Following two years of virtual programming, the 14th annual Boston Book Festival will be returning with a dynamic schedule of in-person events, free and open to the public, on Oct. 28 and 29. The festival will bring nearly 200 authors to Copley Square to discuss topics ranging from the immigrant experience to the impact of the pandemic.
BBF deputy director Jessica A. Kent said that readers have been itching for the excitement of a comeback and seeing their favorite authors up close.
“In the past, we’ve had a couple hundred authors, dozens of sessions, dozens of exhibitors in Copley Square. And that hasn’t happened in the past two years,” Kent said. “We’re bringing that back this year. It’s odd to say that what’s new is that we’re returning to what we’ve done.”
Kent said she’s looking forward to attendees connecting in person again, sharing book recommendations, and meeting authors. “It’s great to see authors on Zoom, but I think there’s something special about meeting an author in person, handing them your well-loved copy of a book and having them sign it.”
To help you get the most out of this year’s BBF, we’ve put together a guide on what to know ahead of the event.
Ahead, you’ll find notable events to attend, local writers and illustrators to discover, and nearby cafes to duck into when you need a break.
Sessions to attend at the Boston Book Festival
This year’s festival boasts dozens of sessions and workshops with a kickoff keynote event on Friday, Oct. 28, and a full day of programming on Saturday, Oct. 29. We selected seven notable events to join including an oral history of the pandemic, a children’s storytime, a boozy poetry reading, and more. Find the full schedule of events here.
“Unheard Voices of the Pandemic,” an essay collection edited by Dao X. Tran, tells the personal narratives of how people got through the early days of the pandemic. In this session, you will experience those stories through written and oral storytelling. This discussion will be moderated by the Boston Globe’s Living Arts editor Veronica Chao.
Saturday, Oct. 29 at 10:45 a.m.; Boston Public Library Guastavino Room, 700 Boylston St.
For those with young children, you’ll love this storytime with Ekua Holmes, a Boston-based illustrator who will read from her latest book, “Hope Is an Arrow.” The story is a lyrical biography of Khalil Gibran, the world’s third best-selling poet of all time, following his immigration journey and his wish to bring people together, in spite of their differences. Holmes has illustrated a number of children’s books, including “Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement” by Carole Boston Weatherford, and “Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets” by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth. She also runs The Roxbury Sunflower Project, a community-wide initiative dedicated to planting sunflowers in uncared for public lots or private gardens in Roxbury.
Saturday, Oct. 29 at 10:45 a.m. at BPL Children’s Library, 700 Boylston St.
Each of the writers featured on this panel has strong ties to Greater Boston. Rita Zoey Chin, who has taught writing at the local writing center, GrubStreet, will read from her debut novel “The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern.” Cambridge-based writer Donna Gordon is the author of “What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me.” Chandreyee Lahiri will read “Dumba Chora,” the 2021 BBF One City One Story winner. Her story is about a newly-married couple who share their past while stranded on a boat.
Saturday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m.; BPL Newsfeed Cafe, 700 Boylston St.
Every writer on this panel has a story to tell about identity and belonging. The conversation will be led by Wahajat Ali, author of “Go Back to Where You Came From and Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American.” He’ll be joined by David Ambroz, author of a memoir about growing up homeless, Rabia Chaudry of “Serial” fame whose recent book focuses on her childhood growing up a fat child of Muslim immigrants, and local journalist Dart Adams.
Saturday, Oct. 29 at 3 p.m.; Old South Church, 645 Boylston St.
Lovers of young adult fiction will enjoy this discussion with YA writer Malinda Lo, whose new novel “A Scatter of Light,” illustrates the genre at its best. Her novel is a coming-of-age story focused on love, art, and queer identity. She’ll be joined by the award-winning author of “Somebody’s Daughter,” Marie Myung-Ok Lee.
Saturday, Oct. 29 at 4:45 p.m.; Church of the Covenant, 67 Newbury St.
Join authors Yiyun Li and Gish Jen as they discuss the art of fiction writing with moderator Claire Messud. Li is an award-winning author whose latest novel “The Book of Goose,” has been met with great critical acclaim and has been described as a “haunting fable of friendship.” Jen is the prolific writer of five novels, several nonfiction works, and short stories. Her most recent short story collection, “Thank You, Mr. Nixon,” was featured as one of Boston.com’s Book Club picks earlier this year.
Saturday, Oct. 29 at 4 p.m.; BPL Rabb Hall, 700 Boylston St.
Cap off your day with a poetry reading over a pint of beer. Join this group of prolific poets — Margot Douaihy, Ross Gay, Mikko Harvey, and City of Boston’s poet laureate Porsha Olayiwola — as they share their work in the comfort of Newbury Street’s Room & Board. This session will be hosted by Mass Poetry program director Danielle Jones. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m.; Room & Board, 375 Newbury St.
Local authors and illustrators to discover at the Boston Book Festival
These authors and artists participating in the Boston Book Festival this year are all New England based. Look out for their titles in local bookshops and find them at the Festival.
A writer and professor at Emerson College, Jabari Asim‘s latest novel “Yonder” navigates love and friendship among a group of enslaved Black strivers in the mid-nineteenth century. Earlier this year, Boston.com’s Book Club read “Yonder” and the author discussed his writing process. “My aspiration has always been to write literary fiction that moves,” Asim told Boston.com. Asim has written over 18 books that include “We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival,” a collection of essays that capture stories of Black persistence and resilience in the face of centuries of racism, and “Stop and Frisk,” his first book of poetry released in 2020. He has been called “perhaps the most influential African-American literary critic of his generation” by The Washington Post.
