Kathy Schultenover – Book Club Enthusiast
One of the things I missed most about leaving Houston was my monthly book club meeting. Our group was much more than lively conversation, often on topics far beyond the book we were meeting to discuss. Book club prompted me to read books I might not otherwise choose and to explore issues I may not dig into on my own. It forced me out of my box.
Parnassus Books, a tiny jewel in exploding Nashville, is crowded on this weekday afternoon. In today’s world of electronic readers and tablets, it is refreshing to see people who still love browsing the shelves, studying the covers, and flipping the pages of real-live books. “We are glad for them also,” laughs Kathy Schultenover, a book aficionado in this cozy shop.
An English teacher for many years, Kathy never imagined her career would “be anything other than teaching.” However, says the petite, stylish woman who seems well-read and current, “I’ve learned you don’t know where things will lead and lead and lead.”
Moving around the country with her military husband’s assignments, Kathy craved activities and community and friends. As they relocated from San Antonio to Columbus, Mississippi to Vacaville in Northern California, she wanted to have a connection with people “other than babies and kids.”
Always an avid reader, Kathy reached out to fellow Air Force wives and invited them to her home for book clubs. “As I look back, I had no idea I was planting the seed for what I would do later,” she says.
After landing in Nashville for her husband’s new job, Kathy did some teaching and then found her groove at Davis-Kidd Booksellers, the city’s only bookstore at the time. One day, when she approaced her boss with the idea of starting a store book club, Kathy received a lukewarm response. He gave Kathy the go-ahead but cautioned her “not to get her hopes up” about the notion.
In later years, that same boss loved to laugh with Kathy and say, “I am so glad I was wrong.” Although the book club was a rousing success, the store closed abruptly in 2010. “As silly as it may sound to some,” says Kathy, “the store’s closing was one of the toughest things I’ve had to deal with.” She was employed there—working hard to build the book club and store business—for 17 years. “We were like a family,” she says.
But, like a lot of messy things in our lives, some good invariably comes. Hired by novelist Ann Patchett and publishing house veteran Karen Hayes, Kathy helped get a new bookstore up and running in the city. In November 2011, Parnassus Books opened its doors.
When she’s not assisting customers with selections or shelving books or working with authors for events, Kathy coordinates the book club program at the store. One of the clubs, focusing on current fiction, meets three times a month at various times convenient for all readers. The Classics Club, meeting every other month, discusses works written before 1970.
Kathy “loves facilitating the meetings, which attract smart, articulate, huge readers.” And quieter spectators also. The gatherings offer folks a built-in social setting, the chance to read and talk about the chosen book, and the opportunity to meet like-minded people. With no commitment, registration, or fee.
Gaping at the shop’s backroom, stuffed with hundreds of advance copy books, (How can I get this job?!) I wonder how Kathy possibly picks one to read? “Unless it might be an established author, I am not the person grabbing the latest and the greatest,” she says. “I am the reader who waits to hear what others think—customers, staff members, reviews, media,” she continues.
Winding our way through the shelves and tables of books, stopping to pet the shop dog, we discover our similar taste in books. Not surprisingly, Kathy has read most I pick up and examine.
Knowing I love historical fiction, Kathy points out her staff pick for this month—The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict. (Benedict’s Carnegie’s Maid was a good one too.) Although I’ve seen the recent Hedy Lamarr movie, I’m anxious to read the broader account of the beautiful actress, her outstanding intellect, and her role in the wireless communication industry.
Kathy will lead the discussion on Tangerine, by Christine Mangan, at book club this week. I look forward to seeing her in action, meeting some interesting people, and, hopefully, finding a new book group home. As Kathy says, “You never know where the things in your day will lead.”
Kathy’s Favorite Recent Reads
Little Faith by Nickolas Butler
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
The Only Story by Julian Barnes
The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict
So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres
LOVE this sweet story of her passion and the seeds she planted! You never know where the road can lead in life! Thank you Pam…for sharing.
A good friend of mine and I joined Kathy’s Parnassus Book Club (fiction) a few years ago. I was recently retired and was looking for a way to enrich a life-long hobby, reading! The first selection was Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. Kathy was sincere, soft spoken and honest about her feelings re: the author and the novel. She invited discussion coming from a varied group of young and older women with a few men sprinkled in for good measure. The book hooked me! And I recommended it to my reading friends and relatives. But what keeps me coming back is Kathy. (And the fact, that I attend with my best friend is like icing on the proverbial cake.)
Hi Pat, I’d love to meet you at one of the upcoming meetings. I am not a regular, but I do attend when I can. And I love Kathy!