillians what they are reading. Guests have included the mayor, the former governor, the editor emeritus of the city newspaper, a community philanthropist, a musician, local authors, a historian, a travel business owner, a newspaper columnist—you get the idea. These are busy, successful people who read. I find that they are intrigued by my proposal: “I’ve never been asked that before!”
And the breadth and depth of their reading is astonishing.
Guests talk about old and new books that have affected their personal lives, impacted public policy, clarified history, suggested new cuisine or presented a mystery to be solved. Beautiful writing is treasured. Fiction and nonfiction are equally represented. If I were an author, these conversations would make me swoon. Good books are loved forever.
Audiences have been enthusiastic. People respond to personal reading recommendations, this of course being one of the tenets of Parnassus Books.
It occurred to me that you might be interested in their reading suggestions too. So I thought from time to time, I would ask a guest to provide an essay summarizing his or her presentation for Let’s Talk Books, and publish it in this blog.
Next month recent guest J. Mark Nickell will discuss his book selections which focused on his adventures out west. He has hiked the Yellowstone National Park eleven times. Mark is the owner of the investment advisory firm, J. Mark Nickell & Company, Brentwood, TN.
I hope you like this idea.
** I just finished reading The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urea (Little Brown and Company, 2005), an enchanting book recommended by a guest for Let’s Talk Books. It is a magical tale based on the true story of Urea’s great-aunt Teresita, a woman renowned for her mystical powers.