Literary City Guide | Nashville, TN

I think of Nashville as a very natural place. We’re easy going, we are ourselves. There isn’t a lot of preening or trying to impress. So it’s an easy place to just be and that is a good state from which to write.
— Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder

Tour Guides: Tim & Shanna Mallon

Tim and Shanna are the couple behind Food Loves Writing. They dated long-distance for a year before Tim finally wooed Shanna south, and now, they love calling Nashville home together—eating and exploring a city that’s got much more than music. (All photos by Tim and Shanna Mallon.)


Relationship to Nashville: Residents for 6 years (Tim) and 2 1/2 years (Shanna)

Writer you'd like to invite to dinner:  J.R. Tolkien for Tim; Jhumpa Lahiri for Shanna

Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Alice Waters

Writing soundtrack: Shanna likes total quiet; Tim prefers indie rock

Pen or Pencil: Pens

Coffee or Tea: Tea

Paperback or Hardback: Either

Good Reads


McKay’s. The Nashville branch of McKay's is overwhelming in the best way. This used bookstore is as big as a discount shopping warehouse and filled with new and vintage books, movies, and music.

East Side Story. Nashville’s only all-local bookstore and the one place besides our website where you’ll find our printed ebook, Written Together: A Story of Beginnings, in the Kitchen and Beyond. As an added bonus, this shop is tucked inside one of the cutest little nooks of local boutiques and retail spaces in the city.

Parnassus Books. Launched by author Ann Patchett and publishing veteran Karen Hayes, Parnassus is something of a Nashville landmark, even tucked into a strip mall in Green Hills.

Bookman Bookwoman. If you find yourself in Hillsboro Village, Bookman Bookwoman is worth a visit. This independent shop is regularly voted as one of Nashville’s best.


Downtown Library. Nashville’s main library holds a special place in Shanna’s heart for letting her hear Anne Lamott speak there a few months ago.

Hendersonville Public Library. Shanna discovered the newer, scenic Hendersonville Library when she was living in East Nashville. While it’s a bit of a drive from the city, it’s surrounded by trees and offers glass-walled office spaces, as well as a tranquil patio reading area.


Salon @615. Shanna has a special place in her heart for Salon@615, the reading series presented by Nashville Public Library. It is where she first heard Anne Lamott speak, and it has drawn other big names like Barbara Kingsolver, Augusten Burroughs, and Cheryl Strayed.

East Side Storytelling: Hosted by East Side Story, East Side Storytellin' is a twice monthly series featuring local authors.

Gertrude & Harold Vanderbilt Visiting Writers Series: Having several colleges in Nashville yields literary benefits like the Gertrude & Harold Vanderbilt Visiting Writers Series. This program brings in various authors throughout the school year to read their work.


Good Eats


Barista Parlor. Our first pick would be Barista Parlor, the coffee shop with the coolest aesthetic and a great selection of drinks.

The Jam Coffeehouse. Run by one of the sweetest families we know, this adorable 1950s throwback offers our favorite selection of food and drinks of any coffee shop in the city. Plus, as an added bonus, The Jam over 50 types of organic, hand-crafted, loose-leaf teas.

Fido. Whenever we have to meet someone in the evening, whether for work or for fun, we do it at Fido. The sprawling interior offers plenty of places to gather, and the menu focuses on locally sourced, often organic ingredients.


Marché. We love Marché for its charming interior reminiscent of a European-style café and for its regularly revolving menu filled with local and seasonal products.

Bella Nashville. You can’t beat a pizza from Bella Nashville, set right in the farmer’s market downtown and featuring sourdough crusts baked in a wood-fired oven.

Mas Tacos. Eating lunch here will be cheap, quick, and, most of all, delicious. Mas Tacos offers the city’s best tacos, hands down.

Silly Goose. It’s hard to read an article about Nashville’s food scene that doesn’t mention Silly Goose. This small East Nashville eatery is filled with salads, sandwiches, and inventive couscous. 

Margot. Sister to Marché, Margot is our favorite spot for a celebration dinner. Go here for French and Italian cuisine served in a cozy, elegant atmosphere.


Las Paletas. The first time we met in person, it was at Las Paletas, but even aside from sentimental value, popsicles from this shop are a treat.  

Olive and Sinclair. Based right here in Nashville, Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Co. is hard to beat. Find their products all over the city—and get your paletas dipped in their silky chocolate at Hot & Cold in Hillsboro.

Jeni’s Ice Cream. Jeni's may be based in Ohio, but the branch in East Nashville is a city hot spot, with lines usually running out the door.


First held in 1989, the Southern Festival of Books takes place every October and is free and open to the public.

An event designed to honor local literary talent, the Nashville Public Library Literary Award Gala takes place in November. The three-day weekend surrounding the event also includes a free public lecture. 

“Write because you love the art and the discipline, not because you're looking to sell something." –Ann Patchett


Tim & Shanna's 5 Favorites

1. Favorite bookstore.  We never leave McKay's empty-handed. It’s the place where Shanna found her original Moosewood Cookbook and where Tim has no trouble passing time. 

2. Favorite place to write.  At our kitchen table! In town, we’d probably say Whole Foods (free wifi and great snacks!) or Fido (if the Internet’s on; they turn it off during peak hours).

3. Favorite museum. We’d have to say The Frist, mostly because it’s the only one we’ve been to in Nashville, ha! They have free movie nights and regular new exhibits, and we’ve enjoyed them.

4. Favorite coffee shop.  It doesn’t get much cooler than Barista Parlor. Think garage doors, big wooden tables, open space, and the slickest aesthetic in town.

5. Favorite thing about Nashville.   It’s a small big city—all the restaurants, events, culture you could want, but in a compact, manageable layout.