Even though we’re busy planning BBF 2018 (mark your calendars: October 13!), Team BBF is still finding time for a little summer R&R, from visiting mountains and islands to exploring beaches, pools, and parks closer to home. And you know we’ve always got a book in our backpack or beach bag! Our staff has compiled some of our favorite summer reading recommendations to accompany you on your own summer adventures—happy summer, and happy reading!
Debbie Porter, Founding Executive Director
If you like family sagas and immigration stories, Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee, is a good choice for a summer read. It’s the story of a young Korean woman who marries and moves to Japan with her missionary husband, circa 1939. It reminds me of the James Michener novels I loved as a kid.
This year, anytime I talk with someone for more than about three minutes, I’m likely to start enthusing about Richard Powers‘s magnificent new novel The Overstory. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this novel–which plants trees at the center of a rich and multilayered narrative–will alter not only the way you view the woods but also how you think about the nature of time and our human story. Perfect for a hiking or backpacking trip–though in that case you might want to opt for the e-book, since at 500+ pages, it’s monumental in more ways than one!
If you’re still around after I’ve waxed rhapsodic about The Overstory, I’ll probably next recommend Aminatta Forna‘s Happiness. A love story that opens with a chance meeting between a wildlife biologist studying urban foxes and a recently widowed trauma specialist, Happiness is also a beautifully rendered portrait of contemporary, multicultural London, and a glimpse at the vitality and interconnectedness of its immigrant communities. Pick this one up if your summer plans send you across the pond–or if you just wish they did!
I’ve finally gotten around to reading (or listening to) Boston favorite Mitali Perkins‘s YA novel You Bring the Distant Near, a big-hearted novel about three generations of women in a Bengali American family, each navigating her own journey across borders and boundaries both real and symbolic. I definitely recommend the audiobook version of the novel–the voices of five different narrators further enliven the characters Perkins has so lovingly created. Add this one to your list if your summer plans include a family reunion!
I intended to read Chad Sell‘s juvenile graphic novel Cardboard Kingdom to myself, but my four-year-old immediately demanded that I read it aloud, and it’s since become a full family favorite. Sell and his coauthors navigate issues like bullying, gender identity, divorce, and neurodiversity in completely age-appropriate ways, all while telling a series of interconnected stories about a group of kids who creatively transform their neighborhood into a summertime fairyland. I vote this one best choice for summer camp care packages.
Finally, in recent weeks, my thoughts have increasingly turned to a book I read last year. Valeria Luiselli‘s brief but powerful Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions recounts her experience as a volunteer interpreter for unaccompanied minors during the surge of arrivals in 2015. Luiselli’s book is essential reading for those wanting to gain historical perspective and to understand the differences between Obama and Trump-era border policies. It’s also both intimate and urgent, illustrating the human cost of the ongoing refugee crisis. Summer reading is often about escapism, but this year, we can’t afford to tune out.
Because Mermaids in Paradise: A Novelby Lydia Millet is about a honeymooning couple (who, you guessed it, find mermaids), I purchased it to take on my own honeymoon…nearly two years ago. I recently tossed it into my beach bag and am so glad I did. What a romp! Not only was it fun and sarcastic in the way Millet’s novels tend to be, it also questions corporate greed and humans’ impact on the environment.
Support Independent Bookstores
An oldie but goodie, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley was published in 1982 and is a Newbery Honor book. I found it on the “staff pick shelf” at Innisfree Bookshop, an adorable store in the Lakes region of New Hampshire overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee. The desert setting, strong female lead, beautiful horses, and magic–“Kelar”–make for an excellent escape.
Support Independent Bookstores
In preparation for the movie (coming out August 2018), I’m re-reading Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. It’s a delicious combination of society drama, international glamour, and family politics. Imagine if Gossip Girl, The OC, and Sex in the City came together to create the ultimate telenovela set in Singapore. Cheers!