“Fiction: Secrets, Shapeshifting, and Time”; Saturday, Oct. 29 at 3:45 p.m.; Old South Church, 645 Boylston St.
A young adult and fantasy writer of the bestselling “Graceling Realm” series, Kristin Cashore will be speaking at “Power to Make You: Power to Break You,” a discussion about wielding forbidden magic. The “Graceling Realm” series immerses readers in a world where people have special powers, monsters emerge, and the theme of good and evil is explored. “Seasparrow,” the fifth installment set to be released Nov. 1, will be told from the point of view of Queen Bitterblue’ sister and spy, a character who rules a kingdom under the spell of a madman. When she isn’t writing, Cashore makes art, including the collage art on her website.
“Power to Make You: Power to Break You”; Saturday, Oct. 29 at 3:15 p.m.; Church of the Covenant, 67 Newbury St.
Rhode Island’s Tina Lugo is the illustrator of “The Changeling, Volume 1,” a comic that explores the journey of a young Lycan (half human, half wolf) warrior, “attempting to outrun a destiny.” She will be speaking at “Comics: Transformation and Triumph: A Dark Night of the Soul,” along with Corinne Halbert,” creator of “Acid Nun.” As the author of a graphic novel, Lugo has created a fantastical world that can “help us explore our own complexities.” Lugo is also a tattoo artist, whose work is heavily influenced by 1980s and 90s animation.
“Comics: Transformation and Triumph: A Dark Night of the Soul”; Saturday, Oct. 29 at 11:00 a.m.; Boston Architectural College, 320 Newbury St.
While Ben Mezrich is best known for his “cinematic and unique” nonfiction writing, his latest novel is a fictional thriller. “The Midnight Ride” originated as a story called “The Mechanic,” which appeared as a series in The Boston Globe during the peak of COVID lockdown. Exploring a hidden connection between the Gardner Museum Heist and “the most fascinating secret in American history,” the novel is an exhilarating read. Mezrich also wrote “The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal,” which was adapted into the movie “The Social Network.”
“Mystery: Shades of Truth”; Saturday, Oct. 29 at 12:30 p.m.; Old South Church, 645 Boylston St.
Bessel van der Kolk
A psychiatrist, author, researcher, and educator, Bessel van der Kolk has focused much of his professional time on studying how children and adults adapt to traumatic experiences. In 2014, he penned “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.” The book shows how the brain and body are reshaped by the experience of terror and isolation at the core of trauma. Van der Kolk is the co-founder and board chair of the Trauma Research Foundation, a non-profit founded in 2018. Find him delivering the nonfiction keynote at the Festival. Also at this session will be Jessica Stern, author of “Denial: A Memoir of Terror.” The two will discuss their work and the collective trauma of the last two years.
Nonfiction Keynote; Saturday, Oct. 29 at 4:45 p.m.; Old South Church, 645 Boylston St.
Coffee shops around Copley Square
Duck into one of these cafes when you need a latte break and a pastry.
Thinking Cup is a cozy and intimate place that Boston.com readers have recommended as a top spot in the city. The local chain serves Stumptown coffee, tea, freshly baked pastries, and several options from their breakfast and lunch menus. Go for the hazelnut latte, honey cinnamon latte, or a cup of blue flower Earl Grey. To eat, order breakfast items like smoked salmon on a bagel or choose from a variety of sandwiches, such as the classic turkey and the “jittery hen.” Settle down with your drink of choice, and contemplate your next novel.
85 Newbury St.
Trident Booksellers & Cafe
Browse through works of fiction and poetry at Trident Booksellers, then take your next read to a nearby table for some comfort food at this independent book shop’s cafe. Trident has an extensive menu, with items ranging from tacos and burgers to bowls and salads. At this relaxed spot, you can settle down with a cappuccino or an Anna’s Snickerdoodle Latte, a drink contest winner voted on by the public.
338 Newbury St.
Craft coffee and homemade bagels are popular orders at this cafe with locations across the city. Pavement works with family-owned farms and regional co-ops around the world to serve up delicious drinks, from the cortado to the cinnamon fig latte. You can choose from a variety of bagel sandwiches or build your own, picking from spreads such as the garlic and chive cream cheese or the sun dried tomato pesto. Blueberry muffins and croissants are also popular orders.
286 Newbury St.
At the Boston Public Library on Boylston Street, the Newsfeed Cafe is abuzz with activity. The hub, which also includes a satellite studio for GBH, serves food items like quiche, herbed chicken salad sandwiches, and a selection of sweets. To drink, order a chai latte, matcha latte, or the housemade lemonade.
700 Boylston St., Boston
The Bittersweet Shoppe on Newbury
Tucked away on Newbury Street is The Bittersweet Shoppe, an old fashioned soda fountain and gourmet cafe. The charming neighborhood spot offers coffee in flavors such as chocolate raspberry and toffee caramel, milkshakes, and old-fashioned floats. Sandwiches and a host of grilled cheese options are also available, though customers may find it difficult to resist a Belgium waffle on a stick from their Fun Foods menu.
257 Newbury St., Boston