2022 TBF Holiday Gift Guide

‘Tis the season to be reading! The Texas Book Festival staff has recommended reads to add to your shopping lists this holiday season. The round-up includes books for everyone to cozy up and enjoy with your favorite warm beverage and festive treats. Check out the picks below.

The Miracle of Salt by Naomi Duguid
Recommended by Lois Kim, Executive Director

Remember that fairy tale where the king banishes his daughter when in response to being asked how much she loves him, she says as much as people like salt in their food. The king only comes to realize his mistake at a wedding banquet years later where the same princess serves unsalted food to the guests. Naomi Duguid’s The Miracle of Salt: Recipes and Techniques to Preserve, Ferment, and Transform Your Food takes her readers on a journey that details the importance of salt in our human story and the endless ingenuity with which people have preserved, pickled and seasoned with salt to make delicious and meaningful food. Ever since Duguid published Hot Sour Salty Sweet (with Jeffrey Alford) more than 20 years ago, I’ve admired her anthropological approach to writing about food and cooking. This is a great gift for the sophisticated cook in your life who loves to read about the history of food as much as they love to cook. Or who really wants to master a kickass kimchi or kraut.

Inciting Joy: Essays by Ross Gay
Recommended by Ke’ara Hunt, Communications & Marketing Coordinator

Though the holiday season is usually a time to be festive and surround yourself with those who love and support you, I cannot help but also get the holiday blues. Maybe it is a sort of grief that the year is ending and with it all of the highs and lows. It is safe to say that Inciting JoyEssays by award-winning poet and author Ross Gay was a much-needed spark to help me remember what brings me the most joy in life, at any given time of the year. In the essay “(Dis)Alienation Machinery / (Losing Your Phone: The Seventh Incitement),” Gay writes about trying to find a sense of direction or feeling aimless when you have to rely on yourself to lead the way and get you to where you need to be. For some reason, I felt very emotional reading this even though it is not outwardly trying to incite sadness. What I took from it was that reliance on yourself can be tiring and overwhelming and you will eventually get lost. However, being constantly connected to something like your phone, with its preinstalled hivemind, will likely be even more of an obstacle. Disconnect and get on your way!

Civil Service by Claire Schwartz
Recommended by Dalia Azim, Deputy Director

It was a highlight of my 2022 Texas Book Festival to have a chance to moderate a conversation with Whiting Award winners Megha Majumdar and Claire Schwartz. Schwartz’s debut poetry collection is not only stunning and thought-provoking but also raises essential questions about the relationship between art and social change. This is a book that seduces you with its precise and beautiful language—every word feels essential and urgent—and once it has absorbed you in its pages, inspires you to look at our troubled world and think about how to change it.

Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father by Ada Calhoun
Recommended by Matthew Patin, Literary Director

Some of the memoirs that most attract me center on an author’s relationship, whether personal or intellectual/emotional/creative, with a literary figure or their works. Still others center on an author’s relationship with a parent. Festival 2022 alum Ada Calhoun’s Also a Poet—one of my favorite memoirs of 2022—centers both, and beautifully. A moving, rewarding read anytime, but perhaps especially so during an end-of-year season of reflection and family reunions.

The Family Izquierdo by Ruben Degollado
Recommended by Susannah Auby, Development Manager

Meet the Izquierdos and I promise you won’t forget them. Set in the Rio Grande Valley and spanning three generations, this book introduces you to characters one by one in a series of Interlocking chapters. Their lives are filled with misfortune but their perspectives are rich. I finished the book and immediately started re-reading it.

Kicks by Van G. Garrett
Recommended by Michelle Hernandez, School & Community Programs Coordinator

Though this book is the perfect gift for the sneakerhead in your life, it is also a fun and vibrant picture book that anyone can enjoy. Van G. Garrett’s lyrical style paired with Reggie Brown’s joyful illustrations beautifully capture the way that sporting a fresh new pair of kicks can make you feel like you can run a little faster, jump a little higher, and express yourself without saying a word.

