Did you spot Waldo?
Meet Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dennis Dunaway?
Listen to Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks read from her new novel?
Get a book signed by international bestseller Greg Iles?
Ask for extra spice on your Bolton’s hot chicken?
Browse the booths? Take in music or arts performances on outdoor stages?
Around the offices of Humanities Tennessee, we have a saying. “Make it your Festival.” Whether you enjoy hearing authors read, getting books signed, or browsing book booths and enjoying great food trucks and live performances, The Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word is your Festival.
This year, we celebrated the 27th annual Festival Oct. 9-11 with three days of amazing writers, rich conversation, arts, food and food for thought that reminded us here at Humanities Tennessee why it matters to set aside that three days each year in celebration of the written word. And we were lucky enough to welcome some of the best writers in the country to Nashville to help us do it.
We kicked off the weekend on Friday with a packed schedule, from first-time author and former “Meet the Press” host David Gregory to bestselling young adult novelist Nicola Yoon. We talked post-apocalyptic fiction with Claire Vaye Watkins (Gold, Fame, Citrus) and Benjamin Percy (The Dead Lands) and poetry with Robert Morgan, Charlotte Pence and more.
Our friend Alice Randall wrote a beautiful tribute to the Festival for Lithub, and took part as an author with her daughter and co-author of Soul Food Love, Caroline Randall Williams.
Friday night's Authors in the Round dinner was a resounding success. War Memorial Auditorium was beautifully decorated for our 43 authors and 400+ guests. A HUGE thank you to everyone involved in this year's dinner, including event co-chairs Grace Awh and Laura Smith Tidwell, founding and honorary chairs Todd Bottorff and Jean Bottorff, emcee Andrew Maraniss, and all of the volunteers who served on the dinner committee and helped create a truly wonderful event. And to all of our guests and donors--thank you for supporting Authors in the Round and the Southern Festival of Books!
Skies were blue on Saturday, and readers came by the thousands to hear authors like Kwame Alexander, Pat Conroy, Lauren Groff, Stephan Pastis, Wendell Pierce, Ron Rash, Jennifer E. Smith, and a hundred more. The Nashville Public Library provided the perfect setting for author readings and talks, and the Parnassus book sales tent sold the books of all Festival authors. Signing lines were long and spirits high, as this annual community of readers enjoyed Festival traditions.
C-SPAN's Book TV was on-site again this year. Click here to view sessions with Catherine Seltzer, Kristen Green, Jim Grimsley, Rick Bragg, Alan Lightman, Cecelia Tichi, and more.
We are proud to partner each year with the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University to present a themed track of sessions at the Festival. This year, “Understanding Islam” welcomed diverse authors from Tennessee and around the country for a series of sessions dedicated to providing understanding of Islamic culture. Among the authors were peace activist Karima Bennoune, presented with Family of Abraham, and memoirists Rahimeh Andalibian and Rafia Zakaria.
Saturday night the Literary Death Match took over War Memorial Auditorium, with author Harrison Scott Key taking the honors in a competition that also featured Tiana Clark, Alex Sheshunoff and Erica Wright.
We heard tales of authors out and about, enjoying Nashville’s restaurants and life on Lower Broad, but at noon on Sunday all were present and ready to talk books once again. The final day was filled with great books, great conversation, and great music and food. It was an honor to welcome legendary writer Paul Theroux with his new book Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads. "America’s Test Kitchen" star Bridget Lancaster shared Cook’s Country Eats Local, and the music stage welcomed back Tommy Womack and many more. Over on the kid’s stage, we celebrated Tacky the Penguin and Waldo, and the Artober celebration continued with performances by Nashville Ballet and Blue Moves Modern Dance Company.
It takes a year to produce the Festival, and a few hours to pack it all up on Sunday night. This year, as every year, we are profoundly grateful to the organizations, donors, volunteers and writers who made it all happen once again. We hope you made it your Festival, and we’ll do it again next year!