We hope you’ve cleared your calendar, because for the first time ever, we’re taking over a full weekend in Boston’s fall calendar, this Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20! Read on for some essential tips to help you make the most of your day, er, weekend at the BBF!
Two days, two locations. BBF Saturday is in the same Copley Square neighborhood where we’ve been since Year 1. This year’s brand-new BBF Sunday is just a short drive, bus ride, or healthy walk away (why not? It’s going to be a beautiful weekend!) in Dudley Square, Roxbury. We have programming in several venues, but our base of operations in Dudley is the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building—stop there first for information or to visit our exhibitors! If you stop by Copley on Sunday, you won’t find us—only a bunch of rowing fans who’ve wandered over from the Head of the Charles Regatta (more on that later). Instead, head on down to Dudley Square, where you’ll find 70+ presenters, including four keynotes!
Getting to know the neighborhood. Maybe you’re a resident of or regular visitor to Roxbury’s Dudley Square. If so, thanks for letting us throw a book party in your back yard! If you’re new to the neighborhood, though, we have plenty of tips on getting to Dudley Square on our website. Parking is free in Boston on Sundays, and Dudley Square is home to one of the MBTA’s most well-served bus terminals. It’s also the home of the wonderful independently owned Frugal Bookstore, which is the exclusive bookseller for our events in Dudley Square. Looking to make a day of it and grab lunch while you’re there? No problem! We’ve included a list of Dudley eateries with Sunday hours in our printed program guide–just flip to p. 35 for all the details.
No ticket? No problem! Admission and seating at all BBF events this year 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. Again 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. With Head of the Charles Regatta, Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, and the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival all happening at the same time, it’s going to be one bustling weekend in Boston, so avoid disappointment and plan ahead!
T rider? Leave extra time. Shuttle buses will replace MBTA Orange Line trains between Sullivan and Tufts this weekend, so allow extra time if you’re traveling to the BBF by train. Shuttle bus replacement may also affect parts of the Green Line “C” branch as well. And in general, it’s going to be a busy weekend in Boston (see above), so be prepared for busy commutes (may we suggest you bring a book to pass the time?).
Love the BBF? Help keep it free to all. If you love the BBF and want to help us grow sustainably, 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. Even better, you can donate to the BBF without putting down your phone: just text BOOK to 617-300-0877 for a super-easy mobile donations link. Thank you for your support as we embark on our second decade!
Most importantly? Have fun! We hope you enjoy this free celebration of books and literary culture and that you’re as excited as we are to spend the weekend with countless other book lovers. Tag us on Twitter and Instagram and use the hashtag #BBF2019—we can’t wait to see how you spend your day!
There might be a zillion summer reading lists out there, but there’s only one brought to you by Team BBF! We spend all day, every day surrounded by books (more so every day, as copies of books by BBF 2019 authors start rolling in), so you’d better believe our staff’s TBR pile is never depleted. Whether your upcoming travels take you to the mountains, the beach, or just the local park or pool, we’ve compiled some of our favorite reading recommendations to round out your summer adventures—happy summer, and happy reading!
Norah Piehl, Executive Director
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a gift that keeps on giving, especially lately, as several recent novels have transformed and updated Austen’s classic as a way to comment on present-day issues of race, class, and religion. Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin, sets the classic romance in Toronto’s Muslim community, offering a thoroughly twenty-first century take on the novel of manners.
I’ve long admired Taffy Brodesser-Akner‘s journalistic profiles of people like Gwyneth Paltrow and Justin Bieber, so I was excited to read her debut novel, Fleishman Is in Trouble. Suffice it to say that this funny, achingly wise novel does not disappoint–and if you start reading it and think you know what to expect, keep turning pages, because you almost certainly won’t anticipate Brodesser-Akner’s thoroughly surprising storytelling twists.
Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell‘s YA graphic novel Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me is a sympathetic portrait of a sensitive young woman who falls in love with the wrong girl–over and over again.
Finally, I haven’t read it yet, but I am eager to crack open my copy of Colson Whitehead‘s The Nickel Boys. I’ve been a huge fan of his work even before he was the BBF’s 2016 fiction keynote, and I can’t wait to read his latest, about growing up black in the segregated South.