Nubia: The Awakening by Omar Epps
Recommended by Ke’ara Hunt, Communications & Marketing Coordinator

BONUS ROUND: Though this novel is laced with fantasy, the topics of class, climate change, family, and culture allowed me to not only enjoy reading the more ‘epic adventure’ parts of the story but to also connect with the main characters: Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho. I love sharing these types of stories with my teen brother, who is coming into his own self, day by day. We have read and watched the Black Panther comics and films together and I specifically remember having a discussion about how painful it is to know that we are disconnected from our African heritage due to history. Of course, he was a bit too young to fully grasp what I meant, but he agreed that he would love to have lived in a place like Wakanda – full of community, pride, and overall joy. 

This will be my gift to him this holiday season. I am sure that he will enjoy learning about the story of Nubia and how the characters fight to hold onto their identities and uplift one another despite oppression by those living ‘Up High’. 

Side note: I’m a huge fan of Omar Epps’ film and television work, including House, M.D. It was wonderful to see him in person at the Texas Book Festival. He is inspiring the next generation of storytellers through yet another medium which is very cool!

The Tryout by Christina Soontornvat
Recommended by Olivia Hesse, Event Production & Logistics Coordinator

While I wasn’t able to attend the whole session at the Texas Book Festival this year, I did get to sit in on a few minutes of the Graphix Con panel to learn a bit more about graphic novels, and I made it my mission to read one from the festival before the end of the year. While I was initially unsure about The Tryout, I’m so glad it ended up in my hands.

I think everyone can agree that middle school is hard; you’re not an adult but you’re not a little kid anymore either, classes are increasing in difficulty, and you start to cultivate friends based around interests rather than convenience. You start developing who you are, and Christina Soontornvat captured this experience, and the growing pains that come along with it, perfectly. 

She tells the story of her childhood as a nerdy Thai Texan girl desperate to make the Cheerleading team and fit in. Young Christina faces racism from classmates, changing friendships, changing interests, and identity struggles all within the colorful pages of this quick read, and I think it would be the perfect gift for any girl who has experienced, or is experiencing, the trials of 7th grade.

American Reboot by Will Hurd
Recommended by Anna Dolliver, Operations Coordinator

The holidays often bring large gatherings and family reunions, which can mean interacting with people whose views diverge from your own. While these conversations may feel tense at first, they can provide opportunities for deeper understanding and connection. In American Reboot, former US congressman Will Hurd reflects on the polarized state of American politics and proposes ways to address current problems our country faces. Salient threads in the book include Hurd’s endeavors to represent the diversity of Texan views while in Congress, his prioritization of personal ethics and integrity over partisan goals, and his collaboration with people across the aisle to work toward solutions.

I look forward to gifting this book to my father. Though our backgrounds and perspectives differ significantly, I find that our conversations help us grow and learn from each other. I anticipate that we’ll have contrasting approaches to solving the issues Hurd proposes, and I’m excited to see what insights emerge through our conversation. I recommend gifting American Reboot to someone with whom your views don’t quite align and using it as a springboard for those uncomfortable but rewarding discussions.

Dalia Azim

Dalia serves as the Texas Book Festival’s Chief Operations Officer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University and published her first book, Country of Origin, in 2022. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Texas Highways, American Short Fiction, Aperture, Glimmer Train, and Other Voices, among other places. Before joining TBF, she was the manager of executive initiatives and chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Blanton Museum of Art, where she helped oversee the realization of Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, the Blanton’s new grounds initiative, and the museum’s DEAI priorities. She was an Op-Ed Public Voices Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin and has received the First Star honor from American Short Fiction, the Discovery Award from the Writers’ League of Texas, the Staff Excellence Award from the Blanton Museum of Art, and the Lee Tenenbaum Award for exceptional curatorial work at MoMA. She is a member of the Austin Bat Cave Board of Directors.

