With twenty-three Texas Book Festivals under our belt, we’re proud to have in our TBF family hundreds and hundreds of writers who have graced our stages with their wit, insight, and remarkable work over the last two and a half decades. We’re celebrating some of these Texas Book Fest alums with a new display up at BookPeople. Every writer featured on these shelves has a highly anticipated new book out in 2019. Before diving into their latest, we highly recommend you pick up the books they shared with us when they made the trip here to Texas. Read the previous books, pre-order the new ones, and, in the meantime, we’ll be working hard behind the scenes to bring you a bright, shiny, twenty-fourth Texas Book Festival October 26-27.Happy reading!
Valeria Luiselli Valeria Luiselli is one of the most important writers publishing today. She uses her voice and platform to call attention to the experiences of people traveling across border between Mexico and the United States. She spoke about her debut novel, Faces in the Crowd, at the 2014 Texas Book Festival. Her new novel, Lost Children Archive, is out now and is an enveloping, involving work of narrative and emotional brilliance about all that hangs in the balance at the border.
Oscar Cásares Oscar is one of our beloved Texas writers! He was a featured author at the Fest in 2003 with his story collection, Brownsville, and again in 2009 with his novel, Amigoland. We’re looking forward to his new novel, Where We Come From, out on May 21. This time around, Cásares writes Brownsville from the perspective of a woman swept up in an operation to smuggle people over the border from Mexico into Texas.
Marlon James Marlon James was a featured author at the 2014 Texas Book Festival with his Man Booker Prize-winning hit novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings. His latest novel, Black Leopard Red Wolf, is on shelves now and is already a huge success with readers such as Neil Gaiman, who calls it, “….A dangerous, hallucinatory, ancient Africa, which becomes a fantasy world as well-realized as anything Tolkien made, with language as powerful as Angela Carter’s. It’s as deep and crafty as Gene Wolfe, bloodier than Robert E. Howard, and all Marlon James. It’s something very new that feels old, in the best way. I cannot wait for the next installment.” This is the first installment of a trilogy! Start reading, y’all.
Nicole Dennis-Benn Nicole visited the Festival in 2016 with her debut novel Here Comes the Sun, the rich, unforgettable story of two sisters who come of age and find themselves in a changing Jamaica. The novel won the Lambda Literary Award, was a Finalist for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, was a Finalist for the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award, and was named a Best Book of the Year by the New York Times and…. just about everyone else. Dennis-Benn’s highly anticipated new novel, Patsy, on sale June 4, is the story of a Jamaican mother who leaves her daughter behind to make a life in America, and the daughter who comes of age without her.
Colson Whitehead Oprah Book Club-beloved, Pulitzer Prize-winning, mega-bestselling novelist Colson Whitehead graced the Festival stage in 2009 with his novel, Sag Harbor, in 2011 with his zombie-apocalypse novel Zone One, and in 2014 with his nonfiction account of a dive into the life of professional poker-playing, The Noble Hustle. He’s a TBF MVP! We’re very excited for his new novel, out July 16, The Nickel Boys, is based on the true story of a juvenile detention center in 1960s Florida and spotlights the irreparable harm and racial bias of American justice and the prison system, while also highlighting the persevering light and hope of the Civil Rights movement.
Jami Attenberg We love, love, love New York-turned-New Orleans writer Jami Attenberg. She’s yet another TBF MVP, with three Festival appearances under her belt: in 2012 with The Middlesteins; in 2015 with Saint Mazie; and in 2017 with All Grown Up. Her latest novel is a deep dive into toxic masculinity, deep family dysfunction, and the beautiful city of New Orleans. Don’t miss All This Could Be Yours, on shelves October 22!
Margaret Atwood at the 2015 Texas Book Festival.
Margaret Atwood Margaret Atwood is one of our major literary heroes. We were honored to host her at the Texas Book Festival and at our First Edition Literary Gala in 2015 with The Heart Goes Last. She was also here in 2009 with her novel The Year of the Flood. Along with the rest of the universe, we are SO READY for her forthcoming sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, coming September 10, The Testaments.
Chigozie Obioma Named “the heir to Chinua Achebe” by the New York Times, Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel, The Fisherman, published to great acclaim in 2015, when he made his way to the Texas Book Festival. His new novel, An Orchestra of Minorities, tells the story of a Nigerian poultry farmer who sacrifices everything for the woman he loves. It’s on shelves now.
