Guide to the 2014 Boston Book Festival

The sixth annual Book Fest takes place this weekend in Copley Square. With more than 200 speakers slated, here are a few recommendations on which sessions to check out.

There are many reasons Boston is a literary hub and deserving of its newly established Literary Cultural District—the history, the publishing companies, the Edgar Allan Poe fanaticism.

Not to be excluded from this list is the Boston Book Festival, which for six years has proven that a giant city-wide celebration of words is something this town can get behind.

The 2014 Book Fest takes place this weekend and boasts more than 200 speakers in dozens of sessions. For those of you unsure of where to start, below are some recommendations.

Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and take place on Saturday, October 25. Pro tip: Use the BBF’s schedule grid and venue map (PDFs) to plan your course of action. They’ll be available at the festival too, of course.



Boston Stories: Tears, Triumphs, Mysteries, and Sports

Here’s a session designed with locals in mind. A panel of five local authors will talk about five very different Boston stories, from Long Mile Home co-author Jenna Russell’s take on the Boston Marathon bombings, to noted sportswriter Bob Ryan, whose new memoir is titled Scribe: My Life in Sports. Neil Swidey (Trapped Under the Sea, about divers sent in Boston Harbor), Belinda Rathbone (The Boston Raphael, about an MFA acquisition), and Doug Most (The Race Underground, about the MBTA) will also be on the panel hosted by Boston Globe books editor Nicole Lamy.

11:15 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Emmanuel Church, Sanctuary, 15 Newbury St.

Mayors Rule

For an even more locally oriented conversation, look no further than Mayors Rule, which will have a panel of not one, but three area mayors—Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Mayor Dan Rivera of Lawrence, and Mayor Lisa Wong of Fitchburg. They’ll chat with political theorist Benjamin Barber, who calls for a “parliament of mayors” in his book If Mayors Ruled the World, and moderator Bob Oakes, the host of WBUR’s Morning Edition.

Update, October 24: Former Boston Mayor Tom Menino will not be part of this panel as originally planned. Read more.

12:30-1:30 p.m., Old South Church, Sanctuary, 645 Boylston St.

(Post) Modern Love

Daniel Jones is the editor of the New York Times’ Modern Love column. Margo Howard used to write Dear Prudence. Jennifer Finney Boylan is a trans woman with experience being a father and a mother. Among these three and moderator Meredith Goldstein, advice columnist for the Boston Globe, hopefully someone will share something that can help us with our love lives.

12:45-1:45 p.m., Church of the Covenant, 67 Newbury St.

One City One Story

Every year, the Boston Book Festival distributes copies of one short story throughout the city free of charge the month prior to the event. Then, the day of, readers can gather and meet the author at the One City One Story session. This year, the 1C1S selection is “Sublimation” by Jennifer Haigh, which you can pick up at select locations around town, or download online in any of five language PDFs, for Kindle, or ePub.

2-3 p.m., Boston Common Hotel, Hancock, 40 Trinity Place.

Fiction: The Literary Thriller

A session on thrillers—what could be more exciting? All three of the panelists have new thrillers out this year that are worth your attention. Sue Miller’s The Arsonist and Elisabeth Elo’s North of Boston both take you, well, north of Boston, while Edgard Telles Ribeiro’s His Own Man is a thriller set in the world of Brazilian politics with glitzy parties, covert ops, and more.

2:15-3:15 p.m., Emmanuel Church, Music Room, 15 Newbury St.

Sports Writing: Local Heroes

Baseball and boxing will be the focus of this Book Fest event. Bill Littlefield will moderate the session with Ben Bradlee Jr. and Christopher Klein. Bradlee is the author of The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams, and Klein’s Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America’s First Sports Hero, is about the first modern heavyweight boxing champion of the world.

3:30-4:30 p.m., Boston Common Hotel, Hancock, 40 Trinity Place.

True Story

As if you couldn’t tell from the title, this session’s all about great nonfiction stories. Five different authors will discuss their recent works, from Michael Blanding’s true crime story The Map Thief to Matthew Gilbert’s Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park. The panelists will each give a 10-minute presentation on their work.

4-5:15 p.m., Emmanuel Church, Parish Hall, 15 Newbury St.

Words and Music: A Literary Jam Session

This wonder-ful session—hosted by Pulitzer winner Paul Harding of all people—will feature three authors whose new novels have more rhythm than most: Wonderland by Stacey d’Erasmo, Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia, and Wonderkid by Wesley Stace. And of course, it’s a jam session, so expect live music. Harding will play the drums, and dancing is encouraged.

5:45-7 p.m., Old South Church, Sanctuary, 645 Boylston St.



Memoir Keynote: Herbie Hancock (Ticketed Event, Thursday, $15)
The Grammy winner (he has 14!) releases his memoir, Possibilities, on Thursday, October 23. At the Boston Book Festival, Hancock will discuss his life and times with Berklee College of Music president Roger Brown. | Thursday, 8 p.m., Old South Church, Sanctuary, 645 Boylston St.

Fiction Keynote: Susan Minot (Friday)
The acclaimed author will talk with Dayo Olopade about Africa, fiction, journalism, and her latest book, Thirty Girls, about a kidnapping of girls in Uganda by the Lord’s Resistance Army. | Friday, 8 p.m., Old South Church, Sanctuary, 645 Boylston St.

Kids’ Keynote: Rick Riordan
Riordan is best known for authoring the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. The award-winning author and former middle-grade teacher will talk about the newest installment to his Heroes of Olympus series, The Blood of Olympus. | 10:45-11:45 a.m., Trinity Church, Sanctuary, 206 Clarendon St.

History Keynote: Doris Kearns Goodwin
The historian extraordinaire will chat about presidents—her forte—and her latest book, The Bully Pulpit, with the host of On Point on WBUR and NPR, Tom Ashbrook. | 2:15-3:15 p.m., Trinity Church, Sanctuary, 206 Clarendon St.

Art, Architecture, and Design Keynote: Norman Foster (Ticketed Event, $10)
This world-renowned architect is the only keynote speaker not promoting a book. He has designed many forward-thinking structures around the world, but one of our favorites is the Art of the Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts. | 4-5 p.m., Trinity Church, Sanctuary, 206 Clarendon St.



Character Connection Tent
Take the little ones here for different kid-friendly events throughout Saturday, including activities, a book nook, a costume parade, and photo ops with Curious George, Stellaluna, and other characters your little one might recognize. | All day, Copley Square.

Four different kid-friendly readings will take place throughout the day. How does that saying go? Oh yes, start ’em young! | Half-hour readings start every hour from 10:30 a.m. First Church Auditorium, Berkeley St. and Marlborough St.

Four master storytellers from will present interactive and multicultural folktales that look at “noodlehead” behavior by the jokester sidekick all such stories have. | 4 p.m., First Church Auditorium, Berkeley St. and Marlborough St.

Berklee Stage
Stop by the Berklee Stage throughout the day to see live musical performances. At noon, check out their award-winning poetry slam team. | All day, Copley Square.

For more youth-oriented sessions, including middle-grade and YA, click here.


The 2014 Boston Book Festival takes place Saturday, October 25, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., in various venues around Copley Square.