A Guide to the 2015 Boston Book Festival

The upcoming annual event in Copley Square features more than 150 speakers. Here, a few recommendations on which sessions to check out.

boston book festival 2015 guide

Photo by Mike Ritter/Ritterbin Photography

The Boston Book Festival always brings the literary oomph to Beantown, and this year is no exception.

Alas, the ticketed keynote events featuring Margaret Atwood and Amanda Palmer in conversation with Neil Gaiman are already sold out, but these famous authors were just the tip of iceberg.

Bookworms who’ve already spent all their money on books can attend more than 30 free events with more than 150 speakers, from sessions featuring literary rising stars to expert discussion panels that delve into all things novel.

Here, we present a curated list of 12 can’t-miss events at the 2015 edition—no late fee imposed:

YA Keynote: Libba Bray Talks with Robin Brenner

Libba Bray has written the gamut of young adult genres: historical fantasy with the Gemma Doyle trilogy, scathing satire with Beauty Queens, and black humor with Printz-winning Going Bovine. Now, she’s giving the 1920s her signature magical treatment with the second book in her Diviners series, Lair of Dreams. Brookline Public Library’s own Robin Brenner will interview Bray—who will be in Roaring Twenties period costume and expects you to be as well—on her latest young adult entry.

Saturday, October 24, 10:45 a.m.-11:45 p.m., Emmanuel Church Sanctuary, 15 Newbury St.

Star Wars and D&D: Flights of Fantasy or Serious Business?

Authors Michael Witwer and Chris Tyler argue that the magical worlds created by Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons have created not only escapism, but also a sense of collective community and social interaction. There will be trivia and all-out fanboy/fangirl excitement as Witwer and Tyler discuss alternate worlds in our very own dimension.

Saturday, October 24, 11 a.m.-12 p.m., First Church Sanctuary, 66 Marlborough St.

Fiction: The End is Near

Forget zombies and nuclear war—our world will end with a cough. Just ask Emily St. John Mandel and Sandra Newman, authors of post-apocalyptic novels that have the world ending in plague. Mandel’s Station Eleven follows a troupe of Shakespearean actors who fight to preserve culture in the post-epidemic Great Lakes region. In Newman’s The Country of Ice Cream Star, only children and teens have survived the Posies Pandemic, and a young girl must search for the cure when her older brother begins to succumb to the disease. Both authors will discuss the creative opportunities and dark imagination that the springs from writing about the apocalypse.

Saturday, October 24, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Emmanuel Church Sanctuary, 15 Newbury St.  

It’s a Crime

True crime is the kind of caper that never ceases to fascinate. To hear the latest stranger-than-fiction crime tales, attend this event, which headlines Stephen Krukjian’s 20-year search for the guilty parties of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist that culminated in his book Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World’s Greatest Art Heist. Also featured is Deborah Halber, whose book The Skeleton Crew documents the careers of virtual detectives who scour the internet for identifications of cold case victims. Finally, Ben Mezrich documents the unlikely and sinister rise of the Russian oligarchy in Once Upon a Time in Russia.

Saturday, October 24, 12:45-1:45 p.m., Boston Common Hancock, 40 Trinity Place.

Fiction: Growing Up in the Time of War

What happens when you come of age in a world torn apart by war? Authors Jim Shepard, Simon Mawer, and Chinelo Okparanta answer this question with their latest novels. Children must mature in the Warsaw ghetto of World War II, experience taboo young love in war-torn Nigeria, and perform espionage in the paranoid streets of London during the Cold War. This discussion on youth in conflict will be monitored by MIT professor Helen Elaine Lee, author of her own coming-of-age novel, Water Marked.

Saturday, October 24, 12:45-1:45 p.m., Emmanuel Church, Parish Hall, 15 Newbury St.


The occasionally insufferable and always brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes may be the most immortal of all fictional characters—not even his own creator could kill him off. Authors Josh Cook and Bonnie MacBride discuss their latest reimagining of the endurable sleuth and discuss why his character survives with Brandeis professor Lisa Rourke, a specialist in early detective stories.

Saturday, October 24, 12:45-1:45 p.m., Old South Mary Norton, 645 Boylston St.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Sex

Lauren Holmes, Dylan Landis, and Rachel Hills want to talk about sex and talk about it the right way. Holmes’ recently released and well-reviewed collection Barbara the Slut and Other People contains an examination on the millennial habit of slut-shaming, while Hills writes a nonfiction feminist examination of The Sex Myth. Dylan Landis’s novel Rainey Royal presents a young girl who is both sexually vulnerable and curious. And moderator Nancy Bauer has her own treatise on How To Do Things With Pornography.  

Saturday, October 24, 1:15-2:15 p.m., Emmanuel Church, Sanctuary, 15 Newbury St.  

Racial Justice and Community Activism in the Age of Black Lives Matter

Peniel Joseph, Jason Sokol, and Laurence Ralph will discuss their many books on racial injustice, police brutality, and the normalization of gangland ghettos in America. But they’ll also go beyond racial discontent and delve into the recent social response of the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s an in-depth examination of the cause and effect of a new racial consciousness. The discussion will be moderated by Callie Crossley host of the radio show Under the Radar.

Saturday, October 24, 2:30-3:30 p.m., Boston Common Hancock, 40 Trinity Place.   

The Vigor of Brazilian Literature

Literature is often rendered inaccessible by a language barrier. But the barrier between Brazilian literature and American readers shrinks with the debut of an English anthology of innovative Brazilian writing. Authors Alexandre Vidal Porto, Nuno Ramos, and Luisa Geisler discuss their award-winning Portuguese-language work with MIT Portuguese Program Coordinator Nilma Dominique. As an added bonus, hear the music of Brazilian Falvio Lira after the discussion panel.

Saturday, October 24, 4-5 p.m., Boston Common Carver, 40 Trinity Place.

Funny Papers

From the highbrow pages of the New Yorker to the humble ones of the Sunday paper, comics never fail to delight the kid in us. New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff discusses the humor to be found in the visuals and quotes of a comic. Meanwhile, book cover designer Chip Kidd talks his latest book Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts—a look inside the mind of Snoopy’s creator.

Saturday, October 24, 4-5 p.m., Trinity Church, 206 Clarendon St.

Fiction Keynote: Colum McCann

In his National Book Award-winning novel Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann searched for meaning in a post-9/11 world. Now, in his new book Thirteen Ways of Looking, his long-awaited return to short fiction, he considers the role of time in grief. Claire Messud, author of the thriller The Woman Upstairs, leads discussion.

Saturday, October 24, 4-5 p.m., Church of the Covenant, 67 Newbury St.

A Conversation with Bill Clegg

Not all literary agents have the talent of their clients. Not so with Bill Clegg, a literary agent turned drug addict turned award-winning memoir writer turned novelist. Clegg will be discussing his debut novel Did You Ever Have A Family, which has already been long-listed for the ManBooker Prize, with his former client, Dawn Tripp.

Saturday, October 24, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Boston Common Hancock, 40 Trinity Place.