Laila Lalami Pulitzer Prize finalist. Long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. A New York Times Notable Book. A Kirkus Best Fiction Book of the Year. Whew! The Moor’s Accountwas a massive success when Laila Lalami visited the Texas Book Festival in 2014. Her new novel is part family saga, part murder mystery, part love story, and totally absorbing. Don’t miss The Other Americans, on sale March 26!
Erin Morgenstern The Night Circus was a major literary event when it descended on our libraries in 2011. We were thrilled to host her then and have been anxiously awaiting Morgenstern’s next book ever since! Her cinematic storytelling style woos us and wraps us up in her brilliant, imaginative worlds. Ready yourselves for The Starless Sea, out on November 5!
Mira Jacob The debut novel from Mira Jacob, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, was a breakout hit in 2015. We were so lucky to have Mira with us at the Fest that year! Now, she’s developed a whole new, imitable style with her forthcoming graphic novel, Good Talk, telling the story of her experience coming of age as an Indian-American woman in the ’80s and ’90s, and of her present-day life raising her biracial son in the Trump era. On shelves March 26!
Pictured above: Austin authors Juli Berwald and ire’ne lara silva, with TBF Literary Director Julie Wernersbach, laugh along with a gathering of local readers and writers.
Last week, we kicked off our quarterly Book Tips and Sips series at Prohibition Creamery. I sat down with authors ire’ne lara silva and Juli Berwald to talk about books that inspire us, encourage us to amplify our voices, and motivate us to engage beyond the page with big ideas and action in our communities.
The conversation ranged across many topics and looked at books about the environment, women’s rights, grief, untold history, and more. We received some great recommendations from the audience, including What if It’s Us by Becky Albertelli and Adam Silvera (a story told in dual perspectives of two boys who meet in a post office and then try to find one another); What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (a good look at how to think clean and clear when the mind is scattered); Tell Me How It Endsby Valeria Luiselli (a look at immigration and the systems that handle undocumented children in America); and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (“Dystopia always makes us want to be better!”)
Our featured writers gave us some terrific book recs, which you can peruse below. I scribbled notes as fast as I could, trying to catch all of the brilliant summaries and perspectives silva and Berwald had on these great reads. Enjoy!
Join us for the next installment of Book Tips and Sips at Prohibition Creamery on Tuesday, May 7 from 5:30 – 7:00pm when we talk summer reading picks with Austin writers Maya Perez and Amy Gentry.
Recommended by Juli Berwald
The HidingPlace by Corrie Ten Boom
Originally published in 1971, Boom recounts her family’s story of hiding Jews during World War II and their subsequent imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp. The author was the family’s only survivor. In addition to serving as a reminder of this period of history, it also holds up moments of the family’s glory in the midst of terrible situations.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Her voice, her story; we all know this book is incredible and has been in the hands of so many readers of all ages, despite censorship in school districts such as Katy, Texas. A well-written story about a difficult subject, this novel is an example of how fiction can speak to our current moment.
Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer
An engrossing book about what we can learn from moss. Seriously, this book is fascinating! It’s a close-up look at ecology, environmental health, and how the organisms that live in moss can be an indication of change. Our planet is rich with life!
Archangel by Andrea Barrett
This book is a wonderful example of how the natural world is exalted in the hands of a skilled writer who reminds us how precious our planet is by demonstrating how beautiful it is, and how beautifully it can be written.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
The story of the author’s friendship with an unlikely companion, a snail who makes a home on her nightstand, demonstrating how much there is to learn by being quiet and attentive to our world.
Life and Death in a Coral Sea by Jacques-Yves Cousteau
For all his faults, Cousteau pointed us towards the need to protect our oceans. In 1971, he was calling attention to dying coral reefs and was surprised by how much our oceans were at risk. This book serves as a good measure of what the status quo was then, so that we might evaluate our interpretations, responses, and actions now.
The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck
Sometimes, it’s fun to simply remember the sea. In this work by Steinbeck, you see history fleshed out it in the story and bodies, and think about how the story parallels now and how history has shaped the present.
