The seventh annual Boston Book Festival took place on October 23-24, 2015. We kicked off the festivities Friday evening with a keynote featuring Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood in conversation with short story writer Kelly Link. Tickets to Atwood’s keynote had been sold out since July, and the 800+ attendees who packed Old South Church found the conversation well worth the wait.
BBF Saturday offered a preview of the colder months to come, with blustery winds and temperatures in the 40s making things brisk for our intrepid volunteers and exhibitors. But over 20,000 attendees, knowing that cold weather is the perfect time to curl up with some good books, flocked to more than sixty separate events at more than a dozen venues around Copley Square and throughout Back Bay.
Especially popular were the kids' keynote session with Newbury medalist Louis Sachar and our first-ever YA keynote featuring Libba Bray (in conversation with Robin Brenner, who wore full flapper regalia in honor of Bray’s latest novel), as well as our keynotes for the grownups: architect Moshe Safdie, surgeon Atul Gawande, novelist and short story writer Colum McCann, and literary critic James Wood.
More than 150 other presenters also enthralled and engaged attendees at such sessions as “Speculative Science,” “Hits, Hooks, and Jam Bands,” “Racial Justice and Community Activism in the Age of Black Lives Matter,” and “The Science of Food,” as well as numerous sessions on fiction, from One City One Story to post-apocalyptic novels. We welcomed sessions developed by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, Design Observer magazine, and Pessoa magazine, as well as four community-developed BBF Unbound sessions on topics ranging from teaching religion to crossing genres.
Kids and teens had plenty to keep them busy, and many families flocked to the recently reopened Johnson Building at the Boston Public Library to see award-winning picture book authors and illustrators such as Paul O. Zelinsky and Molly Bang read from and demonstrate their work in the beautiful new Children’s Library. Older kids could head around the corner to the BPL’s super-cool Teen Central room, where superstar authors such as Rebecca Stead, M. T. Anderson, and Jason Reynolds spoke about their recent fiction for middle-grade and teenage readers.
Outdoors, our 70+ exhibitor booths featured (shivering) representatives from small presses, bookstores, literary nonprofits, and MFA programs. The centerpiece of our street fair was the big BBF tent, where BBF merchandise, membership, and info shared space with Brookline Booksmith and Presenting Partner 90.9 WBUR, whose on-air hosts chatted with visitors throughout the day (when they weren’t moderating some of our biggest sessions). Tour guides from Boston By Foot led history buffs on walking tours through the literary history of the Back Bay, and talented Berklee College of Music students warmed up the crowd with their funky beats and infectious energy.
Attendees ended their BBF Saturday with one of three wrap-up sessions: a “Poems and Pints” reading at a local nightclub, a conversation with longtime agent and first-time novelist Bill Clegg, or a sold-out memoir keynote session featuring musician Amanda Palmer in conversation with her husband Neil Gaiman. Attendees were treated to a musical performance by Palmer as well as one of the first glimpses at the couple’s brand-new baby. The good news is that no matter which option they chose, attendees really couldn’t go wrong!
Thanks to our partnership with The Drum Literary Magazine, we’re crafting audio from selected BBF 2015 sessions into great new BBF podcasts that you can take on the go! They’ll soon be available for streaming and subscribing via iTunes, but in the meantime, we’ve put some here for you to preview. More sessions will be added soon. Enjoy!
(Note: clicking the title of a session will play the audio file in a new window. To download the file to your hard drive, right-click (PC) or ctrl-click (Mac) and select “Download linked file” from the menu that appears.)
Fiction Keynote: Colum McCann, Host: Claire Messud
Nonfiction Keynote: Atul Gawande, Host: Meghna Chakrabarti
The Trial of Abraham: Harvey Cox, Alan Dershowitz, Host: Judge David Barron
YA Keynote: Libba Bray, Host: Robin Brenner
Memoir Keynote: Amanda Palmer, Host: Neil Gaiman (with special guest Maria Popova)
The following sessions were videorecorded by C-SPAN2 for broadcast on BookTV.
Clicking the title of the session will take you to BookTV’s website, where you can watch the videos online.
Judge David Barron
Megan Mayhew Bergman
Matt de la Peña
Jennifer De Leon
Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord
Patricia Reilly Giff
Tasneem Zehra Husain
Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Emily St. John Mandel
Anastacia Marx de Salcedo
General Stanley McChrystal
Meg Mitchell Moore
Matthew Neil Null
January Gill O'Neil
Ruth R. Rogers
Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Tamara Ellis Smith
Andrew McConnell Stott
Nancy Rubin Stuart
Alexandre Vidal Porto
Linda K. Wertheimer