Top Reads from Ann Patchett's New Bookstore

In honor of her new independent bookstore in Nashville, award-winning novelist Ann Patchett shares her favorite books–all from Southern authors–to curl up with this winter.

Ann Patchett
Check out this award-winning novelist's top picks from Southern authors.
Photo: Melissa Ann Pinney

Ann Patchett, author of acclaimed novels such as Bel Canto (winner of the 2002 PEN/Faulkner award) has turned a new leaf, er, page with the opening of Parnassus Books in the Nashville neighborhood, Green Hills. Named for the mountain that served as a gathering place for literature lovers in Greek mythology, the intimate shop is filled with floor-to-ceiling shelves brimming with more than 15,000 books. Here are five of Ann's favorites that you can find at Parnassus Books. To order, visit parnassusbooks.net or call 615/953-2243.

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
The Story: This Mississippi-based mystery takes readers on the hot trail of main character, Harriet, a 12-year-old girl seeking to uncover the truth of her brother’s death.
Ann’s Take: I’m a huge fan of this lush and complicated novel. I think it’s the Moby Dick of Southern childhoods.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The Story: This novel tells the tale of two performance artists attempting to raise well-adjusted children in the midst of their surreal world.
Ann’s Take: Tennessee native Kevin Wilson’s voice is so original and his ideas are so fresh that he defies categorization. It would be worth opening a bookstore just to sell this book.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
The Story: A 1959 Kansas murder case sets the stage for this classic page-turner that mixes crime reporting with narrative.
Ann’s Take: There is pleasure to be found in all of Capote’s works, but this one is my favorite. The book that blurred the lines between novels and nonfiction is as complicated and ambitious as anything you’ll ever read.

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
The Story: Set in Atlanta in the 1980s, this story chronicles two teen sisters uncovering the secrets of their father’s double life and, in turn, founding their own perspectives on what it means to be a wife and mother.
Ann’s Take: Just try to put this one down. If you start reading it in the store you’ll wind up staying.  When you finish, share it with other women in your life. It’s a great mother-daughter read.

What There Is to Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell, edited by Suzanne Marrs
The Story: For half a century, two of the country’s most beloved writers maintained their close friendship through letters, exchanging stories that today give insight and depth to their literary works.
Ann’s Take: These letters are so beautiful, so smart, so funny, and so full of love. They’ll make you wish that email had never been invented.

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick
The Story: See behind the music in this non-fiction account of Presley’s rise to fame in a post-wartime America wrestling with racism and rebellion.
Ann’s Take: I picked this book up when it came out because of the excellent reviews. I had no interest in Elvis, but this is a brilliant piece of American history as seen through the lens of a cultural phenomenon.