The Dragon Behind the Glass by Emily Voigt
Voigt discovers the most expensive fish in the world and goes on a mission to find its remaining wild populations. The book talks about the importance of taxonomy, how things are related to one another, and demonstrates how Voigt’s understanding of our planet shifted.
Recommended by ire’ne lara silva
Shame the Stars Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Set in South Texas in 1915, this retelling of Romeo and Juliet illuminates a time in Texas history when the Mexican Revolution took hold of one side of the border while Texas Rangers confronted Tejanos on the other.
Future Home of the Living God Louise Erdrich
A story of evolution gone wrong, written as a letter from a woman to her unborn child and touching on women’s rights. Reviewers missed the point of this novel when it was first published. This isn’t entertainment so much as a look at the apocalypse of the conquest, as if Walking Dead told a story of indigenous people.
Citizens of the Mausoleum Rodney Gomez
Poems about grief that go beyond personal grief to look at our larger community and cultural losses.
Invocation to Daughters Barbara Jane Reyes
Reyes is a Filipina writer who completely inhabits her rage and turns it into fuel, exploring the places women are permitted to inhabit.
Light in the Dark/Luz En Lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality by Gloria Anzaldua
Full of epiphanies! Published thirteen years after the writer’s death, this work is about more than physical borders; she’s writing about liminal frontiers, places of conflict and intersection, looking at things holistically and how to describe life, creativity, spirituality while bringing all of your pieces to bear.
Texas Book Festival is excited to announce a brand new quarterly event series in Austin: Book Tips and Sips at Prohibition Creamery. We’re bringing together Central Texas authors and members of the literary community to talk about their favorite books at four unique, themed events hosted at Prohibition Creamery, a delicious cocktail and ice cream bar on east seventh street. Join us for book recommendations, ice cream, cocktails and community!
The events are all free and open to the public. Enjoy “A Sidecar Named Desire,” Prohibition Creamery’s literary take on the sidecar cocktail, made with brandy, pine-infused gin, hibiscus, and lemon, and a portion of your drink purchase will support the Texas Book Festival.
Prohibition Creamery is located at 1407 East 7th St in Austin. The shop is open to all ages.
Summer Reading Salon Tuesday, May 7 5:30 – 7:00pm Warm weather, road trips, and poolside afternoons are right around the corner. It’s the time of year when we’re scouting for the best books to carry in our beach bags and picnic baskets. What makes a great summer read? Join authors Maya Perez and Amy Gentry, along with Texas Book Festival Literary Director Julie Wernersbach, as they share their favorite books to get lost in during the long, lazy days of summer.
Dates for the second half of the series to be announced. Stay tuned!
Literary Libations Week
August 2019 It’s Literary Libations week! We’re gearing up for this year’s Lit Crawl Austin with signature literary-themed cocktails at bars around town. Join us tonight at Prohibition Creamery as we welcome Lit Crawl partners from local lit organizations to talk about the books they’re reading and what it means to have a strong literary community in Austin. TBF Literary Director Julie Wernersbach will also give a sneak peek of some of the best and biggest books hitting shelves this Fall!
Holiday Book Swap! December 2019 It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the season when we get to buy books for all of our family and friends! We understand that selecting the perfect read for someone you love can be daunting. Texas Book Fest is here to help! Join two local authors, along with TBF Literary Director Julie Wernersbach, as they share the books they’re giving to the readers on their lists this season. Of course, in the spirit of the holiday, we want everyone to take home a gift for themselves, so we’re hosting a holiday book swap! Bring a book you loved and want to share, add it to the swap, and take home a new read of your own. Merry reading!
We love putting together free programming in support of authors and readers here in Texas. If you believe in strengthening a love of literature and keeping arts programming free and open to the public in Texas, please consider supporting the Texas Book Festival.
Here we are again, on the giddy brink of another year of books (and what a massive year it is, with new work forthcoming from such heavyweights as Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Carmen Maria Machado, Téa Obreht, Ian McEwan, Elizabeth Strout—and we have’t even seen the full fall catalogs yet). As Literary Director, this is the time of year when I am in a happy tailspin, poring over publisher catalogs, industry reviews, and keeping an eye on the recommendations and reading habits of my colleagues to determine which book I’ll read next, and then next, and then next after that, so that I, along with our selection committees, can start to think about the shape of this year’s Texas Book Festival.
