The Boston Book Festival expands its horizons with its return to Copley Square


Bibliophiles, behold: After two years of virtual programming, the Boston Book Festival returns to Back Bay on October 28 and 29, with talks from leading literary figures and a range of readings, talks and workshops, the all in person. The festival, which enters its 14th year this fall, will feature more than 70 sessions with approximately 200 authors and speakers, and bring back a wide variety of programming from the pre-COVID days of the event. It includes a Friday night launch event, with all-day sessions on Saturday. Events take place in and around Copley Square – at the Boston Public Library Central Branch, Old South Church, Covenant Church, Goethe-Institut Boston, and Boston Architectural College.

The sessions offered this year “cover a real range of topics and themes,” said festival founder and executive director Deborah Z Porter. “There are some really tough political things, but there are a lot of things that really focus on finding joy, contentment and celebrating life.”

Organizers of this year’s festival have also sought to include a wider range of topics and genres for panels and sessions, to appeal to a wide audience.

“We have more genre fiction than we’ve had in the past,” Porter said. “We have romance panels and a mystery session, and horror, comic book, graphic novel sessions, so there’s really a great variety.”

Dorchester-born author and journalist Patrick Radden Keefewill deliver a non-fiction opening speech Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Old South Church. His fifth book,Thieves: True Stories of Scammers, Killers, Rebels and Swindlersis a compilation of a dozen of his New Yorker articles, all presenting nuanced and complex portraits of complicated individuals. Keefe, whose other works include “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland” and “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty», will be in conversation with Meghna Chakrabartihost of WBUR’s “On Point”.

Fiction panelists include keynote speakers Yiyun Li (“The goose book“) and Gish Jen (“Thank You, Mr. Nixon: Stories”), who will discuss their work and career with the moderator Claire Messud Saturdays at 4 p.m. in Rabb Hall at the Boston Public Library. Mysterious authors BA Shapiro (“Metropolis”), Jane Pek (“Auditors“), and Ben Mezrich (“The Midnight Ride”) will discuss their work in a sign sponsored by Mystery Writers of America Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Mary Norton Hall at the Old South Church. At 3:30 p.m., horror authors Hand of Elizabeth (“Hokuloa Road“) and Paul Tremblay (“The Porters Club”) will co-host the annual Shirley Jackson Awards ceremony at Cascieri Hall at Boston Architectural College.

In a non-fiction highlight Saturday at 11 a.m. in Rabb Hall at the Boston Public Library, former White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx (“Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, Covid-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It’s Too Late”) will speak with the president of the Boston Public Library David Leonard on his experience in politics and public health while working with the Trump administration to fight the pandemic.

Have you ever wondered how publications like the Globe choose which books to review? At 11:15 a.m. Saturday at the Old South Church, Boston Globe editor Kate Tuttlewho runs the weekly book section of the Globe, runs a sign on the book revision. Seasoned reviewers Joshunda Sanders, Sebastien Stockmanand Anri Wheeler discuss their process.

Festival-goers can check out BBF Unbound, a collection of sessions curated by community members, at the Boston Public Library. Highlights include a round table with intermediate and young adult writers Federico Erebia (“Pedro & Daniel”), Nora Lester Murad (“Ida in the middle”), Lisa Stringfellow (“A wishing comb“), and Betty G. Yee (“mountain of gold”) on how to promote books about marginalized communities in the current political climate. Another unrelated BBF session features local writers reading the winning essays from this year’s “Boston in 100 Words” contest.

This year, the sessions dedicated to young adult literature cover genres such as fantasy, romance and contemporary fiction. Malinda Lo (“A scatter of light“) will make an appearance as YA Speech speaker on Saturday at 4:45 p.m. at the Alliance Church. She will be in conversation with Marie Myung-Ok Lee (“The hero of the evening”). A variety of story hours, workshops and readings provide entertainment for the youngest festival attendees. Highlights include a Roxbury-based artist Ekua Holmeswho will read excerpts from his new picture book, “Hope is an Arrow: The Story of Lebanese-American Poet Khalil Gibranat the Boston Public Library’s Children’s Library at 10:45 a.m. Saturday.

A street fair in Copley Square on Saturday will feature booths from more than 50 exhibitors, including the Brattle Book Shop and MIT Press Bookstore, Mass Poetry and the New England Science Fiction Association, and publishing houses such as She Writes Press and McPherson & Company. The Chicken & Rice Guys and Zinneken Waffles will have food trucks on hand to keep hungry bookworms fueled for the festivities.

The festival is free and open to the public, without tickets or registration. The full program is available at

Maya Homan can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MayaHoman.


Comments are closed.