Support Independent Bookstores
Bella Cartularo, BBF 2018 Intern
They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib
This brilliant collection of essays explores Abdurraqib’s experiences when confronted with feelings of intrigue, confusion, love, and loathing. When I started this book I didn’t put it down until I reached the last page. I highly suggest this book not only for those interested in new age voices but also for those who are explore the limitations of genre, specifically the limitations (or limitless potential) of the essay form.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Ward is a force whose writing is reminiscent of James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and William Faulkner. Her work is endlessly compelling and honest and this book really lets that shine through. Set in a fictional town in Mississippi, this novel explores the fault lines between families and identity.
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but Meg Wolitzer’s newest novel’s bright and bold cover art alone might just make you stop and pick it up. The storyline, however, I’m sure will seal the deal. The Female Persuasion follows Greer Kadetsky, a woman figuring out her path in life through college, careers, and children. Wolitzer’s novel shows, through Greer, what it’s like to be a feminist in today’s world when there is no clear definition or strong support system. This is a story that you’ll read, tell EVERYONE to read, and won’t accept no for an answer.
Robin by Dave Itzkoff
In a time where mental health is mostly misunderstood or altogether ignored, Dave Itzkoff’s Robin brings light to the topic and to the Robin Williams that was under all of the masks, accents, and hilarious characters. When reading, you’ll feel like Williams is sitting right next to you to help tell his story. Itzfkoff paints the complete portrait, highlighting the light, the dark, the publically perceived, and the privately unknown sides.
Here at Team BBF, we thrive on the fresh ideas and energy of our amazing and hard-working interns. We thought you’d like to get to know this year’s interns, Katie (R) and Bella (L), so we asked them to interview one another–and keep your eyes on our social media for more posts from Katie and Bella this summer and fall!
What is your favorite book?
Bella: My favorite book is Citizen by Claudia Rankine. I think she is absolutely fabulous and has such a talent for writing in the lyric style. As a creative writer, I have learned so much from her and the strategies she uses while navigating sentence structure, cultural tension, and being in a space that is dominated by the majority class.
Katie: My favorite book is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. No matter how many times I read it, I never get bored. I do not skip any parts even though, of course, I know what is going to happen. It is the perfect escape and a relaxing and thrilling read. There is no question that after I finish reading I will watch the movie.
What is your favorite book turned movie?
Bella: I just watched the Ready Player One movie and, while it was nothing like the book, I enjoyed the movie. I really appreciated that all of the budget went to post-production because it made the narrative really visually stimulating. I loved the book when it came out and I also love Ernest Cline’s other book Armada.
Katie: I loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I read the book in the summer right before the movie came out. It was such a luxury to finish reading and then immediately go to the movie theaters to experience the same story world in a new way. I remember gasping when I read the scene with Minny Jackson watching Hilly Holbrook eat her “chocolate” pie. However, it was even sweeter to see Octavia Spencer’s face in that same scene. I gasped again, and could not stop laughing.
What is something you read that is out of the ordinary?
Bella: I am a creative writing major and whenever I have a hard time generating content that is interesting and stimulating to an audience, I go on reddit’s writing prompts tag and read through them. There are some brilliant flash fiction writers out there and whenever one of them breaks through and publishes something, I also buy it. I love supporting lesser-known authors.
Katie: I love reading the IMDb “Did You Know?” section for every movie that I watch. Right when I finish watching a movie, I never feel like the experience is complete until I know the lesser-known facts of the film, the acting methods, some of the goofs of the movie, etc. Then, when I watch the movie for a second time I sound like I’m an expert on the film! My friends love to hear me interrupt the movie to say, “did you know…..?” They don’t find it annoying at all!
What BBF panel or event are you the most excited about?
Bella: Honestly, I am most excited for our bar literary trivia night. Mostly because I helped to orchestrate it, but also because I am a literary nerd and I’m excited to see how well I can do in comparison to all the teams playing. Plus it’s at a bar, so that’s pretty cool.
Katie: I love preparing for the festival because I get to see it bit by bit come together before it is announced to the public. I am excited to see all of the authors visit Boston on October 13th to present and discuss their work. I wish that I could clone myself so that I could be at each BBF event!
