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

Shanna Mallon is the writer behind Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. In 2010, she met her husband, Tim, through blogging at a previous site, and they dated long-distance for a year before Tim finally wooed Shanna south. 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 since 2007 (Tim) and 2011 (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: Nashville’s own personal chef Charles Hunter III of The Salted Table.

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.

Her Bookshop. What’s unique about Her Bookshop is the curating—all the books inside are chosen for being as beautiful as they are fun to read. Tucked into trendy East Nashville, this shop also offers a book club collaboration with local writers’ center The Porch.

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.

Landmark Booksellers. South of Nashville in historic and picturesque Franklin, Landmark Booksellers is a great resource for both new and hard-to-find books. Bonus: because it’s just a few blocks from town square, it’s a great stop on a walk through the downtown area.


Downtown Library. Nashville’s main library holds a special place in Shanna's heart for letting her hear Anne Lamott speak there in person, as well as for regularly hosting other authors.

Hendersonville Public Library. Shanna discovered the newer, scenic Hendersonville Library while 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. Salon@615 is the reading series presented by Nashville Public Library—not only has it drawn Anne Lamott, but also other big names like Barbara Kingsolver, Augusten Burroughs, and Cheryl Strayed.

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.


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. 


Good Eats


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

Crema. This coffeeshop is classic Nashville—cool aesthetics, nationally acclaimed specialty coffee roasters and outdoor seating with sweet views of the city.  

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.

Dozen. Picture a European café tucked into an industrial neighborhood, and you’ve got Dozen, home to the best breads and pastries in town. In addition to a full case of bread and treats, the shop offers tartines, sandwiches, salads and soups in a seasonal menu.

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.


Five Daughters. Come to any Five Daughters location for the cronuts, made with organic flour and sugar—and stay for the paleo doughnuts, vegan doughnuts (akin to classic glazed and frosted) or, for one of our favorites, the cinnamon roll.

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. 

Kokos Artisan Vegan Ice Cream. What used to just be available in popups is now serving on weekends (more hours coming soon) from a cute shop on East Nashville’s Porter Road. Kokos makes dairy-free, nut-free, plant-based ice cream—perfect for anyone looking for treats that fit an alternative diet.

Jeni’s Ice Cream. Jeni's may be based in Ohio, but several locations in Nashville, with lines usually running out the door.

Café Roze. Pink tables, turmeric lattes and some of the best branding in town—these are just a few of the reasons why East Nashville’s Cafe Roze is all over Instagram. It’s technically an all-day café, but we like it for treats such as an avocado shake with bee pollen or avocado hummus toast.

“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!), Dozen (with a blueberry muffin, please) 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. If we’re looking for a latte we can feel good about drinking, hands down we’d pick The Jam, where drinks feature ingredients such as coconut sugar, coconut milk and organic spices.

5. Favorite thing about Nashville. It’s a small big city (although, admittedly, it might not stay that way long)—all the restaurants, events, culture you could want, but in a compact, manageable layout.