Going to the Southern Festival of Books? Here’s Your Guide

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Mary Grey James, Parnassus Books Manager of Books for Young Readers, rocks her “Authors Are My Rock Stars” shirt at last year’s Southern Festival of Books. (image via Carin Siegfried – http://blog.cseditorial.com/)

It’s HERE! The book-lovers’ Lollapalooza, the readers’ Bonnaroo, the writers’ Coachella . . . This weekend marks the 26th annual Southern Festival of Books, the extravaganza celebrating the written word, put on in Nashville by Humanities Tennessee. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 10-12, will be packed with visiting authors, thrilling speakers, autograph opportunities, writerly wisdom, and books, books, books. The quality and diversity of sessions makes this festival stand out. You’ll kick yourself if you miss it, so let us help you break it down and make a game plan.

Are you ready?


<– First: Before you do anything else, download the Southern Festival of Books App. You’ll want to have it handy all weekend.

NextPut your party pants on and be prepared for a big, fun event. Fortunately, it’s a crowd of book nerds, so it’s all quite civil. The Legislative Plaza sits in a beautiful area of downtown Nashville. The map is on the app, but you can also click here for a map and parking info.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 2.35.08 PMDon’t forget to fuel up: There are countless wonderful restaurants nearby, but you don’t even have to leave the Festival to get a good bite. Some of Nashville’s most famous food trucks will also be on site, including Bare Naked Bagel, Deg Thai, Yayo’s OMG, Slow and Low BBQ, Crankee’s Pizza, Jeni’s Ice Cream, and Bolton’s.

Make a plan of attack. Using the app, you can create a personalized schedule of favorite discussions and authors. What’s your thing: Music? Mystery? Memoir? Every author will be autographing books after his or her presentation, on the Author Signing Colonnade. Don’t miss bestselling and critically acclaimed novelists, including:

Did you dig our First Editions Club pick, Station Eleven? Meet Emily St. John Mandel on Saturday at 12 noon.

James Ellroy (Perfidia)
Amy Greene (Long Man)
Laird Hunt (Neverhome)
Cristina Henriquez (The Book of Unknown Americans)
Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven)
Rebecca Makkai (The Hundred-Year House)
Sharyn McCrumb (Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past: A Ballad Novella)
Antonya Nelson (Funny Once: Stories)
Maggie Shipstead (Astonish Me)
Lauren Oliver (Rooms: A Novel)

Meet the authors of fabulous nonfiction, including:
Richard Blanco (The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood)
Rick Bragg (Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story)
Maureen Corrigan (So We Read on: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures)
Pat Conroy (Death of Santini)
Charles M. Blow (Fire Shut Up in My Bones)
James Clyburn (Blessed Experiences – Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black)
Frances Mayes (Under Magnolia: A Memoir)
James McPherson (Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief)
Scott Stossel (My Age of Anxiety)

And support local authors, including Tony Earley, Ariel Lawhon, J.T. Ellison, Tracy Barrett, Julie Danielson, Andrew MaranissCourtney Stevens — and more!

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Love a suspenseful tale of technology gone awry? Join authors Lauren Miller and Kristen Lippert-Martin for Hacker Heroes: Sci-Fi Novels, Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Not sure what you want to see? Come wander and play it by ear. Enjoy free music and dramatic performances for all ages on three stages, and browse the booths of more than 60 exhibitors from around the region, including the big book tent hosted by us, Parnassus Books! Our staff will be on hand all weekend, so you can purchase books by all the authors you meet. A few more highlights:

• Got kids? Saturday’s a great day to see children’s authors. Check out the  awesome lineup, including authors who write for toddlers up through teens, plus activities such as a Where’s Waldo scavenger hunt and a Pete the Cat party.

• NEW: This year, Literary Death Match comes to Nashville for the first time! This contest of four writers and three judges takes place in cities around the country all year and will happen Saturday, Oct. 11 at Third Man Records as part of a partnership with Third Man, Humanities Tennessee, and The Porch Writers’ Collective. You do need tickets for this one — purchase here. 

Check out the events devoted to veterans, their families, and the homecoming experience. A special partnership with the Robert Penn Warren Center at Vanderbilt,”Standing Together in Tennessee: Humanities and the Experience of War,” kicks off at the Nashville Public Library on Friday at 12 noon.

Get caffeinated and entertained at the same time: Saturday morning at 9 a.m., it’s the The Women’s National Book Association’s signature annual event, Coffee with Authors at the Nashville Public Library. Authors Nadia Hashimi, Lily King, Ann Weisgarber, and Gabrielle Zevin will answer reader questions and participate in a lively discussion moderated by our own Mary Laura Philpott. It’s free and open to anyone, but because seating is limited, you’ll need to register by emailing lfairbend@comcast.net.

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Parnassus Books co-owner Karen Hayes and inventory manager Tristan Charles under the big book tent at the 2013 festival with writer Andrew Aydin (left) and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (center), co-authors of The March.

THANK YOU to the community of book-lovers, companies, and supportive individuals who make this event possible. In the words of Serenity Gerbman, director of literature and language programs for Humanities Tennessee, the longevity and growth of the Festival represents “a real testament to the devotion of this community, not just to the Festival but to books and culture generally.” See you on the Plaza!

PS: Don’t forget to download the app!

For more great coverage: Check out The Nashville Scene’s day-by-day, hour-by-hour preview!