2017’s BBF Unbound series of community-curated sessions offered a bounty of creative sessions and workshops proposed by members of our community. BBF Unbound sessions at last year’s festival included an intro to writing positive spoken word and hip hop, a rousing game of “Literary Never Have I Ever,” a road map to reading and writing feminist romance novels, and a timely discussion on writing from a position of privilege. We love hearing your ideas for sessions and working with you to develop successful BBF presentations and workshops.
We’re now accepting proposals for 2018 BBF Unbound sessions, to be presented at the Boston Book Festival on October 13.
We are looking for outside groups/individuals who can introduce fresh voices and new ideas to the BBF. Be creative! The session can involve a debate, demo, workshop, literary improv, dramatic readings, panel discussion, literary games, etc. We are not looking for product promotions, plugs for businesses, or sessions featuring a single author publicizing his or her book. Note that in 2018, due to venue limitations, we are particularly interested in proposals for small writing/publishing workshops.
You will be responsible for running your session, i.e., gathering participants, beginning and ending on time, and covering any expenses (beyond room rental and basic A/V). We will publicize your session on our website and in our Program Guide, and we will expect you to publicize it as well.
We will evaluate proposals based on: 1. Will the content appeal to the BBF audience? 2. Does the content offer something different from standard BBF fare? 3. Is the individual/group offering a plausible plan for implementing the session?
Boston Book Festival is once again reaching out to the Greater Boston community to help us implement our annual Shelf Help partnership. We know that many elementary schools lack the resources to fully stock their school libraries with contemporary, high-quality books. We want to help expand one school library book collection, and then we will work with the Wondermore organization to coordinate a children’s book author or illustrator visit to share the wonders of book creation with young readers!
Last year, as part of the Shelf Help partnership, the Boston Book Festival, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Penguin Young Readers, HarperCollins and Candlewick Press donated books to the Curley K-8 School in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Pam Yosca, the co-chair of the Curley Library Committee, writes, “Our partnership with the Boston Book Festival and Wondermore through Shelf Help launched the reopening of the Curley K-8 School Library. Caldecott Medalist Javaka Steptoe’s insightful and entertaining presentation was the inaugural author visit in the library, and was a wonderful community event. We are so grateful to BBF for securing dozens of brand new, high quality books for our students and teachers, and for highlighting the importance of libraries in our public schools.”
Again in 2018, Shelf Help will partner with one K-8 school library, providing a donation of new books near the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. We will be collecting donations at the tenth annual Boston Book Festival on October 13th.
If you know a library professional at a school that needs some Shelf Help, please forward them this RFP, which has links to a short online or downloadable application. All proposals are due by May 30, 2018.
You can also lend direct “Shelf Help” to the Boston community! If you would like to donate a book, please come to the Boston Book Festival on October 13 and look out for our information booth, or you can donate through our online book wish list. Email us at email@example.com to receive a link to the “Shelf Help” donation site. If you would prefer to make a cash donation, please visit our donate page. Upon checking out, select “Make this a gift” and designate “Shelf Help” as the gift recipient in the appropriate box.
With “Shelf Help,” we aim to support students’ discovery and expression of their voices through access to an increased selection of books within their school environment. Words have power to motivate and provoke all readers to discover themselves and their place in the world, and we hope that Shelf Help will encourage students to view themselves as literary explorers!
Boston Book Festival is excited to be a part of the 16th Annual Independent Film Festival Boston. IFFBoston is taking place April 25 – May 2 at the Somerville Theatre, Brattle Theatre, and Coolidge Corner Theatre. Over one hundred films will be shown along with nightly parties and weekend panel discussions. Tickets for all events are on sale now at http://www.iffboston.org.
This year, we are sponsoring four films: A Prayer Before Dawn, Far From The Tree, On Chesil Beach, and We The Animals.
Far From The Tree Sat. 4/28 – 6:30pm Somerville Theatre
From the New York Times-bestselling book by Andrew Solomon, Rachel Dretzin presents the lives of Jason, Jack, Loni, Leah, Joe, Trevor, and Andrew Solomon. The audience gets an intimate insight into their journeys as people with Down syndrome, autism, dwarfism, a life sentence in prison and parents unaccepting of his identity as a gay man. This film displays families meeting extraordinary challenges through love, empathy, and understanding. Find more details for Far From The Tree here.
