Getting Literary at the Boston Book Festival #BBF2012

Before Hurricane Sandy, there was the Boston Book Festival.

Boston Book Festival in Copley Square

On Saturday, October 29, I attended my very first Boston Book Festival. It was the fourth year of this annual celebration of literature with an emphasis on Massachusetts authors and Massachusetts themes, but this year I finally got smart and requested the day off from work.

First thing was to meet up with Care from Care’s Online Book Club and her friend Holly in the line outside Trinity Short Story Panel Discussion-Bad photo, you're not missing much if you can't see it.Church for  the Short Story panel discussion with Jennifer Haigh, Junot Díaz, and Edith Pearlman, moderated by Christina Thompson, editor of The Harvard Review. I didn’t take notes but the writers all gave thoughtful answers to the questions and a few little volleys of discussion got going. At the end, a couple of long-winded questioners didn’t allow everyone who wanted to ask a question to get a turn, but the writers were very gracious with their answers. It seemed strange to have the gigantic screen in the sanctuary of the beautiful Trinity Church, especially as it didn’t get used at all in this session, but the audience did seem pretty worshipful of Junot Díaz, so maybe it was appropriate, after all.

Photo of Boston Public LibraryThen it was across Copley Square to the Boston Public Library for lunch in its Map Room Cafe. I’m glad I don’t work at the BPL, because I would gain a lot of weight eating a delicious lunch in the cafe everyday. Plus, you gaze at the dessert case while you wait to place your order. Photo of dessertsBut the courtyard dining area with a fountain is better than the staff break rooms at most libraries!Boston Public Library courtyard dining area

 After lunch, we split up and I hurried down the street to find the Heaven Knows panel discussion at the Church of the Covenant on the corner of Newbury and Berkeley. Another beautiful church with soaring ceilings and stained glass windows. (I was way in the back this time because I didn’t stand in line.) Novelists Tom Perrotta (The Leftovers), Alan Lightman (Mr g), and Ben Marcus (Flame Alphabet) talked religion, belief, and the unknown with Elisa New, a professor of English at Harvard. I would have enjoyed the discussion more if I had read all three novels already, and not just The Leftovers, but I did buy a copy of Flame Alphabet after the discussion because the idea of Jewish children’s language causing their parents to sicken and die sounded so intriguing. (I already have a copy of Mr g that I won through First Lit, which I need to read soon.)

Photo of Mass. Libraries BoothBrowsing the booths in the afternoon, got to say hi to Dawn (@toofondofbooks) of Too Fond of Books at the Women’s National Book Association booth and, of course, the people at the Massachusetts Libraries booth, including Sharon from the Massachusetts Center for the Book. A big display of the new Massachusetts Book Award winners was up, and kids could make their own sand dollar bookmarks/necklaces to take home. The Mass. Library Association is looking for stories of why libraries matter to share in the FY2014 Legislative Agenda. You can post your own photo/quote about your Masschusetts library at!

I also picked up a free copy of Reading Group Choices –2013 to use at the library. Check the suggestions out online at, on the blog (On the Bookcase), on Facebook (Reading Group Choices Fan Page), on Twitter (@ReadingGChoices) and on the dreaded Pinterest (ReadingGChoices).

I dropped in on the last part of the Flash Fiction Open Mic where about 60 brave people stood up and read their short short stories (had to take under 3 minutes to read) and heard some good and bad stories, but none terrible, so it wasn’t like early days in a new American Idol season or anything.

Then it was back to the Church of the Covenant, where I’m pretty sure I was the oldest person there for a YA-themed program called The Future Is Now, with M.T. Anderson moderating a discussion of futuristic/dystopian young adult fiction with Rachel Cohn, Cory Doctorow, and Gabrielle Zevin.

Resolutions for next year’s Boston Book Festival:

  1. Stand in line for good seats for the panel discussions.
  2. Volunteer for a shift at the Massachusetts Libraries booth.
  3. Take photos at book blogger meet-up! (See Care’s pic here.)


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