As I organize my reading life, I’m sharing my lists with you. Below, you’ll find a few of the 2019 books I’ve read so far and highly recommend. You’ll also find lists of which books I have my eye on and hope to read soon. This is by no means a comprehensive statement on what comprises worthwhile reading this year. My selections are fairly subjective, born from my own excitement, curiosity and what I’ve managed to get my hands on and read so far. The lists skew heavily towards fiction, because that’s how I spend my December (and my colleagues, Lea and Lydia, will have children’s and Young Adult lists for you soon).
I am immensely grateful to the writers who have poured years of energy, intelligence, time, and art into these new works. It can be easy to scroll past a cover without registering how much one individual put into telling this story (not to mention the agents, editors, publicists, and publishing house professionals who are living and breathing these titles right now, hoping you will love the book as much as they do). So, thank you to the writers and to everyone who works to put these stories in our hands. If you are also grateful to the writers, please show your appreciation by pre-ordering these books from your local independent bookseller!
Mouthful of Birds: Stories by Samanta Schweblin
Translated by Megan McDowell Riverhead, January 8 I was a big fan of Schweblin’s 2017 novel, Fever Dream. Strange and surreal, I had no idea what would happen page to page, and I reveled in the novel’s unsettling turns. When I opened her new short story collection, Mouthful of Birds, I hoped for the same landscape. Friends, Schweblin delivered. If you’re a fan of rosy, happy-ending, tied-with-a-bow, feel-good stories, I strongly advise you look elsewhere. These stories are dark, often verging on the border of mad and somewhat sinister territory, while remaining uniquely satisfying. The stories are also brief and I couldn’t help but tear through them, one slap after another, stirred and shaken, and left, once again, to delight in the terrain Schweblin is unafraid to tread; a daughter who eats live birds, a chorus of abandoned women wailing for revenge, an assassin’s horrific interview for a job. If you loved Friday Black, I highly recommend you make Mouthful of Birds one of the first collections you pick up this year.
Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken Ecco, February 5 Get ready to meet the world of Bertha Truitt, candlepin bowler and absolutely nobody’s fool. Bertha’s arrival in the small New England town of Salford at the turn of the twentieth century launches a decades-long, twisting, turning, character-rich tumble into the story of this community, the Truitt family, and the bowling alley Bertha establishes at their center. So much happens in these pages, it’s challenging to adequately sum up all there is to love about this tale. There is a molasses flood. There is a remarkable birth. There is bowling (so much bowling). Bowlaway has the feel of an epic yarn. You will be swept away, and gleefully. You may also come away with a deep, hankering urge to visit your local lanes (I certainly did, and have the novice’s sore forearm to prove it). If you love to get lost in a big novel written by a master storyteller whose humor and wit have earned her two National Book Award nods and The Story Prize, this book will absolutely bowl you over (I told myself I wouldn’t, but then I had to).
Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington
Riverhead Books, March 19 This is one of the first 2019 books I read and it set a high bar for this year’s debut fiction. If you loved A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley (a 2018 TBF author and finalist for the National Book Award, who has also been recommending this collection), mark this collection right now as to-be-read. Washington, a Houston native, writes his sprawling, iconic Texas city through the voices, hopes, heartbreaks, and living rooms of its vivid neighborhoods. Dealing with the troubles of gentrification, coming of age, coming out, community, family, and identity, the characters in these stories offer a multi-lens view of their deftly portrayed world, including the experiences of a young man whose regular appearance makes him the collection’s unofficial center. Lyrical, and with insight both sharp and tender, Washington hits the ground running in this remarkable first book. While you wait for Lot to hit shelves, you can get to know some of Washington’s work online (he is, indeed, prolific). I recommend this piece in The New Yorker about the Beto effect in Texas right before midterm elections; this piece in the New York Times about Houston and Hurricane Harvey; this piece in The Paris Review on Pride; and this piece in Catapult about the Rothko Chapel.
