Reading Nashville: Bowling Avenue & Parnassus Books

Bowling Avenue
by Ann Shayne
Paperback, 268 pages
1 star for book review 1 star for book review 1 star for book review 1 star for book review no star for book review

I initially heard of this book and added it to my to read list because I have followed Ann’s writing over at Mason Dixon Knitting for years. I was delighted (yet not too surprised) to discover it was set in Nashville. At the time it was a city I had not yet visited but was curious about since my friend had moved there a few years ago.

I have been trying to watch the book budget, so I didn’t purchase it right away. My friend’s wedding plans solidified and I knew we would be in Nashville this summer. I then decided to try to purchase the book at Parnassus Books while we were in town. The idea of supporting a local author and a local independent bookstore excited me.

How to balance a book review and a book store review? I think these two go hand-in-hand. What makes Ann’s debut novel one that kept me turning pages long past my bedtime is her attention to the whole story. Not only do we meet characters we’d love to join for pancakes, but we also meet those we’d not hesitate to volunteer with and help out the community when disaster strikes. What makes Parnassus Books a wonderful store is the feeling I received from the short time I spent there. It’s a bookstore I definitely look forward to visiting again.Despite a small footprint and an unassuming storefront (we almost missed it), the space is clean, bright, and well organized. Walking in I easily found both recent publications and local authors, without feeling that they smacked me in the face. My litmus test for a bookstore is a quick evaluation of both the crafts and children sections. I was pleasantly surprised by the crafts selection and blown away by the breadth of the children’s books available. Any bookstore that has Mrs Piggle-Wiggle* by Betty MacDonald on the shelf is a store that I am very impressed with.

Back to Bowling Avenue, it has been a few weeks since I finished this book and I’m still thinking about the challenges the characters faced and Nashville. I’ve thought a good deal about the fraught-filled child-parent relationship, self-worth, and medical decisions. I’ve thought about the strength of relationships both in family and in neighborhood, and about what causes a city to be vibrant or isolate itself to stagnation and abandoned storefronts. To me, this is a sign that the author, as story teller, has done her job. Ann brought a world to life and I’m still wondering about it.

* Note: I was horrified to discover upon researching this post that my favourite childhood book series was adapted for TV. Don’t go there. You will probably ruin a very marvelous thing.

Visiting Nashville: BookManBookWoman

There is something about the chaos of a used bookstore (the exception is Powells wonderful organization). I love the unexpected — even with computerized inventory you never quite know what you’ll find. When we visit a new city, we try to leave room for a new book or two. We also try to find local independent bookstores, and try to find time for a used bookstore.

We stepped into Nashville’s BookManBookWoman not totally sure what to expect.

I can’t speak for many sections of this extraordinary store… I skimmed through the children’s books, fiction, history, new books, crafts, religion… and then found THE aisle: bookshelf upon bookshelf of double- and triple-stacked sci-fi and fantasy. Books are shelved in rough alphabetical order but beyond that you do not know what gems you may find. There were paperbacks I didn’t even know existed and in the back was quite the selection of anthologies. I didn’t really get a chance to go through everything but did come home with a few titles that I look forward to. It was overwhelming. It was wonderful. I’ve had dreams of this aisle and in the weeks since our visit and think it is the ultimate cross between BookOff, (pre-renovation) Strand Books, and Smith Family Bookstore.

BookManBookWoman is a must-see for any serious book lover.

1713 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN

ps What are you reading in honor of Banned Books Week?

Visiting Nashville: Tennessee Central Railway Museum

On a recent trip to Nashville, we stopped in to visit the Tennessee Central Railway Museum. This is a cozy museum, housed in the former Mechanic’s office of the TC. It is filled with historical artifacts and staffed by enthusiastic volunteers. We spent a lovely afternoon talking with our guide, learning the history (and geography) of central Tennessee, and spending a short bit of time in the rail yard. They are actively restoring rolling stock and on weekends offer passenger excursion trains.

The Tennessee Central was a freight and passenger line that ran East-West across the state. The other two lines ran North-South. TC had a difficult history due to animosity from the other companies and was comprised of patchwork of lines purchased from other defunct railroads, at its height it ran from Harriman to Hopkinsville in Kentucky. Its heyday was prior to WWII when it ran freight from the mines and during the war when Troop trains and war equipment gave it some added life. It went into final bankruptcy and was dissolved in 1968. A nice history is written up at Tennessee History for Kids

Today, Nashville has a Commuter Rail.

Tennessee Central Railway Museum
220 Willow Street
Nashville, TN 37210
See website for hours.
There is a hobby shop housed within the museum stocking N and HO scale models. (Note: this doesn’t interest me so I didn’t peak into the shop.)