Staple Reads Recommended by TBF Interns

Hi everyone! My name is Emily Hirsh, and if you know me (which you probably don’t), you’d know that working with a book festival is something plucked straight out of a dream for me. What makes working here even better, though, is being in good company, which is why I’m so excited to introduce the Texas Book Festival’s 2022 interns: Valeria Guerrero, Amelia McConnico, Alex Steele, Yuliana Mireles-Marin, and Noor Iqbal. We’ve put together a list of our top five favorite books or book adaptations – after all, what better way is there to get to know someone than to learn about their favorite reads? 


Top five book-to-film adaptations (they’re also personal favorites):

1) Pride and Prejudice (2005) by Jane Austen

It is no surprise that like the book, this movie is an absolute classic. From the beautiful cinematography to the iconic Mr. Darcy strutting through the meadow at dawn, and the perfect musical score, there is nothing better than watching Pride and Prejudice (aside from reading it). I watch it at least once a month. 

2) The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Is there a better book-to-movie adaptation? I don’t think so. James Dashner’s The Maze Runner is the perfect mixture of suspense, action, and the slightest pinch of horror that makes the stakes of Thomas and his friends all the more exciting. It’s still a favorite even after reading and watching it for the first time.

3) The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

The Notebook is a sweet and heartbreaking novel full of beautiful language that reminds me that love can surpass all odds, like class, time apart, and health complications. The movie is surprisingly different from the novel! If you love a good cry, get your tissues ready because both the novel and film are tear-jerkers. This book is a must-read for everyone who loves the movie!

4) Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

The absolute worst tear-jerker but in the best way possible. I swear I had swollen eyelids and snot running out of my nose from how hard I cried with this book. Beautifully written, Moyes reminds us to “live boldly” and love freely while we still have the time. Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin are incredible on the screen as they bring this touching story to life.

5) The Martian by Andy Weir

I’m a sucker for both space books and films with Matt Damon in them, thankfully this is both. The perfect mix of science fiction and humor wrapped up in film and book that I think is perfect for anyone looking for a good laugh. I remember this being the first book that actually made me laugh out loud. My entire family loves the film, and my grandma doesn’t speak English…it’s that good.

AMELIA MCCONNICO, Development Intern

Top five favorite books:

1) Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

I read this book over the summer while I was a counselor at summer camp. Being at camp is the perfect opportunity to read all the books you have wanted to read, and this one was on my list. The start of the book was slow for me, but once I got into it I could not put it down. The entire book takes place in one day, with flashbacks to the main character’s childhood, but this style of writing was captivating.  

2) The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley 

This novel is a murder mystery that kept me on my toes the entire time I read it. Set in the beautiful city of Paris, a sister travels to an apartment owned by a family to find out what happened to her missing brother. The ending shocked me in the best way possible! 

3) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

This is a classic that almost everyone in the world has read, but that does not make it any less special to me. Reading this freshman year of high school was truly transformative for me, and I will always remember the valuable lesson of treating everyone equally with the respect that it taught so many other people and me.  

4) Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens 

This novel was my latest read after hearing all the hype about it over the summer with the movie being released. I will say that I did see the movie first, but I enjoyed the book so much more. This is a captivating story about love and loss and finding your way back to those who treat you with respect. This is a new favorite!  

5) Beach Read by Emily Henry 

I really enjoyed Beach Read because it was an easy read for me. The story flowed well, and the romance that the novel portrayed was beautiful. Although some people may not think of a romance novel as something they need to read, they should read this book. It was funny, thoughtful, and heartwarming.

ALEX STEELE, Event Production & Logistics Intern

Top five favorite books:

1) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

When I told my thesis advisor I was planning on doing another reread of this book she replied “certainly four times is enough.” Margaret Atwood is such a clever author and each time I read this text I walk away understanding something I didn’t before. This book is also on many banned books, so you know it has to be good!

