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.