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Former U.S. President Barack Obama “stopped by” Nashville literary hub Parnassus Books early Friday as part of a virtual tour celebrating Independent Bookstore Day. 

Obama, who released best-selling presidential memoir “A Promised Land” last November, visited a half-dozen stores virtually in YouTube videos published Friday morning by Crown Publishing. Additional stops included The Lit.Bar in Bronx, New York, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, and Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

Independent Bookstore Day, an annual coast-to-coast celebration of local shops, returns Saturday. 

Obama chatted for five minutes with Parnassus co-owner Karen Hayes, where he complimented the Green Hills store for being one in a collective of “such important institutions in your communities.” Nashville Scene first reported Obama’s digital stop. 

In this Thursday, June 25, 2020, photo, novelist Ann Patchett, right, and her business partner, Karen Hayes, left, pose in their independent bookstore, Parnassus Books, in Nashville, Tenn. Their bookstore that opened and thrived while others were closing their doors is once again defying the odds during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Mark Humphrey, AP)

“I’m sure I speak for your customers that during what was a challenging time you were a little oasis for them to be able to at least stretch their imaginations even if they couldn’t always stretch their legs,” Obama said. 

He praised Parnassus co-owner and award-winning author Ann Patchett on her essay “These Precious Days,” published in Harper’s magazine — calling it “spectacular” — and answered a question from Hayes on if he would’ve been happy being a writer if not for politics. 

Obama said he’s “not sure that I am gifted enough as writer like somebody like Ann” to take on a keyboard full-time, but he has applied principles of writing — “a sense of wonder,” he said — that made him “a better person and in turn a better president.” 

“When I’m not writing, I try to maintain that sense of ‘Gosh …,’ ya know?” Obama said. “How the world works and how people are so different but they’re so the same. Where can you find little bits of kindness? Or being useful in ways that gives you a moral code that you can live by. That, I think, is something that I cling to and when I do write, I’m trying to transmit, I’m trying to capture some of that.” 

Watch the conversation in full below. 

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