2) The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

This was the first epistolary novel (a book told through a series of letters), and I was instantly hooked on the style. Lewis reminds readers what it is to be human and that the greatest enemy of humanity is complacency if you’ve already read this one I highly recommend checking out The Oh Hellos album titled Dear Wormwood for further reading/listening.

3) Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire is the third book in a series, so this may be cheating! Keeping it as spoiler free as possible, this installment marks immense growth in the main character and Maas’ writing style. The mental health journey of the heroine changed my life plus you get to experience a rich fantasy world. Pick up the first book, Throne of Glass, to start on this epic journey.

4) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Another story with a unique narrative approach. The Book Thief is well-loved for a good reason. With Death as the narrative guide, experience an equally heartwarming and heartbreaking tale. This instant classic was the first book that made me cry. I dare you to get through it without Kleenex on hand.

5) The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

While this list is in no particular order it just made sense to put this here. The Fifth Season is the first book in The Broken Earth trilogy. Jemisin became the first author to win the Hugo award three years in a row and for all three novels in a trilogy with this work. She is a master of world-building and knows just how to subvert the suspicions of the reader. Not only is the book an excellent work of fantasy, but it is also brilliantly written and full of diversity. If you have just five minutes, watch Jemisin’s 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novel acceptance speech here.

YULIANA MIRELES-MARIN, School & Community Programs Intern

Top five favorite books:

1) Still Life with Tornado by A.S King

King’s use of magic realism to tell the story of a struggling 16-year-old girl has been in my mind since the first time I read it in high school. The use of repetition and simplest writing helps explore hard topics about abuse and bullying in an earnest and captivating way.

2) Dracula by Bram Stoker

From vampires climbing on walls in lizard-like ways to a group of vampire hunters who don’t quite know what they’re doing – what’s not to like about this literary classic? Dracula is successfully able to both entertain and question the human condition.

3) Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

The beautiful writing style along with the powerful story of Tayo makes for a wonderful read that I was unable to put down until finished.

4) The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Such a beautifully crafted story and McGinnis uses elements found in most YA contemporary books to explore teenage romance and anger toward the way things are at times. I first read this book in high school and have continued to reread it many times since.

5) Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Read for the first time when I was a child, Esperanza Rising is such a touching and beautiful story that has been with me since the first read it and has influenced me greatly.

NOOR IQBAL, Literary Intern

Top five favorite books:

1) For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange

Although I’m not a fan of musical theater, this choreopoem combined theater, poetry, song, dance, and colors in a way that raised goosebumps on my arms when I first read it. It validated the feeling of having to choose between the multiple identities I carry and, even now, it reminds me that I am just a person, not a representative.

2) The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut 

I searched for “what is satire” when I was 14 and this popped up. Since then, I’ve reread this multiple times because I am amazed at how many existential themes a single novel can address. Greed, belonging, family, love, memory, the purpose of life – and to top it all off, there’s intergalactic time travel and futuristic planets!

3) A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza 

Fatima Farheen Mirza masterfully switches between multiple perspectives and timelines to create a complete picture of a Pakistani Muslim family in America and their joys and heartbreaks. I hold this book so close to my heart because it put so many feelings and experiences I had into words for the first time.

4) Luster by Raven Leilani

Elegant and free-flowing prose (especially about the human condition) always hooks me. Raven Leilani’s command of language creates a main character who is imperfect and confused but relatable and loveable in this novel exploring art, class, race, love, and sexuality.

5) The Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel 

My love for reading started with children’s books, especially the Frog and Toad series. It shows how two friends’ relationship is strengthened through solving their issues together. Besides the adorable illustrations and comforting color palette, these books use simple situations to teach valuable lessons that are applicable throughout our entire lives.

EMILY HIRSH, Marketing & Communications Intern

Top five favorite books (at the moment):

1) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

I remember reading this book in seventh grade and thinking it was strange in the best way. I recently read it again, and I have to say – that initial reaction holds up. This is a beautiful, thought-provoking novel that always has me staring at the ceiling rethinking every perspective I’ve ever had. It might also be the root of my extreme fear of outer space, but c’est la vie. 

2) The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

This collection of short essays centers on Green’s observations of the world and how humans fit into it. Ranging from discussions about Dr. Pepper to species longevity, every chapter had me hooked, and Green’s uncanny ability to provoke emotion makes this book extremely special to me. Bonus points go to whoever can guess which chapter made me cry.

3) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

You know how when you say a book made you laugh out loud, but you really mean it just made you exhale through your nose or pull a quick smile? When I say this book makes me laugh, I actually mean it – it took me forever to finish the first time because I kept having to take breaks! Adams mixes dry wit, absurdist comedy, satire, and science fiction so easily that you don’t even think about all the elements he’s balancing (effortlessly, I might add).

4) Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

As someone who grew up watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, I vividly remember the day Trevor Noah took over as host, and Born a Crime is a fascinating look into where it all started – his childhood, his fascinating relationship with his mother, and his personal experience with apartheid. Noah’s sense of humor translates so well on the page, even when writing about some of the most difficult moments of his life. This book is educational and entertaining, heart-wrenching and heartwarming at once. Update: Noah just announced that he will no longer be the host of The Daily Show starting in 2023.

5) Book Lovers by Emily Henry

I feel like romance is often unfairly assumed to be a “lesser” genre, and Emily Henry takes care to counter this stereotype in all of her novels. In Book Lovers, Henry crafts a delicate balance of witty criticism and simultaneous respect for romance tropes in this sweet, funny, and thoughtful love story. The best way I can describe my affection for this book is that I want to read it when I feel sick.

It’s nice to meet you all, and we hope to see you at the Festival in November!

Nearly 300 authors will appear at the 2022 Texas Book Festival, which takes place November 5-6 in downtown Austin. The Festival is free and open to the public! Check out our full-author lineup. Stay tuned for the Schedule release next week!

Anna Dolliver

Anna serves as Texas Book Festival’s Operations & Literary Coordinator. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a double major in Asian Cultures and Languages and English literature alongside a certificate in creative writing. After graduation, she studied briefly in Indonesia before spending two years teaching English in Taiwan through the Fulbright program. Her favorite genres include experimental fiction, urban fantasy, graphic novel, poetry, and memoir. In her spare time, you’ll often find Anna writing, drawing, learning languages, or keeping her book-eating cat Mothwing away from her reading materials.

Volunteer Call 2022

Calling book lovers everywhere! The Texas Book Festival is back and better than ever, and we’re asking for your help to put on the best book festival yet. Our volunteer registration form is now LIVE, and we’d love for you to join us November 5-6! We are proud to be FREE for all to attend, but we need your help to share our mission. If you are passionate about literacy, culture, and community, you would make a perfect volunteer. 

As a volunteer, you’ll get to: 

  • Be a part of the ace TBF team
  • Chose the times and venues that work best for you
  • Help to produce programming and connect with your favorite authors
  • Spread the joy of reading and all things books 

Plus, you’ll get a free volunteer T-shirt. We couldn’t do a fraction of the programming we have available each year without the help of our wonderful volunteers, and we’d love for you to join the team. 

We can’t wait to see you! Please reach out to oliviahesse@texasbookfestival.org with any questions or concerns.

Recommended National Book Foundation Reads

Since 1996, the Texas Book Festival has featured many National Book Award longlisters, finalists, and winners. And TBF has for years partnered with the National Book Foundation, the awards’ presenter, to feature honorees at the annual Festival.

With the 2022 National Book Award longlist announcement around the corner in early fall, the TBF staff got to thinking about some of the NBA honorees and winners featured in Festival lineups over the years, and what their critically acclaimed works meant to us. See our selections below.

Michelle Hernandez, School & Community Programs Coordinator

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Winner, National Book Awards 2018 for Young People’s Literature
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2020

Elizabeth Acevedo’s debut YA book, The Poet X, introduced us to a much-needed voice in children’s literature. A novel written completely in verse, it is, by far, one of the most powerful examples of this style of storytelling I have come across.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Finalist, National Book Awards 2016 for Young People’s Literature
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2017

Jason Reynolds’ Track Series will always hold a special place in my heart as the soundtrack, if you will, of a series of Texas road trips my husband, daughter, and I enjoyed a few years ago. Ghost, the first book in the series, is filled with moments of hilarity and tenderness and is my favorite of the bunch. 

Ke’ara Hunt, Communications & Marketing Coordinator

The American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Longlist, National Book Awards 2018 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2018

This novel is deeply moving and I couldn’t help but think about the effects of America’s criminal justice system on the lives of Black families. The marriage between Celestial and Roy is challenged (to say the least) and you cannot help but mentally fight for them – as a couple and as individuals. The quote that really hit me in the feels: “A marriage is more than your heart, it’s your life. And we are not sharing ours.” 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Winner, National Book Awards 2016 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2019 and 2021

Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad left me breathless. As a Black woman, I felt a kinship with protagonist Cora as bondage is a painful part of my ancestors’ history. Though this is a fictional story, it’s engraved in realism and is a reminder that slavery is not just a part of Black history, but is America’s history and foundation. There’s an unfortunate reverberation of its roots in our present day. I also highly recommend the series adaptation on Amazon Prime Video!

Claire Burrows, Deputy Director

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
Finalist, National Book Awards 2020 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2020

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw is a stunning reminder of the power of short stories. This debut collection about the internal, honest, and vulnerable lives of Black women and girls is impossible to put down.

Matrix by Lauren Groff
Finalist, National Book Awards 2021 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2020 and 2015

Lauren Groff came to the Texas Book Festival in 2015 with the captivating and unsettling Fates and Furies, and Matrix continues to bring Groff’s powerful, sensual, and researching writing to the page in this historical novel.

Olivia Hesse, Event Production & Logistics Coordinator

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Winner, National Book Awards 1992 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 1996 and 2013

McCarthy’s sixth novel and breakthrough commercial success was a deserving winner of the 1992 National Book Award for Fiction as he captured the romanticism and wilderness of the Texas and Mexico frontiers. The coming of age touches on the powerful themes of struggling to adapt to modernizing world, love and loss, and our connection with nature. All that combined with complex characters and vivid descriptions of the American southwest will make it hard to put this book down. 

Lois Kim, Executive Director

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Winner, National Book Awards 2013 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2013

James McBride brought this book and a band to the 2013 Texas Book Festival and mesmerized everyone with both, and won the National Book Award a couple of weeks later. The Good Lord Bird is hilarious (as much as a novel that concerns slavery can be), with incredible dialogue and characters. This title connects to another great TBF alum, with Ethan Hawke as a fiery John Brown in the adapted Hulu series.

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
Winner, National Book Awards 2019 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2019

Winner of the 2019 National Book Award, Trust Exercise is a novel that will stay with you long after you’ve finished, with its complex narrative structure, unreliable narrators, and layered treatment of adolescence, power, and abuse.

Matt Patin, Literary Director

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
Finalist, National Book Awards 2006 for Nonfiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2021, 2006, and more

Lawrence Wright—Austinite, Pulitzer Prize winner, and recipient of the Texas Writer Award—has visited the Festival many times. A session about his Going Clear (Knopf, 2013) was one of my favorites. But The Looming Tower, a definitive account of the events leading to 9/11, was what first got me hooked on his writing.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Longlist, National Book Awards 2020 for Nonfiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2010 and 2020

A most-viewed session in 2020, and one my favorite conversations from two-time TBF alum Isabel Wilkerson.

How We Got to the Moon: The People, Technology, and Daring Feats of Science Behind Humanity’s Greatest Adventure by John Rocco
Longlist, National Book Awards 2020 for Young People’s Literature
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2020

Author-illustrator John Rocco is a brilliant presenter—his multimedia session in 2020 was rich with gorgeous imagery that painted a story of the people, ideas, and technology that sent humankind into space.

Susannah Auby, Development Manager

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami 
Finalist, National Book Awards 2019 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2019

Moroccan American Driss Guerraoui is killed in a hit and run on a Mojave Desert street. His story and the mystery around his death is processed through the alternating perspectives of the family members and other members of the community. Laila Lalami’s keen attention to detail and beautiful telling of one immigrant family’s struggle to make a life in America.

Disappearing Earth by Julia Philips
Finalist, National Book Awards 2019 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2019

This is not the Russia you have visited in books, movies, and travel. Set in remote Kamchatka Penninsula, Disappearing Earth follows the vanishing of not just two young girls but also the indigenous culture through the perspectives of the people whose lives are affected by the tragedy.

The mission of the National Book Foundation is to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture.

Helen Watkins

Helen began her career as an equity trader in Houston, then Dallas, for two banks and various hedge funds in Texas. After moving to Austin in 1996, she has remained involved in the Junior League and then joined the Helping Hand Home as a volunteer. She served on, and then chaired, the Grant Committee for the Women’s Fund with the Austin Community Foundation for many years. Her children attended St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin where she served as President of the Parents’ Association and then on the Board of Trustees. Helen then went to work, helping to establish I Live Here, I Give Here as the Non-Profit Coordinator. She has recently retired after 10+ years on the Board of Advisors with Literacy First, also serving as the Board Chair. She remains involved with many non-profits in Austin, as well as chairing the Community Outreach board with HSW Investment.

Staff Reads for Pride Month

The Texas Book Festival is reading with pride to recognize LGBTQ+ lived experiences reflected and championed in the pages of great storytelling. Below is a list of our recommended pride reads to celebrate LGBTQ+ authors, literature, and culture! Tag us on social media at @texasbookfest and #readwithpride to let us know what you are reading for pride month.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

I guess 1985 was a long time ago, making Jeanette Winterson’s debut novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit a classic. Winterson’s writing contains so much craft and beautiful imagery, while still being about the lives of real people. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a coming-of-age story about a young girl torn between religion and her own sexuality, told with humor and sadness. — Claire Burrows, Deputy Director

The Work Wife by Alison B. Hart (Preorder now)

I’m a sucker for stories about navigating the glitz, glamour, and sometimes glib Hollywood life. Even more so, I’m quite fond of stories about the folks behind-the-scenes who are just trying to get by while creating paths for the stars to shine. A job is a job – even while working in Tinsletown. I am looking forward to reading Alison B. Hart’s The Work Wife, a tale of a personal assistant walking the tightrope of life working for a movie mogul and his family. What would you do to get the job done? — Ke’ara Hunt, Communications and Marketing Coordinator

R E D by Chase Berggrun

Chase Berggrun’s R E D is a book-length erasure of Bram Stoker’s Dracula which creates a new narrative of gender transition and selfhood. More than clever and thoughtful, the chapters of R E D drip of hurt and want, particularly in lines like “A detail in a pool of blood / the body gathered in an awkward kink / I dress myself in easy anything.” — Gavin Quinn, Programs and Financial Coordinator

Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote

Truman Capote’s first novel is a dreamy coming-of-age story set in a decaying Mississippi mansion. As always, Capote writes with great tenderness, and while the book isn’t actually an autobiography, the characters and themes of his life percolate in this early work. You can see a foreshadowing of the brilliant, humorous, and tragic legend he would ultimately become. — Susannah Auby, Development Manager

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Leah Johnson’s debut novel tells the story of high school senior, Liz Lighty, and her unexpected quest to become prom queen, a very big deal in her prom-obsessed Indiana town. Liz doesn’t fit in but, despite her intense social anxiety, agrees to participate in the contest in hopes that the prize money will get her one step closer to attending her dream college and living the life she’d always dreamed about. Once Mack, the new girl in town and fellow prom queen contestant, enters the scene, the rom-com vibes begin. This book was such a joy to read and Liz Lighty might just be my favorite YA character of all time. — Michelle Hernandez, School and Community Programs Coordinator

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

I am not a graphic novel expert with a Ph.D. in the topic like our own Claire Burrows, but I really enjoyed Bechdel’s coming-of-age memoir in which Bechdel traces her journey to self-awareness that she is gay as well as her complex relationship with her closeted gay father. Poignantly told with humor and honesty, Bechdel details the perspective of a child coming into the knowledge of herself, her family, and the world. The musical was great also, which I took my then-14-year-old son to when the show came through town and we both loved it. — Lois Kim, Executive Director

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Heartfelt and funny, this fictional—and Pulitzer Prize-winning— portrait of a midlife author balancing a career and revisiting his past was one of my favorites of 2017. Read it before the next book in the series—Less Is Lost—releases this fall. — Matt Patin, Literary Director

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

David Sedaris never fails to impress, and though I’m only halfway through this essay collection, I can easily say this is the most I’ve laughed at reading a book in a long time. Sedaris approaches blunders in life with eager eyes and a pen in his hand, ready to turn any embarrassment or tragedy into stand-up comedy. That being said, the essays are not without merit, and while you may laugh your way through them, you’ll also inevitably feel some sort of truth about the human experience that lingers on your mind for weeks following their conclusion. — Olivia Hesse, Event Production and Logistics Coordinator

Be a Volunteer Committee Chair for the 2023 Festival!

Love volunteering with TBF, but want to do more? Not a volunteer and just want to get more involved with the Texas Book Festival? Look no further! TBF is looking for Volunteer Committee Chairs for multiple positions to help run the 2023 festival tents. Anyone can apply and everyone is welcome, we just ask that you have a passion for books and a desire to serve the literary community!

What is a Volunteer Committee Chair?

Volunteer Committee Chairs (VCCs) are an integral part of what makes the Texas Book Festival Weekend a successful annual event. We have 1-3 VCCs at each Festival venue in and around the Texas State Capitol. Each VCC or VCC team is in charge of a certain venue and the volunteers assigned to shifts at the venue. 

Ideal VCCs are flexible, able to delegate tasks, have a can-do attitude, and are good at problem-solving on the spot. Some VCC positions require extra qualifications. 

VCCs must be available during the entire Festival Weekend, have some flexibility during the week leading up to the Festival, and be able to attend monthly meetings leading up to the Festival beginning in June. These meetings are necessary for getting to know the other VCCs as well as for training in emergency protocols, learning the Festival layout, and other pertinent information.

Main Responsibilities Include*: 

  • Managing volunteers in their selected shifts at the assigned venue
  • Coordinating the setup and breakdown of the assigned venue
  • Welcoming Festival attendees and maintaining an inviting atmosphere
  • Acting as a resource for Festival authors and moderators in the assigned venue

* Each VCC position will have slightly different responsibilities/schedule depending on their assigned tent.

We could not run the festival without the help of our amazing VCCs, and we’re excited to add new faces to our team! If you have any questions or are interested in becoming a VCC, please contact Olivia Hesse (oliviahesse@texasbookfestival.org).

Olivia Hesse

Olivia serves as Texas Book Festival’s Event Production and Logistics Coordinator, responsible for organizing volunteers, general setup, and assistance with logistics for Festival Weekend and year-round programming. She holds bachelor’s degrees in English and Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and a Certificate in Creative Writing. She’s lived in the Austin area her whole life, is passionate about the art of storytelling in whatever form it may take, and served as the Events Production intern for TBF prior to joining full-time.

Her favorite book genres are literary fiction, personal essays, and short fiction stories. She is often accompanied at the office by (unofficial) TBF Mascot, Otis the Shih-Tzu. Outside work, you can find her running slowly around Town Lake, reading at Zilker, or hanging out with Otis.