Jennifer Jean, Community Engagement Manager
I’m reading a ton of poetry, notably:
Jennifer Martelli‘s My Tarantella is raw, intense, fantastic poetry about the perils of womanhood. Several poems revisit the murder of Kitty Genovese and Martelli’s Italian American childhood in Revere, Massachusetts.
The English translation of Dunya Mikhail‘s Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea, by Elizabeth Winslow and Dunya Mikhail–is amazing! Mikhail’s genre-bending, long prose-poem explores her experiences in and around war in Iraq.
As for fiction:
Folks should be reading Emily Pease‘s short story collection Let Me Out Here, which was the 2018 winner of the C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize. Pease’s writing is darkly funny and proves she is a razor-sharp observer of human foibles.
A must-read, totally absorbing novella is Olivia Cerrone‘s excellent The Hunger Saint, which is historical fiction about post–WWII Italian miners.
Katelynn Jasper, Lit Crawl Intern
Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls–A lonely housewife, a monster on the loose, and avocados…lots of avocados come together to create the perfect recipe for a great summer read. If you like dry, cynical humor and meaningful connections that remind us it’s what within us that counts then this book is for you! Bonus: Rachel Ingalls was a local author!
Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman–Put down that romance novel for a moment and pick up this one. Goldman gives the reader a rare glimpse into his beautiful life of grief, true love, secrets, laughter, family drama, and his wife Aura that will leave you holding your loved ones even closer. This moving and poetic book will have you saying its name to everyone once you are done.
Otherwood by Pete Hautman–Hautman masterfully weaves a tale of time travel, friendship, change, and accepting other’s differences as beautiful things. This is definitely one of my favorite coming-of-age novels and I flew through it quickly thanks to such a captivating plot and characters. I know that that both kids and adults will enjoy reading it, especially together!
Ximena Delgado, BBF 2019 Intern
One Hundred Years of Solitude/Cien Años de Soledad by Gabriel García Márquez (originally written in Spanish): I’ve had this book on my reading list for a while now. Last month I finally went out and got it and I am so excited to start reading it. Not only is Gabriel García Márquez an important figure of Latin American literature, he is also the type of writer I aspire to be. I have previously read some of his short stories and his writing has never disappointed me. This novel is a multi-generational story that follows the Buendia family in the town of Macondo. One Hundred Years of Solitude helped originate the magical realism genre and won García Márquez the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong: Released on June 4th, 2019! With the release of his first novel, poet Ocean Vuong brings his beautiful writing to life. I first began reading Vuong after a friend’s recommendation and now I am extremely excited to see how he will encompass a full storyline with his words. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous unravels the history and secrets of a family through the use of letters. I cannot wait to start reading and see how this novel turns out.
Kyle Labe, BBF 2019 Intern
If you’re as much a geek for Greek mythology as I am, then Madeline Miller‘s latest novel is more than a treat. A modern epic in every sense of the word, Circe is a moving rumination on family, history, and womanhood, and lives up to the hype created by Miller’s brilliant debut, The Song of Achilles. It’s peculiar that, since this story follows the timeline of Homer’s Odyssey, we know everything that will happen in the book, but somehow this novel can’t be put down once opened.
When the star daughter of the Lee family’s body is found at the bottom of a lake, the entire family crumbles apart. Celeste Ng‘s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, is both a portrait of the modern American family experience and an intriguing analysis of race, gender, and immigration, all the while remaining an intensely fascinating read. I hope to get around to Ng’s latest novel, Little Fires Everywhere, soon, but this is a great book for a road trip, beach day, or stay-cation.
Megan Michaud, BBF 2019 Intern
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
I have heard so many great things about this book over the years, and even more since Amazon released their show for it (which I refuse to watch until I’ve read the book!). A combination of angels, demons, and a misplaced Antichrist all coming together for the end of the world? What could be better?
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
I absolutely adore Sarah J. Maas! Kingdom of Ash, the conclusion to the Throne of Glass series, was released last fall and I’ve been dying to read it. If you love young adult fantasy that is filled with assassins, magic, and lots of twists and turns, I highly recommend it.
