Meet a Bookseller: Mary Laura Philpott

We’re proud to introduce Mary Laura Philpott, bookseller at Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN, and author of #1 April Indie Next pick I Miss You When I Blink.

How did you get into bookselling?

Recommending books is one of the things that drew me to social media in the first place, a billion years ago. I used to blog about books for Barnes & Noble, and then about six years ago I met the folks at Parnassus Books in Nashville. When I asked if their store had a blog I could follow, they said no, and I thought, hmmmm. Shortly thereafter, I went to work for Parnassus and I started their digital magazine, Musing. That’s my function at Parnassus — I don’t touch the cash register or answer the phones, and I’m not great at shelving. I do wander the floor and talk to customers a good bit. I love to hand-sell a stack of books in person; but most of my work for the store is in running that site, where I’m hand-selling stacks of great books virtually and helping the store extend its reach. I enjoy doing interviews for Musing, and I also appear in conversation with our visiting authors at events sometimes, which is a blast. 

What do you love most about being a bookseller?

While it’s nice to show someone a big bestseller they’ll enjoy, I absolutely love connecting people with books they might have missed. There are so many smashing books out there by new voices and by writers who are doing great work but who just haven’t been critically celebrated for one reason or another. Readers get excited when they discover something fabulous that they can take back to their book club — then they’re the one introducing something cool and new to their friends.

What do you love most about your bookstore?

I love the booksellers who work the floor and the warm vibe they create from the second you walk in. They’re friendly and kind and open-minded, and they really do want to help you find a book you’ll love. And if you’re a regular, they remember you. If you’re lucky, you also might get sniffed or leaned on by a shop dog. Where else can you get a welcome like that? 

What are you listening to right now?

I’m about to download Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan for listening on my next flight. (I far prefer listening to audiobooks over watching movies on tiny airplane screens.)

What audiobooks would you recommend or are among your favorites?

If you haven’t listened to at least one David Sedaris book on audio, you haven’t lived. Also: David Rakoff was so good at performing his own work. Listen to Half Empty, please.  For fiction, I love Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo, narrated by Adjoa Andoh. Adebayo maintains suspense from chapter to chapter and doles out plot twists at the perfect moments while drawing you into this intimate story of a young couple trying to hold their love together despite tragic circumstances.

Where / When do you listen to audiobooks?

Long drives. Every summer after my husband and I drop our children off at camp, we have a nine-hour drive back home when we can listen to a book. I’ve also had the opportunity to listen to some books while I’ve been traveling on book tour for my new memoir in essays, I Miss You When I Blink (listen a free 11-minute excerpt!).

What is your favorite thing about audiobooks through Libro.fm?

They support indie bookstores. That’s enough to love right there, but I also really like browsing the lists of books recommended by other booksellers. I feel like I can’t go wrong choosing something, because the people who know books best have curated those lists.

What do you do when you’re not selling books?

When I’m not selling books, I’m reading books, listening to books, or writing books. My hobbies include stacking books, arranging books, and wrapping up gifts that are books. I’m a very well-rounded person.

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