A Prayer Before Dawn Sat. 4/28 – 9:15pm Somerville Theatre
Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire brings Billy Moore’s bestselling memoir of his brutal experiences inside one of Thailand’s most notorious jails to the screen. Refusing to die, Moore becomes a student of the lethal art of Muay Thai boxing, which will guide him on an incredible journey to redemption. Find more information on IFFBoston’s screening of A Prayer Before Dawn here.
We The Animals Sun. 4/29 – 3:15pm Somerville Theatre
Three brothers tear their way through childhood and push against the volatile love of their parents in Jeremiah Zagar’s adaptation of Justin Torres’s novel We The Animals. Torres was a presenter at BBF 2011, and we couldn’t be happier to see his affecting novel brought to the big screen. As Manny and Joel grow into versions of their father, Jonah embraces an imagined world all his own. In this coming-of-age film, the audience learns, grows, and experiences life with the brothers. For more details on We The Animals, click here.
On Chesil Beach Sun. 4/29 – 4:30pm Somerville Theatre
Based on the novel by Ian McEwan, Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan and Dunkirk’s Billy Howle embody newlyweds Florence and Edward, both in their early 20s and also both virgins. In the summer of 1962, the couple’s spend their honeymoon preoccupied and terrified by the upcoming consummation of their marriage. Here is more information on the drama On Chesil Beach.
Each film offers an escape into a world in which you will be fully immersed in the human experience of facing challenges. Check out the full IFF lineup here to find additional screenings. We are happy to support IFFBoston and celebrate together the power of storytelling to inspire. We hope to see you there! #IFFBoston2018 #IFFandBBF
We are currently looking for the next great story for our One City One Story program. If you are a previously published* author, we welcome your submission of a short work of fiction. Please see below for selection criteria, and please submit your work (only one submission per person, please) via our Submittable page no later than February 28, 2018.
Submitted stories may be previously published or unpublished, but the author must hold rights to the story and permit (re)publication by the Boston Book Festival in print and digital formats, as well as translations into multiple languages.
Stories should be no more than 7500 words in length.
The selected author must be willing and able to attend the Boston Book Festival on October 13, 2018, and to participate in a town hall–style discussion of her/his story at the BBF. The Boston Book Festival is unable to provide travel or accommodations for authors attending the BBF. The selected author must also be available for media appearances and interviews in the weeks leading up to the festival. These should not require additional travel.
Preference is given to authors from Boston or New England, or those who have a strong connection to the region. Stories set in the region are also of particular interest.
Stories are evaluated for literary merit as well as their potential for fruitful discussion by readers high school age and older. The ideal story should offer many different entry points for discussion by readers, some of whom may not have previously (or at least recently) read and discussed short fiction.
Stories are initially evaluated by BBF staff and a selection committee composed of editors from Boston-based literary magazines and media outlets. A short list of stories is then circulated to community members who provide feedback on whether and how they would use the story with the populations they serve. The final decision is made by BBF staff based on this feedback and other factors (such as rights availability and regional interest).
The selected author will be notified in early May 2018.
*For the purposes of this program, “published” means having had a work of short fiction appear in an online or print edition of a magazine or journal with an ISSN or in an anthology with an ISBN.
If you’ve been to the Boston Book Festival, you know it’s like a whole thing, with authors, illustrators, vendors, volunteers, musicians, and maybe even a costume character or two flocking to historic, beautiful Copley Square, along with tens of thousands of booklovers just like you. But what you might not know is that we’re also active citywide, partnering with other organizations to spark a love of reading among Bostonians young and old. We wanted to let you know about two of these programs that took place during BBF weekend!