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
If you, like me, have been mourning the loss of Game of Thrones, it’s time to read the series that started it all. Even if you haven’t seen the show on HBO (which is probably better), the books are intricately detailed and beautifully written. It’s the perfect fantasy read for those who like political intrigue, swordfights, and magic. Best part is that since the books are still being (slowly) finished, there will be plenty more to come!
2018’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 a primer on self-publishing, a workshop on telling politically relevant personal stories, a celebration of feminist romance, and a roundtable discussion on writing and publishing while queer. We love hearing your ideas for sessions and working with you to develop successful BBF presentations and workshops. Click here for a sample of last year’s selected “Queering the Canon” proposal (whose session participants are pictured above, toasting their success at the BBF afterparty).
We’re now accepting proposals for 2019 BBF Unbound sessions, to be presented at the Boston Book Festival on October 19 (in Copley Square) and October 20 (in Dudley Square/Roxbury).
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. We are especially interested in program proposals from organizations and individuals based in Roxbury, as well as by curators who represent communities historically underrepresented in publishing and literary programming.
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 via your networks as well. Presenters who come to us via BBF Unbound receive all the same benefits as any invited presenters: a presenter badge that guarantees priority seating at sessions, a headshot and bio on the BBF website, and invitations to the kickoff cocktail reception and afterparty.
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, which this year is expanding to reach two schools–one serving grades K–8 and one serving grades 9–12. We know that many area schools lack the resources to fully stock their school libraries with contemporary, high-quality books. We want to help expand the library book collections at two local schools, and then we will work with the Wondermore organization to coordinate a children’s or YA 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, Boys Town Press, Capstone Publishing, and Random House Children’s Books donated books to the King K-8 School in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. The BBF and Wondermore also coordinated a school visit by award-winning author Meg Medina.
In 2019, Shelf Help will partner with not one but two school libraries! We will choose one K–8 school library and one 9–12 school library, providing a donation of new books near the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. We will be collecting donations at the eleventh annual Boston Book Festival on October 19-20.
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 31, 2019.
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 19 (in Copley) or October 20 (in Roxbury) 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!
Our trucks have rolled into Copley Square, we found Paddington Bear at Back Bay Station, and the tenth annual BBF will kick off all over Boston this Saturday, October 13. We hope you’re as excited as we are: read on for some essential tips to help you make the most of your day at the BBF!
No ticket? No problem! It’s true that our two ticketed events–the 10/12 kickoff keynote with Michael Pollan and the 10/13 “On Leadership” session–are completely sold out. We are not maintaining a waiting list for either event, but the good news is that if you didn’t purchase tickets in time, we have more than 100 other events that are absolutely free and don’t require tickets or registration. Admission and seating at all these 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.
We’re not just in Copley anymore! After a successful pilot in East Boston last year, we’re expanding our neighborhood festivals program to include both East Boston and Roxbury. Offering unique presentations, performances, and workshops in each location and featuring an exciting mix of nationally known and locally grown literary talent, these all-day events mean that no matter where you live or work in Boston, on 10/13 there’s a BBF near you!
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 (especially since the Red Sox will also be kicking off the ALCS at Fenway on Saturday evening!).
Arrive early and dance with us. BBF 2018 presenter and Daybreaker founder Radha Agrawal will help us kick off the BBF with a morning dance party outside in Copley Square. Chameleon Cold-Brew will be there to get all those early birds energized and ready for Boston’s biggest book party!
And stay late and raise a glass with us. This year our perennially popular capstone event Poems & Pints, produced with Mass Poetry, is at a new and bigger venue–furniture store Room & Board! In addition to readings by five amazing poets, there will be live music by novelist and songwriter Robin MacArthur, plus seasonal beers and pretzels! You better believe that this is where you’ll find us at the end of the BBF day–save us a seat where we can put our feet up!
