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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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!
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 http://www.iffboston.org.
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.
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!
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, and please specify any restrictions. Candidates who are invited to interview will be asked to provide a writing sample. Applications are due February 15th.
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.
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.
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