#BBFBookHunt: Our City-Wide Book Scavenger Hunt is Going Regional!

The annual scavenger hunt will extend from Boston to the Berkshires.

The Boston Book Festival will hold its annual book scavenger hunt on Thursday, October 1, and Friday, October 2, with some new twists. Just like the 2020 festival, the citywide scavenger hunt will extend beyond its Boston borders. Volunteers from across the Boston area will be hiding books by authors featured at this year’s virtual festival, but we’ve also enlisted some of the region’s literary giants to help bring the BBF Book Hunt to new places!

We’ve also enlisted some of the region’s literary giants to help bring the BBF Book Hunt to new places!

We’re excited to announce that we’ll be joined by the Walden Woods Project in Lincoln, Mass., Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, Mass., the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Mass; the the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Hadley, Mass.; Herman Melville’s Arrowhead in Pittsfield, Mass., Edith Wharton’s The Mount in Lenox, Mass., and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Conn.

The expansion means that BBF fans from across the region can take part in our outdoor festival fun this year, and then tune in to our online programming all throughout October. “This year’s virtual format has helped us think about the festival and its reach in new and creative ways,” says Norah Piehl, BBF’s executive director. “We’re thrilled to celebrate the rich literary history of our region in this fun participatory event. It’s always a fun way to kick off BBF weekend, and we’re happy to be able to keep the tradition going and expand it even more.”  

Everyone is invited to join in the fun! Follow Boston Book Festival on Twitter (@bostonbookfest) and on Instagram #BBFBookHunt and #BBF2020.

On October 1-2, we’ll take over social media with clues as to where the books are hidden throughout the city and on the properties of these historical homes and centers. Everyone is invited to join in the fun! Follow Boston Book Festival on Twitter (@bostonbookfest) and on Instagram #BBFBookHunt and #BBF2020. The prize is finding a book and being able to keep it (and, of course, celebrating the win over social media!).

We also invite you to follow our partners to play along and stay in touch with all they are doing to keep our region’s literary history alive.

Follow these Twitter accounts to follow the fun clues!
Walden Woods Project, Orchard House, Emily Dickinson Museum, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Eric Carle Museum, Melville’s Arrowhead, and The Mount.

Learn more about Boston Book Festival’s Annual Book Hunt.

Sign up here to get all the news about BBF 2020 in your inbox!


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BBF 2020: Full Lineup Now Live

In this most unusual festival year, we’ve been announcing our lineup in a different way, rolling out our presenter lineup over the last several weeks. Overall, the lineup for BBF 2020 consists of more than 140 authors and moderators who will participate in 55 live and prerecorded events. Just like our attendees, they’ll be tuning in from all over; our presenters hail from 21 states plus the District of Columbia, as well as the United Kingdom and Kenya! Our schedule announcements will be coming soon, but in the meantime, we wanted to share our final set of presenters for BBF 2020, featuring notable names in nonfiction.

Philosophy, Kindness, and Comfort Food

  • An uplifting session on How to Be a Good Human features Brad Aronson (HumanKind), Max Bazerman (Better, Not Perfect), and Molly Howes (A Good Apology).
  • A session on gastronomy and memory will whet audiences’ appetites for stories of pioneering figures in the culinary world. John Birdsall‘s The Man Who Ate Too Much is the definitive biography of James Beard. And in her memoir Always Home, Fanny Singer combines mouthwatering recipes with recollections of her mother, the chef Alice Waters.
  • A fascinating conversation with author Andrew S. Curran on the life and legacy of the philosopher Denis Diderot, based on his book Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely.