Sing To It: New Stories by Amy Hempel
Scribner, March 26 I am, to put it mildly, the biggest Amy Hempel fan on the planet (though I can feel all of the other Hempel fans ready to fight me, such is our devotion to this incomparable writer, to which I say: put down your fists and let’s just read some stories, we can all be presidents of the same fan club). This is Hempel’s first new collection in more than a decade and it is an event. If you’re already a fan of Hempel’s work, you will be thrilled to once again marvel at her deft maneuvers to extract the mysterious, lonely, living, connected, funny center of the human condition. I am always impressed by the way Hempel’s focused attention turns ordinary detail into a miraculous interior, how I am instantly enraptured by “a giant vinyl slice of watermelon” for the pool. Her sentences dazzle me as they twist into unexpected images and surprise endings that feel absolutely inevitable. And she drops the best first sentences—for example: “People are getting away with murder, but I can’t get away with having a glass of water in bed.” Some of the stories in this collection are a single page or a few paragraphs, such as The Doll Tornado, which describes exactly what its title indicates. Longer is A Full-Service Shelter, the third story in the collection and the one that made me cry. The final story, Cloudland, comprises nearly half of the book, an engrossing dive into the life of a woman who gave up her child for adoption, based on a true story about a maternity home scandal. 2019 is an amazing year. It is an Amy Hempel year. We are all so lucky.
Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine One World, April 2 This debut story collection is one of my favorite discoveries so far of 2019. Set in and around Denver, Colorado and focusing on the stories of Indigenous Latinas, the world of Sabrina & Corina is one of desert vistas, desert grit, and desert women whose strength could topple the surrounding mountains. The relationships of the sisters, cousins, and friends in these stories are tender and intimate. Fajardo-Anstine brings us close to her characters and their histories, families, desires, and despairs. This is the kind of collection I want to give my best friend, my mom, my aunts, my female cousins. It celebrates female bonds and friendship even as it highlights the struggles of those same relationships and the pressures of the wild forces of love, economics, family ties, and the women’s own dreams. Tender, beautiful, and completely enveloping, this collection makes me very excited for Fajardo-Anstine’s first novel (also forthcoming from One World).
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong Penguin Press, June 4 I’m going to say something that might get me in trouble here: poets are perfect novelists. Okay, okay, I’ll back off the grand and controversial generalizations, fine, but that’s how I felt reading Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Vuong’s debut poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, was one of the most talked about books of 2017 and earned Vuong the T. S. Eliot Prize and a Whiting Award. Born outside of Saigon, Vuong and his family immigrated to the United States when he was a child. The reconciliation of one family’s Vietnamese past with their American present is at the core of this astounding new story, in which the horrors of war and addiction mix up with a mother’s love and a young man’s sexual awakening in prose that sings as it slashes across the page. There is a vitality in this language that buckles the reader to hard history while transcending the violence, giving us something more, something beautiful, a lily and a rose and young love, a way out of grief, all in the intimate form of a letter to a mother from her son. The sentences haunt me; their spectacular, searing images stopped me on the page and demanded I read them again, and then again. This is an absolutely remarkable work. I cannot wait for everyone to read it.
Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett Tin House Books, June 4 Something strange has happened since I read Arnett’s debut novel. All of a sudden, taxidermy is EVERYWHERE. There’s a taxidermy tiger at a local gift shop wearing a Santa hat and suggesting itself for the holidays. It’s the topic of overheard conversations I immediately butt into to say, “I just read a novel about taxidermy!” Which is misleading: Mostly Dead Things isn’t only about taxidermy, though it does provide a civilian with plenty of behind-the-scenes tips and tricks for stuffing and posing every kind of animal, from trout to bucks to peacocks. The story is told from the perspective of a Florida taxidermist, the daughter of another taxidermist who, in the opening pages of this novel, has taken his own life in the very same workshop where he has taught his daughter his trade. This vivid, if macabre, opening sets readers up for a funny, unexpected, and moving story about a daughter trying to find her way through grief, through the accumulation of years of strained family dynamics, and to the other side of the biggest heartbreak of her life, the loss of the woman she has devoted the majority of her life to loving. Arnett is immensely talented at sliding her pen under the skin of heartache and delivering its tendons, its sinews, and the heart still beating inside. If you like weird, and certainly if you have a fondness for taxidermy, make this your first summer read.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead Doubleday, July 16 In his first novel since Underground Railroad, Whitehead brings readers to Nickel, a juvenile detention center in 1960s Florida, a “reform” school that is a catchall for young men marked as wayward or criminal. Segregated, sinister, and devastating in its abuse, Nickel turns out young men permanently scarred by its prison-like rigidity and severe punishment, if it lets them go at all. Whitehead portrays Nickel through the eyes of Elwood Curtis, a bookish teenager lit up by the intellectual and inspiring work of Dr. Martin Luther King. As he navigates the harsh terms of his new world at Nickel, readers meet the other boys Elwood lives with, works with, and befriends, their fates in Nickel and beyond bent by the will of the merciless, terrifying superintendent and staff. The novel is based on the true story of a reform school in Florida that operated for more than 100 years, and Whitehead provides many resources at the end of the book for learning more. In sharing this history, Whitehead spotlights the irreparable harm and racial bias of American justice and the prison system, while also highlighting the persevering light and hope of the Civil Rights movement. History is never so far away as we think it is. Once again, Colson Whitehead puts an unflinching depiction of American truth in our hands.
