November 24, 2015 • BOOKS

DJ Reads: Author & Bookshop Owner Ann Patchett


ann patchett

Bestselling author and bookstore owner Ann Patchett at Parnassus Books with her dog (and part-time canine staff member) Sparky.

Ask Reese to name her favorite bookstore and she’ll answer without hesitation: Parnassus. Named after Mount Parnassus—the center of literature and learning in Greek Mythology—this independent bookstore is a haven for book lovers in Nashville, a city once known as the Athens of the South.

Acclaimed novelist Ann Patchett and publishing industry veteran Karen Hayes opened Parnassus in 2011 when Nashville’s remaining bookstores shut down and local readers panicked about being left with nowhere to browse for books. The store has since become the nexus of the city’s literary community.

“Community is the most important service Parnassus provides,” Ann tells us. “The store is the place parents can bring their children to read and play, kids and adults can meet their friends, and people can get together to attend book club discussions and author readings. It’s about a lot more than just selling books.”

The store’s packed events calendar boasts readings and signings with authors both local and bestselling, while Musing, the shop’s online magazine, makes all sorts of original book-related content accessible to anyone.


A cup of coffee, some chocolate chip cookies, and an Ann Patchett classic (shown on our Ribbon Tray) make for a perfect lazy afternoon.

Through her award-winning books like Bel Canto and State of Wonder, Ann takes readers as far away as the Amazon rainforest. But her own heart lies in Nashville, where she grew up and still resides. Here, she fills us in on what she loves most about her hometown and gets us inspired to make time for books during the hectic holiday season.

What do you enjoy the most when it comes to owning and running Parnassus?

I love the people who work there. I love talking about books and swapping candy and playing with the store dogs. It’s like we’re all part of a sitcom that (foolishly) no one is filming.

What has been the most surprising thing about being a shop owner?

I can make people read the books I love. This crucial fact somehow never occurred to me before we opened the store.

Name three of your favorite books by Southern writers—new or classics.

The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty.
Light in August by William Faulkner.
Deliverance by James Dickey.

What three books are on your bedside table right now?

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl.
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. (How have I never read this before? It’s fantastic.)
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg.

Does Nashville inspire your writing? How?

It’s not about inspiration. It’s about time. In Nashville I’m home and I know how to say no to things, lock the door, and sit down to work. That’s the only way anything gets done.

Nashville to you is. . .

Home! I moved here when I was five.

I’ve got 24 hours in Nasvhille. Where should I. . .

Stay? Everyone stays at my house. I’ve got two great guest rooms.

Eat? I’m heavily into Avo right now.

Shop? Parnassus Books. At this point in my life I’ve got everything I need, but I still buy boatloads of books.

Get a taste of local culture? Percy and Edwin Warner Parks are the very best things about Nashville as far as I’m concerned. I also take all my guests to the Country Music Hall of Fame. You don’t have to like country music to love that museum.

Pretend to be a local? Interesting question. Why would anyone want to pretend to be local? The out-of-towners make Nashville so interesting.