3 best gifts for readers: part I

Books.  Books.  Books.  Is there anything else?

When you give someone a book, not only are you wrapping up a passport good for entry into an enchanted storyline but you’re giving yourself the pleasure of passing an hour or so in the idyllic splendor of your local independent bookstore.  This week Two or Three Little Birds invites you to roam the stacks with us as we take you to some of our favorite shops.


Parnassus Bookstore, Nashville TN

from guest blogger Matt Pennington

Nashville was cold and windy on the October day I visited Parnassus Bookstore. The celebrated American author Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, The Patron Saint of Liars) could not abide the thought of living in a city where there was no functioning bookstore and so she and a fellow book lover opened their city center store in a strip mall across from a bustling shopping center. You need to know where you’re going if you want to find Parnassus Books. It’s tucked away among the locksmiths, tanning salons and frozen yogurt. It’s a busy, congested part of town but once you pull open the glass doors, all the cold and the wind and the traffic melt away and you are enveloped in the fragrance of books. I imagine that in the beginning the store was merely a long unadorned space but now it’s lined with golden oak shelving procured from the local closure of Borders Bookstores. It’s filled with soft light, classical music and beautifully organized books, clearly arranged and displayed by people who love reading.

You blow in the front doors and to your left is a wonderfully curated display of local cultural events. And then an entire wall of Patchett’s signed books. In the center of the store, tables are set with staff selections and recommendations, complete with small handwritten place cards indicating the particular merits of each individual treasure. By meandering you instantly have a sense of the organization of their offerings and there are plenty of treasures in this uncluttered emporium. As you move to the rear of the store you pass benches for resting with the book of your interest. There is an culinary alcove with mouthwatering cover photos and over a central display table descend a flock of lights surrounded by metal bird shapes. Toward the rear of the shop behind the art and photography books is a tiny columned entryway for little readers to enter their domain. This entire children’s section is lit with hanging star lanterns and it is here in this magical enclosed space that storytelling takes place.

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IMG_0193               sparky

On my visit I procured Christmas presents of several pre-signed copies of Patchett’s books and book bags with the imprinted store logo. And for some friends who recently moved into a new home I also purchased a lovely, elongated volume decorated with book illustrations intended for the signature of their guests. Ann Patchett has a dog named “Sparky,” who is the store mascot. One of my friends was extremely disappointed on the day of our visit that Sparky was absent — I on the other hand was disappointed that Ann Patchett was absent — it would have been thrilling to meet her and listen to her recommendations . . . and tell my friends that she personally selected their Christmas presents! I haven’t a single complaint — the staff was knowledgeable, unobtrusive, cheerful — the space wonderfully appointed and the selection of books complete with a few surprising treasures for my own collection. In spite of the temperature and the traffic, Nashville has great appeal: delicious restaurants, an outstanding music scene, beautiful surrounding scenery . . . and one delightful bookstore!   If you visit Parnassus and Ann Patchett is there — please have her personally sign a book for me . . . Christmas is right around the corner!

A place isn’t a place until it has a bookstore.  ~ Gabrielle Zevin via Goodreads


 When not traveling or reading, Pennington blogs at journalofacountrypriest.com


Are you someone who likes to pop into bookstores during your travels?  Have you got an especially sacred independent bookstore tucked away in your hometown?  Two or Three Little Birds welcomes readers to submit their reviews via the contact form available on this website.  Happy reading!

For a full list of all the stores reviewed on this blog, visit our page Support Independent Booksellers

If you liked this post, you might enjoy guest blogger on NYC bookstores or 3 best gifts for readers: part II


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  1. Good times with great friends.

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