The Boston Book Festival takes place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Boston Public Library, Old South Church, Trinity Church, and outdoors in Copley Square. If you prefer television to books, you may be surprised that the festival also features leaders in groundbreaking television and documentary.
If you like to read, you’ll be excited to hear Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk and Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo speak at the Boston Book Festival on Oct. 24. And if you prefer television to books, you may be surprised that the festival also features leaders in groundbreaking television and documentary.
Beyond a celebration of books, the Boston Book Festival is an open house of creativity and ideas. The festival aims to push the boundaries of typical book festivals, bringing together 90 writers, scholars, public radio hosts, television producers, even a comedian and an actress, in two dozen forums at the Boston Public Library, Old South Church and Trinity Church. Outdoors, musicians perform on a covered stage and exhibitors set up on the plaza in Copley Square.
“You don’t even have to sit down inside to have a good time,” said Deborah Porter, founder and director of the festival. “But we hope you do. The festival should appeal to anyone who likes to be up on what’s current and appreciates the creativity of writers.”
Despite its rich literary heritage and culture, Boston has been without a book festival since 2003. The new Boston Book Festival also is filling a gap left with the loss this year of the annual Boston Globe Children’s Book Festival.
“Boston has been the only major city in the United States that doesn’t have a big public event to celebrate books,” Porter said. “We finally are joining their ranks, but we’re also doing something a little different.”
Typically, book festivals feature author readings and panel discussions. But Porter wanted to give authors more freedom, beyond responding to questions asked by a moderator.
“I went to a lot of book festival and technology conferences, and I saw that at the technology conferences, people give their own talks,” she said. “It was great to hear them talk about their inspirations and creative processes.”
With that in mind, this conference has a keynote address, given by Turkish writer Pamuk, whose new novel “The Museum of Innocence” is his first since winning the Nobel Prize in 2006.
Several forums explore how technology is changing the way we read and tell stories.
“Boston has traditionally been a hot bed of innovation around books and reading and knowledge,” said Porter, citing its place as home to the first public library, printing press, newspaper and electronic paper for e-readers.
In one forum, New York Times technology columnist David Pogue showcases new electronic readers. In another, Ben Mezrich, author “The Accidental Billionaire,” talks about the origins of Facebook, and Ethan Gilsdorf, author of “Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks,” discusses online gaming and live-action role-playing.
Most of the participants are widely recognized in their field. Novelist Russo, winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, discusses his new novel “That Old Cape Magic,” about two generations on Cape Cod. Andre Dubus III, author of “House of Sand and Fog” and the new “The Garden of Last Days,” talks about the mind of a terrorist. Ken Burns, producer of “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” discusses documentaries and Tim Kring, creator of “Heroes,” talks about innovative storytelling media. Former National Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky reads his poetry, accompanied by music from jazz musicians Rakalam Bob Moses and Andrew Urbina.
On the light side, John Hodgman, a “resident expert" on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” is interviewed by novelist Tom Perrotta. And actress Alicia Silverstone, voted the Sexiest Vegetarian in 2004, talks about a meatless and dairy free diet and her new book “The Kind Diet.” James Beard Award winner Barbara Lynch, owner of No. 9 Park and six other Boston restaurants, discusses her new cookbook, “Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition.”
Questions of faith are explored with author Mary Gordon, intellectual Cornel West and Harvard divinity professor Harvey Cox. There are panels on memoir, historical fiction, and thrillers.
If you’re an aspiring writer, you have a shot at Writer Idol, where an actor will read the first page of an unpublished manuscript and agents and editors will judge it. Selections are chosen on a first come, first serve basis.
NPR On Point host Tom Ashbrook moderates a discussion of Obama’s first year, and NPR Only a Game host Bill Littlefield chats with sports writers.
For children, a host of writers read their storybooks, including Marshfield story teller Jay O’Callahan, author of the new book “Raspberries.” Chris van Allsburg, who published “The Polar Express” 25 years ago, reads from his story “The Widow’s Broom,” and illustrations will be projected onto a large screen. The Festival Ballet Providence performs an adaptation of the story, and Duxbury children’s author and illustrator Brian Lies interviews van Allsburg.
The music stage features bluegrass singer and mandolin player Sierra Hull, songwriting prize winner Liz Longley, musicians from Berklee College of Music and an a capella group from Harvard College.
IF YOU GO
The Boston Book Festival is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 24 at Boston Public Library, Old South Church, Trinity Church, and outdoors in Copley Square. Admission is free. For more information, call 617-252-3240 or go to bostonbookfest.org.
Reach Jody Feinberg at email@example.com.