Lucky 13: The Boston Book Festival’s Plans for 2021

The Boston Book Festival is no stranger to trying new things.

When we launched in 2009, we launched big. 12,000 attendees, 90 authors and presenters, and more than 40 local businesses and organizations scattered throughout Copley Square, The Boston Public Library, Old South Church, and Trinity Church that day.

And that was only the beginning—in the ten-plus years since, we’ve launched the One City One Story initiative as well as prestigious keynote sessions for kids, young adults, and a variety of nonfiction topics. Over the years we’ve added a Friday night kickoff keynote, BBF Unbound, local literary tours, Poems and Pints, Shelf Help school visits, and a wholelot more. It was too much to contain in one day, so we expanded the BBF to two days, in two different neighborhoods and across Boston.

The Boston Book Festival is also no stranger to unexpected occurrences.

Like 2015’s biting temperatures and blowing winds that challenged even the most intrepid literary New England folks. Or in 2018 when a fire alarm forced the evacuation of Emmanuel Church just as an event was about to start—which continued on the sidewalk outside. Or when we watched Hurricane Sandy creep up the coast in 2012, only to hit Boston the day after. Or like when a global pandemic hit, and a weekend of literary fun turned into a month of virtual events and connection across October 2020.

When you run an event that engages thousands of readers, authors, local organizations, and venues across the city, you need to think big, but stay nimble.

And as much as we wanted to think big for 2021, we’re staying nimble.

For 2021, the Boston Book Festival will take place over the week of October 16-23 as a mostly virtual series of events.

We wanted to see you all in Copley Square and Nubian Square next month! We wanted to catch up with you in line for the author signings (or the grilled cheese sandwiches). We wanted to sit next to you, shoulder to shoulder, and hear from an author who’s made us think or laugh or cry. We wanted to chat with you at the street fair. We wanted to rush past you with a quick hello on our way to the next event, totebag full of books bouncing on our shoulder.

There’s no need to write anymore about how the Delta variant has shifted everyone’s fall plans, and there’s no need to write anymore about the uncertain gray area we’re all in right now with this pandemic.

But what is certain is that the Boston Book Festival “celebrates the power of words to stimulate, agitate, unite, delight, and inspire,” and we can still do that. We can still connect with one another over the ideas we find in books, over a word or phrase that challenges us to look at the world around us differently, or a verse that we hold close and want to share. We can still be united by words and our shared love of sitting in a cozy chair and opening the cover to enter a new world. We can still be inspired by a poet’s turn of phrase, or a fiction writer’s imagery, or a historian’s insights—and we can still do it virtually.

In fact, in times like these, we have to find ways of connection. Why not, still, through words, ideas, and the printed page?

We’ll be releasing more details soon about our presenter lineup, our virtual sessions, and other things you’ll need to know as we continue to engage around words, ideas, readers, and writers, all while keeping everyone safe. (The best way to stay informed? Sign up for our newsletter.) Also, look for new ways to engage with the BBF and to connect with your fellow readers in Boston and beyond.

It’s the thirteenth year of the Boston Book Festival, and we’re lucky to continue to have such a literary community here in Boston.

The full lineup and schedule for BBF 2021 will be announced in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please mark your calendars for October 16–23, and make plans to join our community of readers online!

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