Science, Business, and Technology

As at past BBFs, we will feature several issues delving into current issues in business, science, and technology:
  • Pioneering reproductive medicine specialist Merle J. Berger reflects on his career in his memoir Conception, and Harvard Business School’s Debora L. Spar focuses on the intersections of how technology governs our intimate lives in Work Mate Marry Love, as part of a session on Love and Technology.
  • A timely session on Pathogens and Pills brings together biomedical engineer Muhammad H. Zaman—whose new book, Biography of Resistance, traces the tension between humans and pathogens over millennia—and virologist and drug industry expert Peter Kolchinsky, who insightfully explores biomedical research and the pharmaceutical industry in The Great American Drug Deal.
  • In a session considering troubles in the tech industry, Dipayan Ghosh, author of Terms of Disservice, makes the case for helping the internet work for all of us, not just those in Silicon Valley. Speaking of which, in their new book Voices from the Valley, Ben Tarnoff and Moira Weigel interview several professionals at all levels to find out what working in Silicon Valley is really like.
  • The past, present, and future of women of color in the tech industry is the focus of a conversation with Ainissa Ramirez (The Alchemy of Us), Susanne Tedrick (Women of Color in Tech), and Bridgette Wallace (co-founder of Roxbury ‘s G|Code House, a co-living, working and learning community for young women interested in tech professions).
  • Finally, in a session that looks at the upside of business, Rebecca Henderson (Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire) explores how restructured capitalism can help tackle critical problems, while Myriam Sidibe (Brands on a Mission) provides numerous case studies of how businesses can both bolster sales and also promote healthy habits.

Stay tuned for schedule announcements (and maybe a few more surprises) coming soon, and in the meantime, if you’re interested in technology issues, you’ll want to check out the audio archives of the BBF 2019 session Technologies of Freedom or Control? with Shoshana Zuboff and Roger McNamee, and then check out the new Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, which features Zuboff and McNamee and offers great background info for the tech session at BBF 2020!

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The Tenth Anniversary of One City One Story: how a decade has passed in a flash

Photograph by Nancy Connery and Judith Stone.


“It all started around ten years ago—with the appearance of flash mobs.”

I’m sitting at a park in Brookline video conferencing with Judith Stone and Nancy Connery, wondering how the sudden appearance of a large group of people dancing in our current COVID-19 climate would look, and how my interview about this year’s One City One Story (1C1S) initiative of street team volunteers started with a reference to flash mobs.

What a welcome sight a flash mob would be. The idea of a random group of people suddenly bursting into odd, rhythmic movements (regardless of being a little out of sync from only practicing via Zoom), makes me smile. Imagine that wonderful celebration of people coming together, if for nothing else than to express their full-bodied enthusiasm for a few minutes while the world stops and stares.

I can’t help but feel that, at the moment, we are attempting something similar with the tenth annual One City One Story initiative. Each year the Boston Book Festival has chosen a piece of short fiction as a city-wide read, to be shared in classrooms, coffee shops, T stops, and library windows. It is a single story read by a city of thousands, a community built around a shared reading experience, and on the bright side there is no rhythm requirement to join.

In a typical year, the month of September would signal the beginning of the Boston Book Festival season with the distribution of the 1C1S pamphlets to gear up for a weekend long outdoor festival in October; but I, like many in our community, am still wondering when we’ll begin to once again venture outside en masse for things like outdoor festivals.

Executive director Norah Piehl said, “Every year since I started with the BBF in 2011, I’ve put on my One City One Story t-shirt and handed out stories at farmers’ markets, charity bike rides, arts festivals, food festivals, concerts, T stations, and more. Although I’ll miss connecting with Boston’s readers at the same scale this year, I’m really grateful to the BBF fans and volunteers who are helping get the stories out to their own communities.” In a typical year, the Boston Book Festival prints up to 30,000 copies of the winning story in English and Spanish to distribute to area residents, but with the impact of the pandemic lasting through the summer, we haven’t been able to rely on businesses the same way as in past years to help with the distribution of the pamphlets. Grace Talusan, the author whose story “The Book of Life and Death” was selected as this year’s all-city read, suggested a street team of volunteers. In the vibrant writing community of Boston surely there are people who have loved these stories as much as we do and would be willing to help.

Connery and Stone were among the forty or so volunteers who answered the call for help. When I asked them what 1C1S meant to them, Connery responded, “Around 2011, the idea of a book club became too much. We visited the Boston Book Festival and loved the idea of using a short story, like 1C1S, that was easily accessible—this kind of flash fiction. We could give people a week or two to read it and we didn’t have to stick to a regular schedule.”

