Summer Reading 2017

Whether your summer plans involve packing a suitcase for a far-flung destination or just packing a bag for the nearest beach or pool, you’ll want to be sure to include a good book (or two . . . or three . . .) wherever your summer adventures take you. Team BBF has compiled some of our favorite summer reading recommendations to send you on your way—happy summer, and happy reading!

Debbie Porter, Founding Executive Director

I recommend the novels of Rachel Cusk. Outline and Transit are the first two books in what are being called Cusk’s post-divorce trilogy. Cusk has spoken about her reluctance to write either fiction or autobiography, and her latest works are not easily classified as either.

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Topping my own summer reading list is David Grossman‘s A Horse Walks into a Bar, winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize. I also plan to dig into a pile of BBF 2017 authors’ books, but since we haven’t announced the authors yet, I can’t tell you which ones!

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Norah Piehl, Deputy Director

If your summer travel plans include a Caribbean cruise, you probably don’t want to pack Maile Meloy’s Do Not Become Alarmed; for everyone else, however, I thoroughly recommend this literary thriller about a cruise ship vacation gone horribly awry. Besides being a true page-turner, Meloy’s latest takes on issues of privilege and prejudice, as well as the fragility of family life and relationships.

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I spent part of my childhood in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and Karen Dionne’s fantastic new suspense novel, The Marsh King’s Daughter, took me right back to that area’s remote beauty and wildness. Perfect for fans of Emma Donoghue’s Room, this novel is both a survival story (in more ways than one) and a revenge narrative that practically begs to be read in a single sitting.

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Gabrielle Zevin’s new novel, Young Jane Young, doesn’t come out until late August, but trust me: you’re going to want to get your hands on this one before summer’s over. A single mother who’s completely reinvented herself in the years since she was at the center of a high-profile political sex scandal now has to decide whether to revive her own political ambitions and reenter the public eye. Young Jane Young thoroughly skewers the culture of slut-shaming while also being smart, funny, and stylistically playful.

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OK, I’ve got to sneak one more in here, since it wouldn’t be like me not to recommend at least one YA novel. I listened to the audio version of Justine Larbalestier’s My Sister Rosa on my long runs this spring, and let’s just say it had me glancing back over my shoulder on isolated parts of the Charles River Greenway! Sort of The Bad Seed for a new generation, Larbalestier’s truly unnerving novel also offers an appealingly diverse set of characters as well as plentiful reflections on genetics, free will, and the fuzzy boundaries between good and evil.

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Sarah Parker, Director of Operations

It’s a sad state of affairs (for me, at least) when there’s no new Tana French to sink my teeth into once vacation rolls around. She’s my ideal summertime read and I think has the Anglophile (Hibernophile?) literary thriller market pretty well cornered. Lucky me to stumble upon former Guardian writer Susie Steiner‘s Missing, Presumed in the library. This UK mystery hurtles along at a breathless pace and saves the biggest surprise for the very end. And–she has a new one coming out in July!

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I’m absolutely transfixed by the new season of Twin Peaks, and the idea of revisiting the original (in all forms!) allows me to keep the dream alive between new episodes. I first read The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer (by Jennifer Lynch, daughter of David) in high school, so I’m interested to see how it stands up so many years later. And by many, I mean three. (Just kidding! I’m old.)

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And just like our friends at the Horn Book, I think that “summer reading” should be anything you want—for every member of your family! For my older son that means every Pokémon book he can get his hands on, and a new favorite series: Frankie Pickle. And don’t forget your rights as a reader!

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Madelene Nieman, BBF 2017 Intern

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
I devoured this book as fast as I could read it while on a German train. In the midst of shouts from the drunken residents of Cologne, I was enraptured by the story of Yeong-hye, a housewife in Seoul whose rebellious choice to first give up meat (and eventually food altogether) is met with disdain and violence from her family. A drama in three acts, The Vegetarian explores themes of body politics, female sexuality, and nature, all while maintaining the most elegant prose I have encountered in quite some time.

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Frozen in Time by Owen Beattie and John Geiger
Nothing to cool you down on a steamy summer day like the story of hundred-year-old bodies preserved in ice! Frozen in Time tells the story of the Franklin Expedition, an ill-fated 1845 search for the Northwest Passage that ended in starvation, cannibalism, and lead poisoning. The story is told in two parts—the first describing the expedition itself, and the second describing the excavation of the wreckage that took place during the 1980s.