Cover not yet revealed!
All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg
October 22, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt You’re going to have to wait until the end of October for two things that I promise are worth your devoted patience: the 2019 Texas Book Festival and Jami Attenberg’s next novel. In All This Could Be Yours, the Tuchmans, a dysfunctional family if there ever was one, gather from their respective corners of the country to meet at the deathbed of their patriarch, an unequivocally reprehensible human being named Victor whose criminal life has left mystery, shame, betrayal and psychological complexes in his wake. As his daughter seeks answers from her mother, and his wife tracks her steps around the hospital floor, and his son bottoms out in Los Angeles, and his daughter-in-law buys another tube of lipstick to cope with her choices, we see the close weave of deep family reckoning. One of my favorite elements of this novel is its setting: New Orleans, where Attenberg lives. The brilliance of this story is its fluid point of view, the way it dips in and out of the perspectives of the ticket takers, waiters, nurses, bartenders, and other people who make up the city and cast into relief the Tuchman’s chaotic devolution. This novel lives and breathes the city as it tells the memorable story of one family playing taps inside its borders.
After the 2018 Texas Book Festival tents came down and our staff came back to the office, sorted through all of the books and banners, sent all of our thank you notes, and SLEPT (a lot), a few of us packed our bags and headed out across the country to visit book festivals in other cities.
Why spend so much time at other book festivals when we just wrapped up one of our own? We wanted to see firsthand the wonderful ways that other literary festivals serve their communities, create space for conversations, and bring together writers and readers. We wanted to compare notes, be inspired, and bring home ideas that might enhance and improve the experience for festival-goers here in Texas.
Okay, we’ll be honest, we also went to these festivals because it’s FUN. After the joyful madness of putting together our own Fest, it was a reward to become festival-goers ourselves and hop from panel to panel to hear authors talk with one another about their books, their writing and the world.
Now that we’re all home again, we’re sharing our vacation slides with you. We’re grateful to be part of this brilliant community of book festivals. We celebrate all of the hard work they do to unite authors and readers and highly recommend y’all hop on the festival circuit next year and visit them!
Portland, Oregon November 10 Staffer: Maris Finn, Financial and Administrative Coordinator
I had the privilege to fly out to Portland, OR for the Portland Book Festival on November 10. Located at the Portland Art Museum and the surrounding area, it was a day packed with literary fun for all ages.
The Portland Book Festival (formerly known as Wordstock) is a program put on by Literary Arts, a literary nonprofit organization. Here are their other year-round literary programs! There were authors for every age and interest (as you can see from the packed schedule!), but I spent most of my day listening to some of my favorite debut authors. Here’s what my day looked like.
My first panel of the day was “Metropolis: The City in Literature” featuring Jamel Brinkley (A Lucky Man), Ingrid Rojas Contreras (Fruit of the Drunken Tree), and Jason Lutes (Berlin), moderated by Tin House Editor and co-founder Rob Spillman. It was fascinating to hear these authors discuss their personal relationships to the cities they write about, and how the cities themselves take on starring roles in their work.
I wish I could go into every single panel I went to that day, but I’ll focus on one more! This one, “Survivor: Women at the End of the World,” was incredible. Featuring Leni Zumas (Red Clocks), Ling Ma (Severance), and Aminder Dhaliwal (Woman World), and moderated by Lidia Yuknavitch, this panel looked at the apocalypse from a female perspective. I went into the panel only having read Severance, and I left with Woman World and Red Clocks as numbers 1 and 2 on my To-Read list.
