Used bookshops are some of my favorite places to be. There is just something revitalizing about browsing the bookshelves, searching for the next book to add to your stack of unread-but-maybe-soon-to-be-read books. In fact, I have to travel to Baltimore for work in a few weeks, and the first thing I did was look up used bookstores in the area. This got me thinking about the bookstores that I often frequent in and around my own stomping grounds of Nashville, TN. There are a handful of fantastic shops around town that I think all Nashvillian bibliophiles and out-of-towners alike should visit when they can.
Without further adieu, here, in no particular order, is a brief look at my favorite bookstores around Nashville:
Books at Cummins Station might just be the prototypical form when it comes to used bookstores as seen in the mind’s eye. It’s eclectic style, collection, and decor make it a fun place just to browse around. One of the best things about the store is the sheer enormity of the stacks. The ceilings are very high, and there are bookcases stacked on bookcases with more books on top. It’s actually a little overwhelming until you get used to it. And the walkways are so narrow that it’s hard to get a picture that does it justice.
Technically Ms. B’s Used Books and CD’s is in the suburbs of Nashville, not Nashville proper, but it has been my home shop for almost 15 years. It’s not as big as the others on this list, but the owner is a great human being, and if you want a book that’s not on the shelves, she will order it for you at a discount. In fact, I recently stopped ordering new books online and just have Ms. B order them for me. If you are ever around Hendersonville, you should definitely drop by. One thing I really like is how much my four year old loves going to the shop. If I ever take him to a bookstore that’s not this one, he gets frustrated and metaphorically twists my arm until I stop in here too. Oh, and she also buys and sells records, so vinyl-heads have something to browse as well.
I’ve only been in this shop once or twice, but I will definitely be coming back. Like Books at Cummins Station, Rhino Booksellers has a great vintage atmosphere that makes you take your time and enjoy it. This shop has a great selection of nice editions. I’ve found some really nice Tolkien and C.S. Lewis titles here including a really nice edition of Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas. Come for the atmosphere, stay to get the shop cat to like you.
If you can’t tell from the photo above, McKay’s is definitely the largest store on the list. It is basically a warehouse of used books, movies, videogames, and music. It can be difficult to find some specific titles here because of the vast quantity and the high volume of customers, but I always enjoy making the drive out to Bellevue to slowly wander the fiction section for an hour or two. If you can’t find something to read here you aren’t trying hard enough.
Unlike the previous entries, Parnassus Books is an independent bookstore instead of a used bookstore. The shop is beautiful, there is a good selection of literary fiction, a really neat section of local selections, and it sponsors some fantastic events. Earlier this year, I attended an event where John Scalzi spoke for a while, then held a meet and greet where I had my copies of The Collapsing Empire and the hilarious Redshirts signed. Another fun fact is that it is co-owned by author Ann Patchett.
Atomic Books is a small independent bookstore in east Nashville. While it may be small in stature, it’s big in heart and uniqueness. I found they had a lot of titles I’ve been wanting to read, or that have been recommended to me over the last few months, and their sci-fi selection is hella strong. They also sell art, music, and local selections. Oh, and they have a surprisingly stout selection of Little Golden Books.
Like I said earlier, used bookstores might be one of my favorite places on Earth. If you find yourself in the Nashville area and are of the book persuasion, you should definitely block out some time to visit and explore some of Nashville’s best literature peddlers. And if you happen to visit Ms. B’s tell them I sent you… none of the other shops will know who the hell I am.