Stone chimes in, “We noticed people were not serious or careful enough about the books they chose; the titles weren’t always worthwhile. We picked a few of our own short stories, but we knew that with using the 1C1S story, a jury of prospects would have already read it—and even if we didn’t like the story, it would be chosen for its literary merit.”

Hilary Sallick, another volunteer to sign up with our street team of distributors, is a teacher at SCALE, the Somerville Center for Adult Learning Experiences. Sallick used the 2013 1C1S pick “Karma” by Rishi Reddi in a class of hers and was hoping this year’s story would provide a similar teaching opportunity.

She said, “1C1S is an amazing material for students. The writing is engaging, and while it can be a challenging read for the students, it’s rewarding. I remember from ‘Karma’ the theme of immigration and the relationships between the family members. It was beautifully written, quality literature. 1C1S is the real deal, and the booklets are really nice.”

Barbie Savacool, another dedicated 1C1S reader, shared a little about her reading group, Short Fiction on Faith, led by parishioners at Trinity Church in Copley Square, “We meet every other week during the school year, and discuss short stories which are not necessarily overtly religious, but whose themes bring up issues that people of faith can wrestle with. We have been meeting for over ten years, and our material has ranged from classic literature, contemporary fiction, to very recent stories from The New Yorker or Narrative Magazine. We have included the 1C1S stories almost every year, as the material tends to fit our criteria, and we enjoy the local flavor of the stories as well.”

“Distributing each year’s story is a great chance to connect in a very personal way with readers across Boston,” said Piehl, so we knew that despite moving to a virtual festival, we still wanted to give readers the pleasure of having a physical pamphlet. Talusan said, “As a writer, I want readers for my stories, especially those who do not often find themselves reflected in books and TV shows. It’s so thrilling to know that my story will be printed, distributed, and given away for free to anyone who wants it (including in translation and audio).”

This year, Sallick will be teaching her students through remote classes. “The online format of Zoom can be depressing, and it is very, very challenging being thrust into remote learning, but the idea of having and being able to give my students something to hold in their hands is such a gift,” she says. “Having to build a community when we’re not physically in a space is hard,” but Sallick says she has high hopes for “The Book of Life and Death” and the rich ability to read and enter the story with her students.

“This may be a year that everyone hopes to survive and then promptly never think about again,” said Talusan. “There are times when the news of our country is bleak and crushing, but I’m hoping that Marybelle’s story will offer a momentary distraction, a brief respite that reading can bring, and the opportunity to talk to each other and connect about it.”

With the looming election and a focus on social studies, this year’s story, “Sounds like just what we need,” said Sallick. “1C1S is a gift and a resource; I will get the pamphlets into the hands of readers. I promise!” Sallick asserts.

Connery and Stone are also looking forward to sitting down to read and spend the time going through the themes of the story. They host a “Lit Flash” event every year in celebration of 1C1S and have a friend of theirs, Joanne Baker, a 7th and 8th grade English teacher at Boston’s Jewish Community Day School, help teach them what to look for and analyze in short stories. “We’re not Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas,” Stone laughs, but even through our brief interaction, I can see that no matter how you choose to read 1C1S, you will find a way to connect with and enjoy the story.

These volunteers have shown me what the 1C1S project aims to project in such a wonderful way: that full-bodied enthusiasm over helping a piece of flash fiction appear all around the city and last only a brief moment before it dissipates, leaving the Boston community a little more aware and in awe of the crowd of bodies moving around them.

Before I ended the call, Nancy held up all the past stories she’s saved fanned out in her hands, “We have the whole collection!”

I almost got up to dance.


Grace Talusan’s One City One Story virtual event will be held on Crowdcast Friday, October 16, 2020 at 6:00pm.

Additional resources can be found on the 1C1S webpage, including questions for at home book club discussions, a link to submit a piece of writing in response to “The Book of Life and Death,” links to locations where to find the pamphlets around Boston, and links to download the digital pamphlet as well as translations and audio of the story.