Book festivals aren’t only about going to panels, though! I was lucky to meet and chat with Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of the debut short story collection Friday Black, another one of my favorites this year. Quite simply: everyone needs to read this book.
Thank you, Portland Book Festival, for an unforgettable time!
Charleston, South Carolina
Staffer: Lydia Melby, Literary and Communications Coordinator
I was pretty thrilled to get to attend YALLFest in Charleston, South Carolina for the first time. I always have a blast at our own Texas Book Festival and Texas Teen Book Festival, and, as a big reader of YA, I love seeing glimpses of other book festivals and excited YA readers in other states from the authors I follow. YALLFest was my first choice of outside festivals to visit, since the size and structure seemed similar to our Texas Teen Book Festival, and because the social media coverage I saw always made it look so vibrant and fun so I had to go find out for myself.
Spoiler alert: I was not disappointed.
YALLFest was founded by Jonathan Sanchez of Blue Bicycle Books in 2011, and just wrapped up its eighth year. Like our own Texas Book Festival, it’s a two-day festival that is mostly free and open to the public. It’s sponsored by a local indie bookstore Blue Bicycle Books, the College of Charleston the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and several other local businesses, as well as by many teen and Young Adult publishers.
This year, YALLFest brought in 68 YA authors for more than 30 lively panels and conversations. Obvs I couldn’t get to every panel I wanted to see (which was all of them—I found myself desperately wishing for Hermione’s time-turner), but I still managed to catch a good bunch, as well as a few giveaways. Also, seriously, SO. MANY. GIVEAWAYS. I got not one, but four different pencil pouches and I have never been so tote-full. It was great to see authors I’ve met before once more (always fun to have a chance to re-do your first impression, right?) as well as more I’d never gotten the chance to see before. I gushed to authors, I chatted with other readers in line, I ate some pretty fantastic biscuits and gravy (though not as good as my mom’s, of course), and I got to tromp around this historical city to places like the grand old Charleston Music Hall, Charleston Public Library’s fantastic central branch, and of course, delightful indie bookstore Blue Bicycle Books (with its titular mascot parked out front).
Some highlights: the “Trapped Girls” panel, in which authors Claire Legrand, Natasha Ngan, Laura Sebastian, Megan Shepherd, Kaitlin Ward, and Kiersten White discussed the various ways their intrepid heroines found themselves trapped (physically or metaphorically) and how they got themselves out of it without any knight or prince or well-meaning doofus dashing in and making a mess of it all. They also played a memorably difficult round of “Kiss, Marry, Kill”—somehow all answering unanimously after much discussion (but sorry, I don’t “Kiss, Marry, Kill” and tell).
I loved seeing Mary H.K. Choi (a UT Austin *and* #txbookfest alum) somehow simultaneously out-awkward and out-cool everyone around her almost as much as I loved seeing bestselling author Soman Chainani perform a High School Musical-style dance tribute “To All the YA Boy Characters I’ve Loved Before” (yes, Peter Kavinsky was included). And of course, I will treasure forever my memory of being one in an adoring crowd of 300+ readers watching YA/Kidlit titans Neal Shusterman and R.J. Palacio discuss their writing, their characters, their inspirations, and their hopes for all our futures. The best part of it all was similar to what I love about being part of our own TBF and TTBF—walking down the street and seeing flocks of readers all flooding in the same direction, watching groups of friends cluster over a copy of their current favorite book, and lining up with other excited fans to tell an author what their words have meant to us.
Reading has always been my favorite solitary activity, but it might just be my favorite social activity too.
Staffers: Claire Burrows, Development Director; Julie Wernersbach, Literary Director
Like the Texas Book Festival, the Miami Book Fair has decades-deep roots in its community. This year, MBF celebrated its 35th annual fair with many of the same writers we welcomed to Texas: Jacqueline Woodson, Pete Souza, Tayari Jones, Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o, Celeste Ng, and 594 other writers. That’s right – the Miami Book Fair hosts 600 authors, most of them over the two-day weekend, with select events happening the week prior.
