Jennifer Frist has a quiet confidence and says she’s a “behind the scenes” girl – but I’m not sure. I see a bold streak in her, too! She and Billy renovated an extraordinary home a few years ago and filled it with a stunning, sometimes edgy photography collection. She’ll put on a spectacular dress for a ball and pink heels for a Valentine’s Day luncheon! She’s happy to raise money for Nashville Zoo, Nashville Public Education Foundation and Nashville Public Television, on whose boards she serves. Since Billy chairs the board of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, she stays active and engaged out there too. She does not disappear in the crowd.
When it comes to parenting, though, Jennifer keeps it low key. She wants her kids to learn independence and resilience. She thinks teenagers need a little room to figure things out for themselves. Her advice: “Try to let them have some guided control over their decisions about themselves – and watch them survive their mistakes. Expect them to be responsible – and let them know it. Good communication is everything. And it’s a two-way street.” Jennifer wants to be good at listening, to her children and others.
She loves that her children remind her to be spontaneous, do the unexpected, and enjoy life as it comes. “There is always a to-do list. Someone once said to me – when your kids grow up, they will never remember how clean your house was, but they will remember the time you spent or did not spend with them.” The four dogs and three cats in their house – often moving in a small herd – also help her live in the moment, joyfully. So does a glass of red wine at night and “maybe some of that trivia crack game!”
Jennifer’s parents taught her that she could do anything she put her mind and best effort to, and you can see that energetic philosophy in the way she lives. That being said, she thinks the best advice she’s ever received is to “Wait 24 hours before responding,” and she also loves quiet time with a book. If she had an entire day with no obligations, you’d find her reading. Today, she writes about how she chooses her next book and what our book choices say about us.
I am always fascinated to hear about what people are reading, what they like, or how they heard about a particular book. Frequently, in turn, people ask me what my favorite author, book, or genre is. And I think they are usually surprised to hear that I don’t really have favorites or any type of preferences. That is just not the way I read. Typically, I will read a book without ever reading the flap, or paying attention to the author, or even the genre. Usually, at any given moment, I may be reading two or three books at the same time.
I prefer getting recommendations – from the bookstore staff, bestseller lists, posts on Facebook, etc. In particular, a true fascination of mine is receiving recommendations of books from fellow reader friends. What I really love is the process of finishing a book and then pondering the friend and the recommendation. Why did they like this book? Did they identify with the characters in the book or was it a mindless escape that they needed at this particular point in time? Even more intriguing to me, I often wonder what about this book did my friend think I would enjoy? Why did they recommend the book to me?
Recently, a good friend gave me an unexpected but thoughtful Christmas present. I received a box from Amazon containing the top 10 books on the New York Times bestseller list for 2014, an insightful gift that followed all of the “non-rules” of the way that I read – not paying any attention to genre, author, title or subject material. So I just picked up the first book out of the box and started to work my way through the stack.
I have made it through the first couple of books in the stack and so far, both of them have been delightfully different and entertaining. I started with All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and quickly moved on to Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. From historical fiction set in World War II to apocalyptic times, the two are completely different genres, but interestingly, both books focus on humanity in the face of the collapse of civilization. So far, I am thrilled with the beginning of my top 10 journey and can’t wait to finish up the list.
So if you see me around town, make sure to ask me which book I would recommend for you. And I will let you figure out why.
The list (in alphabetical order by title):
A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Bark, by Lorrie Moore
Euphoria, by Lily King
Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan
The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris.