Bless Our Bookish Hearts: Book Festivals!

Iowa City Book Festival

Iowa City Book Festival

I’m a bookish soul, bless my heart, and autumn is Book Festival time in the Midwest.

Book festivals give us common readers a chance to hear star novelists and new writers discuss their work.

A book festival can be a low-key vacation. You can attend free events all day, and then hole up in your hotel room and read.

There are several festivals coming up in October.

Next weekend at the Iowa City Book Festival, you can hear Marilynne Robinson, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for  Housekeeping, the Pulitzer Prize for Gilead, and the  Orange Prize for Home, and Jane Smiley, winner of the Pulitzer prize for A Thousand Acres, discuss their work.   Their new novels are on the longlist for The National Book Award:   Robinson’s Lila is a prequel to Gilead, and Smiley’s Some Luck is the first in a trilogy about a farm family in Iowa.  There are several events I’d love to attend:   I am particularly interested in the public reading of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground (October 2, 1-5 p.m..)

Then there’s The Twin Cities Book Festival on Oct. 11, where Katha Pollitt, Ann Hood, and Steven Pinker, among others, will speak.  It’s all in one day, and that’s attractive.

Or you might like to go to the Wisconsin Book Festival (Oct. 16-19) and see, among others, Anthony Doerr, Gail Sheehy, and Deborah Crombie.

What kind of people go to book festivals?

Readers, writers, bloggers, tweeters…

The best and biggest I’ve attended is the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville (Oct. 10-12).  Members of an online book group I belonged to met there “face-to-face” one year.  If you had the stamina and the ability to be in several places at once, you could see 100 writers in three days.  My favorite event was a talk by Kaye Gibbons, the author of several Southern classics; she  essentially did stand-up comedy.  I also saw Lee Smith, Jill McCorkle, Susan Choi, Daniel Wallace, Chris Bojalian.  I remember rushing up to chat to Gwen Hyman Rubio, whose wonderful novel Icy Sparks I’dd read before it was an Oprah book.

I don’t make it to literary events as often as I used to, but I do like to travel this time of  year.

Below is a  video chat (a kind of advertorial) by John Kenyon, the executive director of Iowa City, the UNESCO City of Literature, about the Iowa City Book Festival.

5 thoughts on “Bless Our Bookish Hearts: Book Festivals!

  1. We have a readers and writers festival coming up in my home town next week but unfortunately most of the events are in the evening and for health reasons I don’t do evenings. However, there is one afternoon session with four writers coming to talk not only about their work but also about their reading, which is always fascinating and a source of new inspiration in respect of books to read in the future.


  2. I envy you having the opportunity of hearing Jane Smiley – she’s one of my favourite authors. I’m particularly fond of The Greenlanders; I’ve have never come across anyone else who’s read it, so am always recommending it to anyone who looks like they might enjoy a long, dense historical novel full of similarly named characters…


  3. Karen, you’ve got those lovely events in London and that fantastic train service! 🙂

    Alex, the “stars” are often scheduled for the evening, which, as a bicyclist, doesn’t work for me, either. Panel discussions are a great way to find out about writers one doesn’t know. I’m sure I’d enjoy your afternoon session.

    Ellen,I don’t know if we’ll get to any of these festivals, but I must say there’s a good lineup of writers.

    Catherine, I’ve heard Jane Smiley three or four times, and she is always excellent. I haven’t read Greenlanders. Thanks for the recommendation!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s