Shelf Help at the Curley School
On Friday, the day before the BBF, Caldecott Medalist and Coretta Scott King Award winner Javaka Steptoe made a visit to the Curley School in Jamaica Plain. This K-8 school, part of the Boston Public Schools system, was the recipient of our 2017 Shelf Help initiative, which culminated with Javaka’s memorable school visit, coordinated in partnership with the Wondermore organization. His presentations gave Curley school students a window into this brilliant illustrator, author, and artist’s inspiration and artistic process and got them (even more) excited about the thousands of dollars’ worth of brand-new books that will soon grace the shelves of their newly-reopened school library, thanks to the publishers and individuals who pitched in to donate books and funds via the BBF’s Shelf Help initiative. Special thanks to the Shah Foundation and Connie Coburn, as well as to Candlewick Press, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Penguin Young Readers for their substantial support, and to the Children’s Book Shop of Brookline for encouraging customers to donate at the store!
Mini-BBF at East Boston Branch Library
This year, readers could hop on the Blue Line and ride to a mini–Boston Book Festival, thanks to a new partnership with the Boston Public Library. The beautiful new East Boston Branch of the BPL hosted plenty of bookish fun, including a visit and storytime with Curious George as well as kids’ workshops with local author James DeMarco and Newbery Medalist Matt de la Peña, plus a discussion of One City One Story and (thanks to the magic of Facebook live), the BBF’s cookbook session livestreamed from Copley Square. We were pleased to be able to give each of the participants in Matt’s workshop a brand-new copy of his new picture book, Miguel and the Grand Harmony, and we are grateful to the library staff and volunteers for helping us produce and promote the event. We hope to expand this program in coming years, so let us know if your neighborhood would like to work with us to host your own mini-BBF!
BBF 2017 kicks off TONIGHT, 10/26, with Lit Crawl Boston, presented by Boston’s Literary District, and continues tomorrow, 10/27, with The Book Revue, a free author variety show featuring poetry, monologues, live music, and even a surprise or two. But the big event takes place Saturday, 10/28, in Copley Square and at indoor locations around Back Bay. This year’s BBF theme is “Where We Find Ourselves”—we encourage you to consider what this theme means for you, our city, and our culture as you explore the many choices for fun and thoughtful programs at this year’s BBF. And read on for some essential tips to help you make the most of your day at the BBF!
It’s all free. This year every single session, workshop, and event at the BBF is free, and no tickets or preregistration are available for any session. If you’ve been using Sched’s interactive planning and scheduling tools on our website, that’s great, but that’s all they are—convenient planning tools for you, not registration or a guarantee of admission from us. Admission and seating at all our events is first-come, first-served, so we recommend you arrive early for sessions that are especially important to you! Need help navigating our online schedule? Visit this brief tutorial.
Plan ahead if you plan to drive. This year, we’re partnering with ParkWhiz to help BBF attendees find and book the best deals on parking near the festival. You do need to book parking in advance in order to take advantage of the ParkWhiz deals, however, so take a few minutes and have one less thing to worry about as you head into the city.
Heck, plan ahead if you plan to take the T, too. Again this weekend, the MBTA is using shuttle bus replacements on the red line from Cambridge, so allow extra time if you’re coming across the river!
Bring a tote bag (or buy one from us!). Thanks to our partner booksellers, book sales and signings follow all of our sessions, so bring a bag (or buy a new one at our merch booth!) to stock up on new finds (not to mention goodies from our 75+ exhibitors on Copley Square!).
Love the BBF? Help keep it free to all. If you love the BBF, help support it! The BBF is run by an independent nonprofit, and we rely on donations from individuals to help keep the festival thriving and free to all. Donations in any amount are appreciated, but membership benefits start at $50; more substantial donations of $500+ can get you priority seating, party invitations, and more! You can contribute to the BBF online anytime or at the membership table at the big BBF tent on the day of the festival. Thank you for your support!
Most importantly? Have fun! We hope you enjoy this free celebration of books and literary culture. We’ve certainly had fun putting it together for you. Tag us on Twitter and Instagram and use the hashtag #BBF2017—we can’t wait to see how you spend your day!
