A Guide to Literary Nashville

When you hear "Nashville", you immediately think "country music", right?

Well, this week, you may also be thinking about that show that brought Mrs. Coach Taylor back to TV. I can't blame you there; I've already watched the pilot episode a couple of times myself.

When I think of Nashville, though, I immediately think of books. It's not most people's immediate reaction, I know. But, when I lived in Nashville, I was always discovering the coolest bookstores and cafés; it just always seemed like there was a great place to read or write. As I head down to the Southern Festival of Books, I thought I'd share with y'all a few of my favorites.

My hidden gem -- and I sort of hate to let anyone in on my secret -- is McKay's. McKay Used Books is a Tennessee-based superstore of used books, music, and movies. It's also one of the greatest resources I've ever found for odd, esoteric, and just plain awesome books. There are always plenty of interesting texts that clearly once belonged to professors at Vanderbilt, Lipscomb, or Belmont. Over the years, I've found books on the philosophy of sports and a gender-studies reading of Sex and the City.  I've found a first edition of Pat Conroy's "The Water Is Wide" and a signed Ann Patchett. I've also tripled my Junior League Cookbook collection without investing a ton of money into it. Needless to say, I'm a big fan of McKay's.

RhinoBooks is another favorite used book store. With two locations -- one in the quiet neighborhood near David Lipscomb University and one amidst antique, treasure and junk stores -- Rhino just looks like your favorite used bookstore. The staff is always willing to talk Fitzgerald with you for hours. Oh, and the owner is a songwriter as well -- he's collaborated with Shel Silverstein and John Hiatt.

I haven't been back to Nashville since Parnassus Books opened. I hope to remedy that situation this weekend. At a time when conventional wisdom tells us that the brick and mortar bookstore is dead (Nashville boasted the best Borders I'd ever seen, as well as the delightful Davis-Kidd, now sadly both defunct), author Ann Patchett and publishing industry veteran Karen Hayes opened an independent bookstore. It was a bold move that went against the tide of conventional business wisdom. I know this becauseStephen Colbert told me so. Ms. Patchett's works are among my very, very favorites. I can't wait to see Parnassus for myself!

While not a bookstore, the Five Points Starbucks in Franklin is part of literary Nashville for me. Now, when I'm in Nashville, I almost never visit a Starbucks. Provence, a local café chain, has vastly superior coffee and pastries, most notably my beloved Dancing Goats. But, this Williamson County store is where a lovely series of books got their start.Tasha Alexander worked on the first novel in the Lady Emily series of historical fiction mysteries at the Five Points Starbucks after she'd taken her son to school.  As a writer, I love the idea that a suburban Starbucks in Central Tennessee was where an author crafted a story of intrigue among the upper class in Victorian England.

Nashville has so many amazing resources for readers and writers. I hope to take advantage of a few this weekend!