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Crucial Interventions by Richard Barnett
The second of Barnett’s books on nineteenth-century medicine, Crucial Interventions provides an overview of advances in the practice of surgery. The real highlight of this book is the hundreds of pages of rare medical illustrations, garishly detailed and beautifully printed. Perfect for the casual fan of grotesque portrayals of human anatomy, this certainly makes a unique coffee table book. (I would not recommend reading it on the T.)

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Cassie Sheets, BBF 2017 Intern

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
As a debut author, Thomas creates a riveting, intelligent YA fiction novel about race, ghettoization, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement. This book offers an intelligent, nuanced, and bold statement about race relations in the United States. A perfect read to feel connected with current political movements and to create empathy across race and class divides.

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She Persisted, written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
This picture book, filled with one-page biographies of thirteen women, will inspire people of all ages to look up to women who have persisted and succeeded, despite institutionalized and personal setbacks. The book includes a diverse collection of women, with several names that are less well known but nonetheless important in creating a well-rounded understanding of history, or rather, herstory.

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Blue Sky, White Stars, written by Sarvinder Naberhaus and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
There’s something haunting about legendary children’s book illustrator Kadir Nelson’s painting style. Is it the way he creates light in dark places? Or maybe it’s how realistic yet dreamlike his characters look. At a time when we need it most, Naberhaus’s bold, poetic words and Nelson’s dramatic renderings of families across the nation make a simple and important statement: America is diverse, and diversity is American. A perfect 4th of July read for your family.

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BBF Unbound 2017: Seeking Submissions

2016’s BBF Unbound series of community-curated sessions offered a veritable feast for readers and writers, featuring discussions on spicy contemporary romance novels, mouthwatering food in fiction, and best practices for creating a nourishing writers’ group. We love hearing your ideas for sessions and working with you to develop successful BBF presentations and workshops.

We’re now accepting proposals for 2017 BBF Unbound sessions, to be presented at the Boston Book Festival on October 28.

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 2017, 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?

Applications are now closed–the deadline for applications was June 30, and we will be notifying successful applicants soon.

Questions?: Contact Norah Piehl,

If you would like to submit a hard copy of your proposal, or if you would like to submit supporting materials, please send them to:

Norah Piehl, Deputy Director
Boston Book Festival
32R Essex St. Cambridge, MA 02139

We look forward to reviewing your submissions!


Request for Proposals: Shelf Help 2017

Boston Book Festival is once again reaching out to the Greater Boston community to help us implement our annual Shelf Help project. We know that many elementary schools lack the resources to fully stock their school or classroom libraries with contemporary, high-quality books. We want to help one teacher or librarian grow their book collection, and then we will organize a children’s book author or illustrator visit to share the wonders of book creation with young readers!

Our 2017 Shelf Help initiative wants to provide new books to one K-8 classroom or school library near the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. We will be collecting donations at the ninth annual Boston Book Festival on October 28th.

If you know a teacher or librarian 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, 2017.

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 28 and look out for our information booth, or you can donate through our online book wish list. Email us at 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!


Shake Off That Bad Mood! We’ve Got Big News for Kids and Families

We are thrilled to announce that beloved (and mysterious) children’s author Lemony Snicket will be the kids’ keynote presenter at the ninth annual Boston Book Festival on October 28 in Copley Square. Author of the wildly popular Series of Unfortunate Events (now a Netflix original series), among many other bestselling books, Snicket will appear at the Boston Book Festival to present his latest picture book for children, The Bad Mood and the Stick, featuring art by Matthew Forsythe. This whimsical story illustrates the unexpected outcomes of one little girl’s bad mood, and Lemony Snicket’s presentation at the BBF is guaranteed to banish any bad moods from the premises!

Snicket’s presentation will headline a full day of programs for children, teens, and families at the 2017 BBF. These will include story time presentations by picture book authors and illustrators, panel presentations and discussions, hands-on workshops with working artists, and much more.

In 2015 and 2016, the BBF presented a standalone spring children’s festival called Hubbub. Hubbub will not continue as a standalone festival in 2017; instead, we will build on many Hubbub partnerships to expand and enhance interactive and interdisciplinary programming for children and families at the October BBF. Somerville-based children’s publisher Candlewick Press, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, will be the Presenting Sponsor of these expanded children’s offerings, which we’re calling “Hubbub at the BBF.” Costume character meet & greets, STEAM activities, scavenger hunts, celebrations of global culture, and tons of festive fun—the whole family will discover a full day of storytelling and surprises at the BBF. We hope your family makes plans to attend Lemony Snicket’s kids’ keynote and then spend the day with us at the Boston Book Festival on October 28!




