10 Must-Sees, And Many More Must-Reads, At This Year's Boston Book Festival

Regie Gibson (Courtesy Boston Book Festival)
Regie Gibson (Courtesy Boston Book Festival)

The eighth annual Boston Book Festival (BBF) has taken to heart the adage of thinking outside the box. This year’s programming features significant exploration of the outsider perspective, and of life lived outside of convention. Officially themed “Life on the Margins,” the conversation spans the genres represented at the festival, trumpeting the BBF’s belief in words and ideas to enhance “the vibrancy of our city.”

The festival will be held on Saturday, Oct. 15, in Copley Square with a kickoff session Friday night. In addition to over 200 presenters from every literary field and genre, there will be live music, food trucks, kids’ activities, walking tours and a marketplace. (Full disclosure: WBUR is a presenting partner of the fest.)

Here are 10 recommendations of what not to miss, ordered chronologically:

Storytelling for Page and Screen: Emma Donoghue, Maria Semple and Tom Perrotta” | Old South Church, Sanctuary | Oct. 14, 8-9 p.m.

The kickoff BBF event held Friday evening looks at the process of storytelling from two different perspectives: page and screen. WBUR’s Robin Young will host Tom Perrotta (“The Leftovers”), Maria Semple (“Where’d You Go, Bernadette”) and Emma Donoghue (“Room”) as they discuss their work and what they have experienced in each medium.

Pagan Kennedy (Courtesy Asia Kepka)
Pagan Kennedy (Courtesy of Asia Kepka)

Writer Idol” | Old South Church, Mary Norton Hall | Oct. 15, 10-11:30 a.m.

Step 1: Take your manuscript out of the bottom drawer. Step 2: Bring it to “Writer Idol” to be critiqued by a panel of three literary agents. Step 3: Don’t freak out about the live audience.

Author Christopher Castellani will anonymously perform the first 250 words of submitted manuscripts as Sorche Fairbank, Katherine Flynn and Amaryah Orenstein give honest, real-time feedback. Participants take note: thick skin required. See entry directions here.

Being Creative” | Trinity Church Forum | 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

What do drug runners, Amish entrepreneurs and computer hackers have in common? According to Alexa Clay, coauthor of The Misfit Economy,” it’s creativity. Clay joins “Inventology” author Pagan Kennedy to discuss creativity, innovation and why some people are simply better at this than others.

Super Women” | Church of the Covenant | 12:30-1:30 p.m.

In what’s sure to be an insightful, searing and laugh-inducing commentary on life as a woman in 2016, authors Lindy West, Luvvie Ajayi and Moira Weigel come together to talk internet trolls, sexism and comparing dating to an unpaid internship. They will be joined by WBUR’s Radio Boston host Meghna Chakrabarti. Capes are optional.

Fiction Keynote: Colson Whitehead Talks with Saeed Jones” | Emmanuel Church Sanctuary | 12:45-1:45 p.m.

In his newest novel “The Underground Railroad,” New York Times bestselling author Colson Whitehead takes the metaphor for freedom and reimagines it as a literal railroad. Joined by Saeed Jones, poet and executive editor for culture at BuzzFeed, Whitehead will discuss the unique blend of fiction with the cold history of slavery that has earned his novel near-universal praise.

Colson Whitehead, author of "The Underground Railroad." (Courtesy of Madeline Whitehead)
Colson Whitehead, author of "The Underground Railroad." (Courtesy of Madeline Whitehead)

The American Dream — A Dream Turned German: Immigration, Integration and Citizenship in Germany” | Goethe-Institut Boston | 1-2 p.m.

Is it still the American Dream if the tired, poor and huddled masses run not to America, but to Germany?

On the heels of a refugee crisis that has made Germany a central player, prize-winning author and essayist Jagoda Marinić will talk with WBUR’s Shannon Dooling about integration as it relates to Germany, Europe and the globe.

This panel is presented in partnership with the Goethe-Institut Boston.

Susan Faludi (Courtesy Boston Book Festival)
Susan Faludi (Courtesy of Boston Book Festival)

Memoir Keynote: Susan Faludi Talks with Christopher Lydon” | Church of the Covenant | 2:15-3:15 p.m.

In the festival’s memoir keynote presentation, Susan Faludi, author of “In the Darkroom,” will discuss her exploration of and reconciliation with her distant father, a Hungarian Jew who reached out after 25 years to inform Faludi of his sex-reassignment surgery. Faludi’s memoir dives into questions of culture, history and identity, and the complex intersection of all three represented by her father.

Page to Stage: Spoken Word” | Boston Public Library, New and Novel | 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Shakespeare meets slam poetry in an “epic poetic smackdown” delivered by veteran performance poets Regie Gibson and Marlon Carey. Battling as two of the Bard’s most villainous characters, audience applause will determine the victor. The session will also showcase the talented young slam and performance poets of Boston.

Politics: Is This Any Way to Elect a President?” | Church of the Covenant | 3:45-4:45 p.m.

“What a delightful and even-tempered campaign season it’s been,” said no one living in the U.S. this year. The marathon race for the White House has made for great TV (i.e. Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon on SNL), but uneasy politics. Anthony Brooks, senior political reporter at WBUR, moderates a panel on where we are and how we got here. Audience participation is highly encouraged — as is voting in November.

Panelists will be Ellen Fitzpatrick (“The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency”); Joy-Ann Reid (“Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide”); Alexander Keyssar (the forthcoming “Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?”); and McKay Coppins (“The Wilderness: Deep Inside the Republican Party’s Combative, Contentious, Chaotic Quest to Take Back the White House”).

Aaron Mahnke (Courtesy Boston Book Festival)
Aaron Mahnke (Courtesy of Boston Book Festival)

Lore” | Storyville | 6-7 p.m.

Gather around the metaphoric campfire to be thrilled, if not outright scared, by history’s dark side. Aaron Mahnke, author of the critically acclaimed and award-winning podcast "Lore," will present three true-life scary stories that explore “the creature, people and places of our wildest nightmares.”

This is a ticketed event. Tickets cost $20 and guarantee entry, not seating. (Update: The event is now sold out.)

For more information and a complete schedule, visit the BBF website


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Hannah Chanatry Producer, All Things Considered
Hannah Chanatry was a producer for WBUR's All Things Considered.



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