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 tenth-anniversary one at our merch booth!) to stock up on new finds (not to mention goodies from our 75+ exhibitors on Copley Square!). Our merch booth will also offer beautiful keepsake books commemorating our tenth anniversary and featuring essays by authors like Tom Perrotta, Stephanie Burt, and Nic Stone, brand-new BBF journals, and tenth-anniversary posters–plus BBF umbrellas, just in case! We are a rain-or-shine event, after all!
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 as we head into our second decade!
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 #BBF2018—we can’t wait to see how you spend your day!
The Boston Book Festival is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2018, and we’re doing something big. For the first time ever, we’re bringing all the lively readings, discussions and festivities to two cultural centers of the city, East Boston and Roxbury!
The Neighborhood Festivals will be on the same day as the Copley Festival, Saturday, October 13, and some of the most nationally celebrated writers will be heading directly to you, including Oprah Book Club favorite Tayari Jones and New York Times bestseller Daniel Jose Older!
We’ll also feature local icons, such as ESPN sports writer Howard Bryant, Black Arts Movement leader Askia Toure, popular poet Simone John – and even music by Boston’s first-ever all female mariachi band!
We talked with BBF’s founder and executive director, Deborah Porter, and deputy director Norah Piehl to learn more about this new initiative and to a sneak peek from them on what’s to come.
How did you come up with the idea to start the Neighborhood Festivals?
DP: I have been frustrated for years at the relative lack of diversity among attendees at the BBF, despite a fair number of diverse voices presenting year after year. I finally realized that for the BBF to reach a broader audience, we should forge partnerships in other neighborhoods with the goal of bringing great programming to more people.
Why did you choose East Boston and Roxbury?
NP: In part, at least for last year’s pilot in East Boston, the decision was a practical one—we were looking for a Boston Public Library branch that was open on Saturday, that had enough space to host programming, that had a library staff who were excited about working with us, and that had the technological capacity to do things like project live-streamed programming.
But more broadly than that, we were looking to reach neighborhoods that have historically had relatively low attendance at the BBF in Copley, which is definitely true of both of these neighborhoods. We thought that in both cases, residents of these neighborhoods might benefit from having a fun, book-centered event take place right around the corner, rather than having to travel to Copley on a busy Saturday, especially for families where one or both parents might work on weekends.
What do you hope to achieve with this new initiative?
NP: We hope that the curated programming in each neighborhood allows attendees to see themselves and their neighbors reflected not only as part of a community of readers, but also to see authors, illustrators, and other brilliant, creative people—many of them creators of color—featured and celebrated in this way. And we hope that these two neighborhood festivals are just the beginning of what might become a true citywide celebration of books and reading!
Have you been surprised by the reception?
NP: I’ve been really gratified by the response to the programs, both in East Boston and in Roxbury. In Roxbury, in particular, because the Dudley Square BPL branch is currently closed for renovations, we’ve needed to establish other types of partnerships, and I think we’ve all been really excited by how many groups and individuals have wanted to get involved in shaping the program, spreading the word about the festival to their networks, and, in general, just helping the festival succeed as a real neighborhood-based event.
Where do you see this going in the future?
DP: I see the neighborhood festivals as being an eagerly anticipated event in the community, just as the main BBF is at Copley.
Any not-to-be missed sessions?
NP: In East Boston, besides all the great book-related programs, I’m really excited about the performance by Veronica Robles and her all-women mariachi band. One of our goals of festival day is to create a truly festive atmosphere, to make this day that’s centered on books and reading also feel like a celebration or a party. Having a wonderful musical performance by Veronica’s group will certainly achieve that goal! In Roxbury, I’m personally excited about the conversation between playwright and performer Liza Jessie Peterson and Black Arts movement pioneer Askia Touré, about the intersections between artistic production and social activism. It’s going to be a really vibrant discussion led by David Dower of ArtsEmerson, a long-time partner of ours who have really positioned themselves as leaders when it comes to producing theatrical work that also serves a social purpose.
DP: All the sessions are not-to-be missed! Some of our most amazing authors from the main stage in Copley are appearing at the neighborhood festivals, as well as outstanding local talent. It should be a fun day all around!
The BBF schedule released earlier this week, and if you’re having a hard time narrowing down your choices from the 100+ separate events taking place in Copley Square on October 13, we’re here to help! We asked the BBF team which sessions they’re most excited about this year, and here’s what they said!
