A few days ago my friend Caroline and I went on a field trip to three bookstores in East Nashville. She was in the mood for exploring, and I was game to tag along.
There’s such a feeling of possibility, walking into a bookstore… and that enchanting bookstore smell… and it’s fun to see what passionate booksellers have chosen to feature front and center!
The Bookshop is East Nashville’s flagship store, featuring a clean aesthetic and well-stocked shelves. Added benefit: a nice little cafe right next door where you can settle in with a latte and your new book.
Novelette is the new kid in town, in a cool development repurposing an old church. Its vibe is colorful and fresh, with a smaller but still very considerable selection.
We tried to go to Defunct books, but it wasn’t actually open when it was supposed to be (oops).
Instead we stumbled upon a tiny children’s bookstore nearby, “Fairytales.” It was hardly big enough for 4 or 5 people to stand in, but utterly charming!
We each found books (no surprise) from all the stores, and I saw most of my Top 10 Summer Books for Right Now…
The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise, by Colleen Oakley, winks and nods at “Thelma and Louise” but offers up a happier tale with a beach-perfect ending. Louise is a prim, cardigan-wearing 84-year-old whose daughter thinks she needs more help in the house. Enter Tanner, a sullen 21-year-old college dropout, whose mother gets her the job. Things between Tanner and Louise couldn’t be any frostier. When Louise’s secret past catches up with her and a dear friend’s life is in danger, she’s got to hit the road amidst the blare of sirens in the middle of the night. She’s been ready for this moment, but her bad hip is giving her trouble. Looks like she’ll have to ask Tanner to help her get away and reach her friend. On the run and on the lam, Tanner and Louise might not get what they want – but they just might get what they need.
Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club, by J. Ryan Stradal will charm you, break your heart, and remind you that broken hearts mend. It’s a family affair, beginning with Betty and Floyd in the 1930’s. Betty is down on her luck when kind-hearted Floyd offers her a job at his small-town restaurant. Their granddaughter Mariel inherits the place, but soon she won’t be the only game in town. Mariel’s in-laws shockingly open a chain restaurant nearby. In the meanwhile, Mariel’s headstrong mother Florence has decided that she won’t leave the church until Mariel comes to pick her up. Days stretch into months as the mother-daughter standoff attracts media attention. Saturday Night at the Lakeside Cafe offers a tender portrait of a small Midwestern town and its inhabitants. The only things we can count on in life are change – and the challenges of family. Forgiveness, we are reminded, opens your heart to love.
Laura Dove also spins a tale about how family shapes us and surprises us in her latest psychological thriller, The Last Thing He Told Me. Owen is a family guy – kind, hardworking, smart – but one day he simply disappears, leaving a duffel bag of cash in his daughter’s school locker. The authorities come sniffing around, as the company he worked for might have been hiding an Enron-scale fraud. But his new wife and 16-year-old daughter believe that something else must be in play. They’ve got good reason to be scared when they begin to figure it out. You can watch the brand new Apple TV series based on this show or you can dive headfirst into the novel. Don’t expect to come up for air anytime soon.
The most ambitious psychological thriller on bookshelves right now is Birnam Wood, by Eleanor Catton (The Luminaries). The novel begins inside a tight-knit, idealistic group of young people trying to use the world’s resources more responsibly and ethically. This sometimes involves using things that aren’t technically theirs in ways that aren’t technically legal. They’ve recently begun stealth-farming on a remote, unused property when they realize that someone else has a secretive interest in the property as well. And he’s a billionaire. Together, the charismatic billionaire and the group’s fierce young leader, Mira, come up with a plan that might benefit them all. Things get complicated when the property’s owner shows up unexpectedly. Is it possible that the stakes are far higher than Mira realized? Is it too late when she and her friends begin to understand? If you leave the trail, you might get lost in the woods.
In Emma Cline’s The Guest, a young woman isn’t lost at all. She knows exactly where she wants to be: back in the beachfront home of her current lover, in a wealthy enclave that sounds a lot like the Hamptons. They’ve gotten in a spat, and he’s seen her to the door. Problem is, she doesn’t have another place to land. She’s exhausted all her friendships in the city and fears that a former lover there wants her dead; she’s currently homeless and penniless, with only her looks and her drug habit. She decides that she’ll drift around the wealthy enclave for a week and try to work her way back into her current lover’s affections at his Labor Day party in a week. Faking her way into parties and homes while she’s at loose ends, things begin to unravel for our heroine. Her moral compass is seriously skewed. And yet somehow you’re rooting for her. The Guest may leave you shaken, stirred, and grateful for the comforts of your own bed.