One of the key attractions at MBF is its street fair. More than one hundred exhibitors in colorful tents line the streets of Miami Dade College, offering everything from books (of course) to farmers market-style produce and baked goods to entertainers on stilts making balloon animals for kids. The weather was beautiful and we were happy to stroll up and down the booths, peruse books, feast on chickpea-curry onigiri (one of many, many options in the food court), catch live music at “The Porch,” the outdoor music and entertainment tent, and say at least a dozen times, “Wow, there are a lot of palm trees here.” We also took note of MBF’s booth dedicated to books in Spanish, which was busy all weekend.
Joyful energy reverberated throughout the street fair, with families dancing to music, readers browsing the many book tables and tents, and everyone trying to catch a glimpse of Sonia Sotomayor talking to C-Span 2 BookTV in their author interview booth.
A big part of the fun of visiting another festival right after TBF is the opportunity to see some of the authors we welcomed in Texas, but who we couldn’t see on their panels because we were too busy running the Fest. In Miami, we headed inside from the street fair and caught conversations with R. O. Kwon, Jamie Quatro, Jamel Brinkley and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. We loved hearing readings from the National Book Award finalists for fiction and laughed along with actress, comedian and writer Abbi Jacobson as she talked about her new memoir, I Might Regret This (which includes a section in Austin, complete with a sketch of a Topo Chico bottle, to our delight). We heard a panel of Haitian writers read from their work, moderated by Edwidge Danticat,and were impressed to learn that MBF made simultaneous translation into Haitian-Creole available at this and other sessions. We got going early on Sunday morning to catch readings by Deborah Eisenberg and Katharine Weber (who offered writers the great advice, “Trust your own strangeness!”)
We also experienced what we hear from many of our TBF festival-goers: so many choices, so little time! We made some tough decisions, accepted that we couldn’t see everything, bought very many books, and appreciated the way that MBF wove in programming and authors that represented Miami’s distinct and vibrant cultures. Thanks for the great weekend, Miami!
Thank for the kindness and hospitality, Y’ALLFest, Portland Book Fest and Miami Book Fair!
‘Tis the season to share the joy of reading! This year, give the readers in your life a bookish gift that gives more. Donate to the Texas Book Festival and we’ll say thank you with a unique Texas Book Festival gift of your choice, including T-shirts, posters, tote bags, and limited-edition TBF Hydro Flask bottles.
Each gift will come with a handwritten thank you note letting the recipient know the gift they’ve unwrapped helps the Texas Book Festival send authors into schools, put books into children’s hands, add books to library shelves across Texas, and keep the annual Texas Book Festival and Texas Teen Book Festival free and open to the public.
Your donation connects readers with authors and inspires Texans of all ages to love reading. Celebrate the reader in your life and support your community at the same time!
“But many attendees this weekend expressed joy in being out, surrounded by tens of thousands of like-minded people, peacefully seeking answers, laughing and smiling together, reading to their small children, reminding one another that humans are not built to be cruel.”
“Who among us hasn’t wanted to sit at the cool kids’ table? Moderator and bookseller from Jersey City’s WORD Bookstore, Hannah Oliver Depp, acknowledged right off the bat that her seat next to novelists R.O. Kwon and Tommy Orange and memoirist Nicole Chung was a prime one: “Everyone I know is jealous of me right now.”
“Diversity, inclusiveness and American history were the big themes of UT Elementary’s annual Reading Rock Stars event held last Friday, Oct. 26. The much-anticipated literary event, held on the eve of the annual Texas Book Festival, featured three popular children’s book authors: Nathan Hale, Vanessa Bradley Newton and Xavier Garza.”
“Politics and political books drew some of the largest crowds. Cecile Richards, the daughter of the late Texas governor Ann Richards and former head of Planned Parenthood, opened the festival with an event to talk about her book Make Trouble (Gallery Books). “If you aren’t scaring yourself, you are not doing enough,” Richards told the crowd of more than 700 people.”
Did you miss out on picking up signed copies of some of this year’s books at the Texas Book Festival? Fear not, BookPeople has you covered! BookPeople has a selection of Festival books signed by authors now available in-store and via their website.
BookPeople ships worldwide. This is a great chance to take care of the book lovers on your holiday shopping list!