Bookstore Bucketlist: Parnassus Books (Nashville, TN) by Madeleine Riley

 Yes, I am aware that we are practically in matching outfits. Yes, we both refused to change.

Yes, I am aware that we are practically in matching outfits. Yes, we both refused to change.

If you follow along on Instagram, you know that I recently took a quick trip to Nashville with my mother over spring break. We're both teachers (her: preschool, me: second grade special ed) and often our school vacations line up, which makes for great travel opportunities!

First, I have to say this: my mother is one million times more fun than me. She's spontaneous, 100% an extrovert, and she loves to travel. Me, on the other hand? I'm all about careful planning, quiet time, and staying home. We're unlikely travel partners, but without my mom's influence, I would never go anywhere interesting! 

More background info: my little brother is a golf pro and has an unusual college setup in that he is rarely actually on campus. Most of the time, he's off on an internship. My mom and I have visited him on past internships on St. Simon's Island in Georgia and in The Hamptons, but I've never actually seen his school. So when my mom called to see if I wanted to take a trip over spring break, she proposed a visit to my brother while he's still on campus in North Carolina. I said yes, and 24 hours later she called me back to say she had booked us a trip to Nashville instead.

Because, as I said, she's spontaneous. 

A few weeks later, we deplane in Nashville to frigid temps and flurries in the air (so much for a warm southern trip)! We spent almost four days in Nashville and had a great time exploring (and to be fair, we did get one afternoon of pool-worthy sunshine). Thanks to the recommendations of so many TST readers, we had a long list of places to visit and to eat. And because you all are so resourceful, I had zero trouble finding celiac-friendly places with really good food. We didn't hit all of the typical Nashville spots, but I've put together a quick list of our highlights and all of the fabulous foodie spots too!



We went straight from the airport to Parnassus Books, my one and only request for our itinerary. It was gorgeous (and much bigger than I expected) with a great kid lit selection and so many fun extras to look at! 

I treated myself to an adorable tote bag, a Parnassus tee, the fourth book in the Maisie Dobbs series, a new V.E. Schwab, and a signed edition of This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by revered author and Parnassus owner, Ann Patchett. (The store keeps all of her books in stock & signed for customers!)

If you're ever in the area, it's definitely worth a stop!

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Of course, a stop at Draper James was also in order. This store represents my dream aesthetic. I could have walked away with every single thing. (But alas, the prices.)

We also spent one evening at The Bluebird Cafe, which at first glance looks like an unassuming storefront in a strip mall, but is actually a pretty exclusive venue for popular and up-and-coming country artists.

(Note: I am not a music person. I don't listen to music at all in my daily life. However the singer pictured above, Matt Stell, was my favorite of the artists featured that night, so if you like music, I'd recommend looking him up!)


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The Pharmacy for burgers & milkshakes (the milkshake was amazing, but skip this stop if you're sensitive to gluten cross-contamination)

Frothy Monkey for coffee & breakfast

Five Daughters Bakery for doughnuts (they have gf/paleo options!)

Tavern for dinner (they have a separate gf menu!)

Caviar & Bananas (we ended up here several times, as it was right next to our hotel)

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream (we have this in grocery stores here but it was my first time spotting a storefront and they have so many gf options!)

There were so many readers who reached out with recommendations leading up to and during our trip, so I want to say thank you again to all of you who helped make it even more fun! My mom is already planning another trip back with her girlfriends. And me? I'm happy to be a homebody until my next big adventure with one of my besties in June!

Bookish Buzz: Springtime Magic & Our Favorite Fantasy Reads by Madeleine Riley

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Thank you for your patience in waiting for this list! As always, Amy and I loved getting to chat with you all about one of our favorite genres.

I mentioned this on Instagram, but I'll say it again: I think fantasy is often underestimated as a genre. It has such a wide range of sub-genres and there are so many amazing fantasy books out there, but it can be tricky to find the right fit for different types of readers.

Whether you're already a fantasy reader or wanting to try out this genre for the first time Amy and I have you covered with over thirty recommendations from our own shelves. During our Instagram Live we talked about witchy tales, magical realism, folklore & fairytales, and more! Below you'll find the full list, plus a few more that we're excited to read this year and a few that I forgot to mention during our live!


Any & all titles by Brunonia Barry (See a review of The Fifth Petal here and a note about The Lace Reader here.)

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw (Read my #30secondbookreview here.)

The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness (Read more on my love for this series here.)

Practical Magic The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman (Read my review of Rules of Magic here. Tip: Read these in publication order!)


The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (I'd also recommend Conversionwhich I forgot to mention in our conversation.)

The Paper Magician series by Charlie N. Holmberg (My recommendation for HSP readers. This one made the list of my favorite fantasy series.)

School for Psychics by KC Archer (Read my review here.)

The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller (Read my review here.)

Girls Made of Snow & Glass by Melissa Bashardoust (Read my review here.)

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

Vicious by V.E. Schwab (I forgot this one in our Live but it made it onto my Top Ten List of 2016!)


Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (A zombie tale 

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Bear & The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Children of Blood & Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman


The Song of Achilles Circe by Madeline Miller

Labrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber (Expect a review of this one soon!)

Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins

Looking for more recommendations? You can see all posts tagged with fantasy on my blog here.

Have a fantasy title to recommend? Tell us below!

Children's Lit: Spring Picture Books by Madeleine Riley


Note: Top Shelf Text received these titles from Tundra books in exchange for a feature on TST. All opinions are my own!

Each month, I'm aiming to bring you a selection of newly released or new-to-me titles to spread the love for children's literature. This month, I'm reading a few middle grade books that I'm hoping to share on my next Let's Talk Kid Lit Live with my friend (and fellow teacher, book blogger, and kid lit lover) Lorraine. We'll be live on Instagram on Saturday, May 12th and I'll share those titles on the blog following our live.

In the meantime, here are four picture books that I'm in love with this spring and would recommend for reading with the littles in your life!


Sonya's Chickens by Phoebe Wahl

This sweet story is about a little girl who cares deeply for her family's chicks. Readers learn about loss and empathy. I have many students who have chickens that they help care for at home and I think this book will resonate with them! Bonus: Sonya's family is interracial and the illustrations are just gorgeous.


The Pink Umbrella by Amélie Callot, illustrated by Geneviéve Godbout

This is my favorite picture book of 2018 so far. I want to frame every page. I love the illustrations, the characters, and feeling that reading this gives me. It's both a love story and a reminder that a positive perspective changes everything!


From the Heart of Africa: A Book of Wisdom collected by Eric Walters

"If you wish to go fast, go alone. If you wish to go far, go together."
- N'Gambay People, Central Africa
Meaning: If you need to get somewhere fast, going alone means no one will slow you down. But if you're alone, you might be stopped by obstacles that you can't overcome without help.

This collection of wise words were collected from all different parts of the African continent. Each quote has an illustration, with details on the origin and meaning.


Sakura's Cherry Blossoms by Robert Paul Weston, illustrated by Misa Saburi

I love this one especially as a springtime read. The story follows a little girl from one cherry blossom season to the next, as she moves with her family from Japan to America, adjusts to a new culture, and mourns the loss of her grandmother. The story is written in a series of tanka poems, a traditional Japanese poetry structure.