Other books on my Summer Reading List right now:
Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You: A Memoir, by Lucinda Williams
“Lucinda Williams’s rise to fame was anything but easy. Raised in a working-class family in the Deep South, she moved from town to town each time her father—a poet, a textbook salesman, a professor, a lover of parties—got a new job, totaling twelve different places by the time she was eighteen. Her mother suffered from severe mental illness and was in and out of hospitals….
In Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You, Williams takes listeners through the events that shaped her music—from performing for family friends in her living room to singing at local high schools and colleges in Mexico City, to recording her first album with Folkway Records and headlining a sold-out show at Radio City Music Hall. She reveals the inspirations for her unforgettable lyrics, including the doomed love affairs with “poets on motorcycles” and the gothic southern landscapes of the many different towns of her youth, including Macon, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. Williams spent years working at health food stores and record stores during the day so she could play her music at night, and faced record companies who told her that her music was not “finished,” that it was “too country for rock and too rock for country.” But her fighting spirit persevered, leading to a hard-won success that spans seventeen Grammy nominations and a legacy as one of the greatest and most influential songwriters of our time.” (From the publisher)
“Her memoir shows how deep that grit runs,” notes The New York Times.
The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder, by David Grann
“On January 28, 1742, a ramshackle vessel of patched-together wood and cloth washed up on the coast of Brazil. Inside were thirty emaciated men, barely alive, and they had an extraordinary tale to tell. They were survivors of His Majesty’s Ship the Wager, a British vessel that had left England in 1740 on a secret mission during an imperial war with Spain. While the Wager had been chasing a Spanish treasure-filled galleon known as “the prize of all the oceans,” it had wrecked on a desolate island off the coast of Patagonia. The men, after being marooned for months and facing starvation, built the flimsy craft and sailed for more than a hundred days, traversing nearly 3,000 miles of storm-wracked seas. They were greeted as heroes.
But then… six months later, another, even more decrepit craft landed on the coast of Chile. This boat contained just three castaways, and they told a very different story…” (Publisher’s description)
“This astonishing tale of maritime warfare, mutiny and survival in the 18th-century Atlantic proves that a nonfiction book can be as thrilling as any summer blockbuster,” says People magazine.
The Last Animal, by Ramona Ausubel (to be released May 30th)
“Teenage sisters Eve and Vera never imagined their summer vacation would be spent in the Arctic, tagging along on their mother’s scientific expedition. But there’s a lot about their lives lately that hasn’t been going as planned, and truth be told, their single mother might not be so happy either.
Now in Siberia with a bunch of serious biologists, Eve and Vera are just bored enough to cause trouble. Fooling around in the permafrost, they accidentally discover a perfectly preserved, four-thousand-year-old baby mammoth, and things finally start to get interesting. The discovery sets off a surprising chain of events, leading mother and daughters to go rogue, pinging from the slopes of Siberia to the shores of Iceland to an exotic animal farm in Italy, and resulting in the birth of a creature that could change the world—or at least this family.” (Publisher’s description)
Oprah Daily calls it “whip-smart and compulsively readable. . . both a wildly entertaining adventure story and a meditation on what it means to love your children—fiercely and imperfectly.”
Hello Beautiful, by Ann Napolitano
“William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him—so when he meets the spirited and ambitious Julia Padavano in his freshman year of college, it’s as if the world has lit up around him. With Julia comes her family, as she and her three sisters are inseparable….
But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable devotion to one another… An exquisite homage to Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic, Little Women….” (Publisher’s description)
“Radiant and brilliantly crafted . . . Napolitano’s [work] resists the easy satisfactions of the sentimental and never settles for simple answers to emotional predicaments faced by her characters,” writes The New York Times Book Review.
Juniper & Thorn, by Ava Reid
“A gruesome curse. A city in upheaval. A monster with unquenchable appetites.
Marlinchen and her two sisters live with their wizard father in a city shifting from magic to industry. As Oblya’s last true witches, she and her sisters are little more than a tourist trap as they treat their clients with archaic remedies and beguile them with nostalgic charm. Marlinchen spends her days divining secrets in exchange for rubles and trying to placate her tyrannical, xenophobic father, who keeps his daughters sequestered from the outside world. But at night, Marlinchen and her sisters sneak out to enjoy the city’s amenities and revel in its thrills, particularly the recently established ballet theater, where Marlinchen meets a dancer who quickly captures her heart.
As Marlinchen’s late-night trysts grow more fervent and frequent, so does the threat of her father’s rage and magic. And while Oblya flourishes with culture and bustles with enterprise, a monster lurks in its midst, borne of intolerance and resentment and suffused with old-world power. Caught between history and progress and blood and desire, Marlinchen must draw upon her own magic to keep her city safe and find her place within it.” (From the publisher)
“Reid fully embraces the darkness of the original tale while adding enough twists to make the story her own. Grimms’ fairy tale fans—and those who like their fairy tales grim—will be thrilled,” says Publishers Weekly (starred review).