Ellie Manning is this year’s One City One Story project manager. She is a second year master’s student at Emerson College in the Publishing and Writing program.

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BBF 2020: Youth Programming

The Boston Book Festival has always featured talented creators of books for all ages, and this year is no exception! We’re bringing together authors and artists for a variety of creative and enriching sessions for young people—you’ll be able to take advantage of the interaction of a live session, or watch lively content on your own time!

Picture Books

Picture book sessions will be divided into three primary themes:
To coincide with World Space Week (October 4–10), authors and illustrators whose work unlocks the mysteries of space and the universe:
Jason Chin, Your Place in the Universe
Julia Denos, Starcrossed
Oneeka Williams, Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo’s Saturn Surprise
Books that celebrate identity:
Derrick Barnes (with illustrator Gordon James), I Am Every Good Thing
Tami Charles (with illustrator Bryan Collier), All Because You Matter
Jessica Love, Julián at the Wedding
ML Marroquin (with illustrator Tonya Engel), My Hair Is Magic
Ashok Banker (with illustrator Sandhya Prabhat), I Am Brown
The sessions above–along with previously announced sessions on social justice and activism–will feature readings from each book, along with interactive content (such as writing exercises and drawing prompts) and, in many cases, an opportunity for live Q&A with the books’ creators. Readings and other sessions will be archived online for the duration of the festival (and in many cases beyond) so that parents and educators can utilize these engaging presentations, readings, and discussions to enrich virtual learning this fall.

Middle Grade

Continuing the outer space theme from our picture book sessions, long-time space enthusiast John Rocco will present his gorgeously illustrated book for middle-grade readers, How We Got to the Moon, which was recently long-listed for the National Book Award.

We’re pleased to feature a highly interactive Illustrator Draw-Off sponsored by Candlewick Press, where artists of middle-grade graphic novels face off in a lively and hilarious series of drawing challenges, hosted by Cagen Luse of Comics in Color. The best part? The audience gets to judge each round and crown the overall winner! Confirmed illustrators are Jeffrey Brown (Once Upon a Space-Time), Sophie Escabasse (Witches of Brooklyn), and Shannon Wright (Twins).
As previously announced, we are featuring author-illustrators Juana Medina and Jerry Craft during the BBF and as part of our Shelf Help partnerships with the Rafael Hernández K–8 School and Boston English High School. In addition to being BBF featured presenters, the authors will also virtually visit the two schools in specially organized events by our partners at Wondermore. Donations received in conjunction with their BBF events will be earmarked to expand the schools’ library collections. Jerry Craft’s session at the BBF is sponsored by Simmons University.

Young Adult

For teens, we have two panels featuring a great lineup of talented writers.
First, a session on authenticity and identity, featuring Arvin Ahmadi (How It All Blew Up), Daven McQueen (The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones), and former One City One Story author Jennifer De Leon (Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From).
Secondly, we have a thoughtful session about friendship and its end, with Justin A. Reynolds (Early Departures), Amy Spalding (We Used to Be Friends), and Ashley Woodfolk (When You Were Everything).

Story Walks

We know that no one (including kids!) wants to spend all day on screens, so we’re giving families two opportunities to explore Boston’s diverse neighborhoods–and to discover great books at the same time. During the month of October, kids and families will find Story Walks in Nubian Square and in Downtown Crossing, with pages from award-winning picture books posted in store windows–just follow the route to read the book in order!

The Nubian Square Story Walk features the book The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, with artwork by Kadir Nelson, and has been developed in partnership with the Boston Public Library. Thanks to a generous donation by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the first fifty families who complete the Story Walk and visit Frugal Bookstore will receive their own copy of The Undefeated to continue enjoying at home.

The Downtown Crossing Story Walk is generously sponsored by Downtown Boston Business Improvement District and will feature the book Saturday by BBF 2019 presenter Oge Mora.

Stay tuned, and check back often on our presenters page  for more announcements and updates!

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