Deborah Z Porter:
Well, this is a little like being forced to say which is your favorite child, but I am very excited about the kickoff keynote with Michael Pollan, because he’s just great. On Leadership brings together three such amazing people who know each other well, and I am eager to hear the insights they’ve gleaned from being in power and studying leaders. And, I am looking forward to Not Just a Game. While I am not a big sports fan, I am very interested in how athletes are showing leadership around social justice issues. Can I cheat and add one more? Authoritarianism–what a great lineup and important topic.
Norah Piehl: In reality, most of us spend festival day dashing from one place to another, but every year I like to choose one venue where I imagine spending the whole day if I could! This year it’s a new venue for us–Cascieri Hall at the Boston Architectural College–which is featuring three sessions on topics of special interest to me. Graphic novelist Jason Lutes is starting the day with a presentation of his landmark historical graphic novel Berlin, decades in the making (and let’s just say, even if it’s historical, it’s pretty darn relevant now). He’ll be followed by Ryan North, writer of many smart and hilarious things (including my personal favorite, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl), who will be here to talk about his new book How to Invent Everything. And after that is what promises to be a fascinating session on Urbanism, including the issue of walkability, which is a passion of mine. Someone save me a seat in this venue, because if I have a chance, I’ll be swinging through!
Owen Elphick: I am particularly excited by Rage Against the Screen: Gathering IRL and BBF Unbound: Twitter Ate My Brain, because I am absolutely fascinated with the way human interaction and our ability to connect with one another has been affected by social media and the Internet, and the effect this technology has on our behavior, how it affects us at a neurological level. I am specifically curious about what this means for the future of books, and the role they serve as (for the most part) one of the only major forms of media we do not consume from our phone or other screens. Bullets into Bells: Poetry and Music also has me very interested, as I have been asking myself a good deal lately how I, in my own art, can and should respond to tragedy, particularly the violent tragedy that is all too common in this country. The Martín Espada poem for which the session is named was a balm for me in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, which happened in my home state of Connecticut and deeply affected me; and I would love to see how this poem, and the art and writing of others, is being brought to the Boston Book Festival to speak to today’s situation, and to show the way forward.
Katie Montgomery: I can’t wait for the Youth Activism event at the BBF. Thankfully, I won’t have to wait much longer as the festival is only 2 weeks away! America’s youth are no longer waiting until they are allowed to vote to make a difference. The younger generations have made their voices be heard just as these panelists will on October 13. This powerhouse panel includes Jenn Abelson, Eric David Dawson, Melissa Falkowski, Amanda Matos, Alexandra Styron, and DiDi Delgado all discussing important social issues, like sexual assault, gun violence, and inequality. Each panelist is actively engaged in making social change in America and creating a better, safer, more inclusive, and peaceful future. These influential panelists will be discussing how to take steps to turn anger into action, transform the norms, and speak against injustices. Though titled “Youth Activism,” this panel is for everyone ready to make changes in our society. Be there. Listen. Be heard.
It’s back to school season, and this year, we’re pleased to help make school time (even) more fun and rewarding for the students at the Martin Luther King, Jr. K-8 School in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. Following a competitive application process, the Boston Book Festival, along with participating publishers, is donating brand-new books to the King K-8 library as part of this year’s Shelf Help partnership. We’re also teaming up with Wondermore to bring award-winning author Meg Medina to the King for a school visit the day before her public BBF appearance on October 13.
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 stock the shelves at the King’s library. Focusing primarily on a diverse collection of award-winning books, the King’s online wish list will make hundreds of young readers very happy.
Here are some ways you can get involved:
Peruse the King’s wish list online and donate a book directly to the school library (click the blue “Donate Now” button and then choose “Donate books.”
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 2018 on October 13 and donate on-site!
Spread the word about the King School’s library and Shelf Help by sharing this post on social media, using the hashtag #ShelfHelp and tagging @bostonbookfest and @MLKK8School!
Thanks so much for your help–together we’re bringing the love of reading to a new generation of Boston kids!
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!