IFFBoston 2017

Boston Book Festival is thrilled to partner with Independent Film Festival Boston (IFFBoston) for another year of independent film and storytelling! The 15th Annual IFFBoston is taking place April 26-May 3 at the Somerville Theatre, Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and UMass Boston. Over one hundred films will be shown along with nightly parties and weekend panel discussions. Tickets for all events are on sale now at

We are sponsoring two films this year: Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive and The Little Hours.

Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Brattle Theatre
Saturday, April 29th at 1:30pm

For those who love his poetry and horror stories, this biographical documentary delivers a dramatic tale of Poe’s life, focusing on his career, personal life, and mysterious disappearance before his death. Poe is played by Denis O’Hare (True Blood, The Good Wife, American Horror Story), who delivers a satisfyingly intense performance, including readings of Poe’s literature and criticism. For more information, check the IFF website: Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive.

The Little Hours
Brattle Theatre
Sunday, April 30th at 8:45pm

This movie is not for the faint of heart! It is a racy, mature take on the fourteenth-century author Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, a collection of tales about a medieval Italian nunnery. With a star-studded comedic cast (Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Fred Armisen, John C. Reilly, Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon), get ready for an unapologetic rendition of lust and laughter. More details here: The Little Hours.

We hope you’ll join us for one of these literary-inspired movies! Please check out the full IFF lineup here to find additional screenings. From film to books, we love good storytelling and are happy to support IFFBoston in our shared mission of bringing Boston together through great art. We hope to see you there!


Join the BBF Team!

Like books? Interested in going behind the scenes at New England’s premier literary event? The Boston Book Festival is seeking interns to help us prepare and execute the ninth annual BBF, October 28, 2017.

We are looking for self-starters who have experience with the following: copywriting and editing; creating and maintaining documents and spreadsheets using Word, Excel, Google Drive, and Google Forms; and familiarity with website content management systems.

It would also be wonderful if you have familiarity with or a willingness to learn about: graphic design; social media marketing (on behalf of a brand, not just you!); communicating with media outlets and community organizations; and distributing marketing collateral.

We hope that you have excellent written and oral communication skills, are highly organized, motivated, project-oriented, willing to work on a team, and knowledgeable about and/or interested in some or all of the following: event production, logistics, project management, and (of course) literature! We really hope that you are fun, friendly, and eager to work with a small, committed group of people in a casual office environment. The good news/bad news is: everyone does everything! Some of it is boring but all of it is important.

The ideal candidate will be able to join the team in March and work through Thanksgiving 2017. Candidates can expect to work between 8 and 12 hours per week through May, and 12-15 hours per week through October. Hours and schedules are flexible; evening hours for special events will be required (with plenty of advance notice). We anticipate one evening event per month from March through August. You will also be expected to check your BBF email daily and respond as needed, even when you are not in the office. Boston Book Festival offices are located in Central Square, Cambridge.

Please send a cover letter and resume to Sarah Parker,, and please specify any restrictions. Candidates who are invited to interview will be asked to provide a writing sample. Applications are due February 15th.


Call for Submissions: One City One Story 2017

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, 2017.

Additional information:

  • 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 28, 2017, 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 2017.

*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.


What Are You Reading Now?

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, we asked BBF fans on social media what books they were turning to for comfort, answers, or just to escape. We were impressed (although not surprised–you’re a smart bunch!) by the thoughtfulness and breadth of the answers we received, and we’ve compiled the responses here–perhaps a book listed here will speak to you, too! Want to continue the conversation? Just use the hashtag #whatareyoureadingboston to let our community know about the books that are proving especially meaningful to you right now.

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
Ian Bremmer, Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Chris Dixon, Another Politics: Talking across Today’s Transformative Movements
Emma Donoghue, The Wonder
Negin Farsad, How to Make White People Laugh
Ellen Fitzpatrick, The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency
Omar Saif Ghobash, Letters to a Young Muslim
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements
Jenny Jaeckel, Spot 12: Five Months in the Neonatal ICU
Autumn Kalquist, Defective
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer
Tyler Page, Raised on Ritalin
Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death
Dawn Powell, The Wicked Pavilion
Alex Prud’homme, The French Chef in America
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter series
Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Solmaz Sharif, Look: Poems
Jessica Shattuck, The Women in the Castle
Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
Destiny Soria, Iron Cast
Art Spiegelman, Maus
Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad
Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States


Get Ready for BBF 2016

Perhaps you’re the type who’s already planned your BBF schedule down to the minute, or maybe you’re planning on just showing up in Copley Square on October 15 and making it up as you go along. Either way, we’ve put together some key hints and tips to help you have a great day at BBF 2016!