The theme for this year’s Boston Book Festival is “Where We Find Ourselves.” The theme speaks in part to our political moment, to how we arrived at this strange and often disconcerting place in history and what we can collectively and individually do next. Sessions like “Politics” with Maureen Dowd and Jared Yates Sexton, “Geopolitics” with Graham Allison, Meghan O’Sullivan, and Nick Burns, and “Racism in America” with Carol Anderson, Chris Hayes, and James Forman Jr. address these questions directly, while sessions like M. T. Anderson’s YA Keynote and and “#LookItUP: Knowledge Matters” with Brian Halley, Marilynn Johnson, and Tom Nichols explore them more implicitly.
Ideas of travel, migration, and home also surface throughout our sessions, featuring works of both fiction and nonfiction, as authors explore the literal places we reside in or journey through. “This Is the Place” explores women’s writings about home, while “Arrivals and Departures” features Adam Gopnik and Kristen Radtke’s memoirs about inhabiting, and traveling through, unfamiliar places. In “Strangers in a Strange Land,” three fiction writers—Jonny Sun, Lisa Ko, and Hala Alyan—probe questions of migration and rootlessness. And in “Voices of America,” writers Ha Jin and Grace Talusan as well as publisher Ilan Stavans examine how writers address the immigrant experience.
Of course, in addition to these and other thematically linked sessions, we have dozens of other eclectic events and activities designed to appeal to all sorts of readers. Sessions on food, suspense novels, and the Beatles, as well as plenty of programs for teens and younger readers, remind us that there’s nothing wrong with finding a little fun in our reading, too. We have more BBF Unbound and Reading Like a Writer sessions than ever before (including one on poetry), and we’re pleased to be hosting a full slate of readings in fiction, memoir, and essays at the BPL’s new Newsfeed Café—a great spot for book clubs to grab a cup of coffee and a bite to eat while getting inspiration for their reading choices in the coming year.
We’re pleased to partner with Boston’s first-in-the-nation Literary District, which is presenting its second annual Lit Crawl in Back Bay on the Thursday before the BBF. You’ll find the full schedule of their Lit Crawl events on our website as well—it’s the perfect way to kick off the BBF festivities!
This year every single event at the BBF—including Lit Crawl—is absolutely free, and tickets are not required to attend any session. If you’re still familiarizing yourself with our new interactive schedule, you might want to refer to this tutorial blog post from last year. Our mobile app will soon be updated for 2017 as well. Enjoy getting to know our schedule and planning your BBF day—in the meantime, we’ll be busy behind the scenes getting ready to welcome nearly 250 authors—and you!—to Copley Square in just a few short weeks. For all of us who find ourselves through books and literature, it’s sure to be a memorable weekend.
It’s back to school season, and this year, no one will be more excited to return to school than the 950 students at the Curley K-8 School in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. After several years without a school library, a dedicated team of parents and other volunteers has raised funds to reopen the library this fall.
But the Curley School could still use some help to fill their shelves! The Boston Book Festival, along with publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Penguin Young Readers, HarperCollins, and Candlewick Press, is donating brand-new books to the Curley K-8 library. We’re also teaming up with Wondermore to bring award-winning author and illustrator Javaka Steptoe to the Curley for a school visit the day before his public BBF appearance on October 28.
We’re off to a great start, but there are still a lot of shelves to fill, and that’s where you come in! We’re asking friends and fans of the BBF to join us in donating books and funds to restock the shelves at the Curley School. Focusing primarily on a diverse collection of award-winning books published during the library’s closure, the Curley School’s wish list will make hundreds of young readers very happy.
Here are some ways you can get involved:
Peruse the Curley School’s wish list online and donate a book directly to the school library. You can even honor a family member or beloved teacher or librarian with a bookplate dedication!
Visit the Children’s Book Shop in Brookline to donate a book from the Curley’s registry list (and maybe pick up something for your own family, too)!
Contribute funds directly to the Shelf Help project by visiting the donations page and selecting a dollar amount. Or stop by the merchandise booth at BBF 2017 on October 28 and donate on-site!
Spread the word about the Curley School’s library and Shelf Help by sharing this post on social media, using the hashtag #ShelfHelp and tagging @bostonbookfest and @curleyk8!
Thanks so much for your help–together we’re bringing the love of reading to a new generation of Boston kids!