Download our app.
You might have noticed our newly redesigned website (thanks, Corey McPherson Nash!). Along with our new look comes a host of new tools for planning and sharing your BBF schedule, including mobile apps that work for both iOS and Android devices. Download the app in advance and keep the BBF in your pocket all day! Or, if you prefer a lower-tech approach to planning, you can print out a PDF of the entire schedule.

Take the T or drive—it’s up to you!
The BBF is conveniently located right near the Copley and Back Bay MBTA stations, meaning that whether you’re arriving by Green Line, Orange Line, bus, commuter rail, or even Amtrak, public transit is your friend. If you need to drive, however, your best bet is checking out Best Parking before you start your drive. As of this writing, parking deals near Copley Square can be had for as little as $14 for the whole day.

Win a Vespa!
Thanks to a generous donation from Piaggio Fast Forward, we’re giving away a brand-new Vespa at BBF 2016. Raffle tickets (available only at the festival) are $10 each, with discounts for higher quantities. Proceeds go to support the BBF—we’ll be announcing the winner from the outdoor stage at 5:15, but you don’t need to be present to win. Tickets can be purchased at our merchandise booths or from roving volunteers (look for their red aprons and Vespa tees). Thanks, and good luck!

We’re back in the BPL!
After a couple of years of construction, we’re back in the Boston Public Library in a big way, and we couldn’t be happier. Be sure to stop in to see our programming in their beautifully renovated spaces (and maybe get a library card while you’re at it). Check out their newly opened world-class Shakespeare exhibit, grab a bite to eat at their restaurants and cafes, and don’t forget to stop by the Civic Table outside on Boylston Street for a custom poem or free Boston By Foot walking tour!

Channel your inner fangirl or fanboy
If what drives you to the BBF is the opportunity to meet favorite authors up close, you’re in luck! Presenters’ books are available for sale in all venues, and signings follow all sessions on-site. Thanks to our partner booksellers for facilitating book sales at the BBF!

Tickets, schmickets
With the exception of one sold-out event (the Lore live show), all sessions at the BBF are entirely free, tickets are not required, and admission is first-come, first-served. A handful of small writing workshops offered a preregistration option; although those guaranteed seats are now full, walk-up spots are available—just show up early for your best shot! A huge THANK YOU to our sponsors and donors for helping to keep the BBF free to all.

Get social
Have you been participating in our #whatareyoureadingboston project on social media this summer and fall? Show your post at our merch tables and get a free button! If you’re a Snapchat user, send your long-distance BFFs special BBF snaps from Copley Square. And if your idea of social networking runs more toward the face-to-face, pick up an “Ask Me What I’m Reading” button at the merchandise booth, wear it, and strike up a conversation with a fellow booklover. Who knows where it might lead?


Win a Vespa at BBF 2016

If a book is food for your mind, a Vespa is an espresso machine for your body–and we’re bringing the two together at BBF 2016! Thanks to a generous donation from Piaggio Fast Forward, we are running our first-ever fundraising raffle at the BBF. The winner will receive a brand-new Vespa Sprint 150 (in “BBF Red,” of course)! Tickets are $10 and will be available only at the BBF on October 15 or at our kickoff event on October 14Buona fortuna!

Update 10/20/2016: Congratulations to C. Clements of Boston, the winner of the Vespa raffle! Thanks to all who bought tickets to support the BBF!

1. You must be 18 yrs old or over to buy a ticket
2. The drawing will be held on October 15 at 5:15. Winner need not be present to win. The winner will be announced on the outdoor stage, the winning ticket will be displayed on our Facebook page, and the winner’s name will be tweeted out on the 15th. The winner has until Monday, October 17 at 5:00 PM to claim the prize. You must present the winning ticket stub in person either at the BBF on the 15th or at the offices of the BBF on Monday, October 17th. If the winner cannot be identified, an alternate winner will be declared.
3. All federal, state and local income taxes are the sole responsibility of the winner. The taxable value of the prize will be treated as ordinary income to the winner.