Boston Book Festival

October 24, 2015


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

IFF Boston 2015

At BBF, we love a good story, whether it’s found in the pages of a book or on the big screen, which is why we are so excited to once again partner with the Independent Film Festival of Boston. Now in its thirteenth year, the 2015 festival is taking place April 22-29. Over one hundred films will be shown throughout the week at the Somerville Theatre, Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and UMass Boston, along with weekend panel discussions. If you are looking to attend multiple screenings and want to avoid long lines, consider buying a festival badge that includes priority seating and access to all the nightly parties. Tickets for all events can be purchased now on the IFF Boston’s website.

We are pleased to announce that we will be sponsoring not two but FOUR films at this years festival! So grab a date or a group of friends and come enjoy this week-long cinematic event. We will see you there with our popcorn in hand!

THE END OF THE TOUR Wed 4/22 – 7:30pm – Somerville Theatre End of the tour This opening night film for IFF Boston is based on David Lipsky’s book Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, about his aborted five-day Rolling Stone interview with literary sensation David Foster Wallace at the end of the Infinite Jest press tour. The Hollywood Reporter says, “Essentially, this is a film about existential emptiness, and yet it’s beautiful and alive, as filled with humor as it is with melancholy.”

ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL Wed 4/29 – 7:30pm – Coolidge Corner Theatre Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Closing out the festival is the Sundance Audience and Jury Award winner by local writer Jesse Andrews. Andrews tells the story of awkward high school senior Greg Gaines, who is forced by his mom to spend time with Rachel, a girl in his class diagnosed with leukemia. Variety commends the film, saying, “This rousing adaptation of Jesse Andrews’ novel is destined not only to connect with young audiences in a big way, but also to endure as a touchstone for its generation.”

BOUNCE: HOW THE BALL TAUGHT THE WORLD TO PLAY Sun 4/26 – 3:30pm – Somerville Theatre Bounce Based on the book The Ball: Discovering the Object of the Game by local author John Fox, BOUNCE crosses time, languages and continents to discover how the ball has staked its claim on our lives and fueled our passion to compete. “BOUNCE has a pacing and style all to its own, with each ‘encounter’ feeling fresh and different,” proclaims AMFM Magazine.

THE PRIMARY INSTINCT Sun 4/26 – 7:30pm – Somerville Theatre Primary Instinct THE PRIMARY INSTINCT is director David Chen’s storytelling film featuring legendary character actor Stephen Tobolowsky, best known for his role in Groundhog Day. The film, based off the podcast series The Tobolowsky Files, was fully funded through a Kickstarter campaign, and both Chen and Tobolowsky will be in attendance at its screening.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Help Us Help a Teacher: Announcing Shelf Help

In conjunction with the upcoming launch of our new children’s festival, Hubbub, on June 20, 2015, we at the Boston Book Festival want to reach out to the Greater Boston community to cultivate and inspire a new generation of readers. We know that many elementary schools lack the resources to fully stock their school or classroom libraries with contemporary, high-quality books. Meanwhile, elementary school teachers and librarians just want to offer their students books that will motivate them to read, captivate their imaginations, and ignite their wide-ranging interests. We think that one of these schools deserves a little “Shelf Help”!

This initiative will provide a minimum of fifty brand-new books to one K-5 classroom or school library at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. We want to work with a passionate, involved teacher or school librarian to craft a wish list of titles that will best serve their students’ interests and preferences. We’ll then work with our friends and fans to help fill empty shelves with those wished-for books. The selected classroom will also receive a visit from a children’s author or illustrator sometime during the 2015-16 school year—a great way to bring books to life!

If you think that you know a teacher or school librarian at a school that needs some “Shelf Help,” please forward them this short Request for Proposals to fill out. The form is accessible for online completion here and for download here. All proposals are due by May 4th, 2015.

We would love your help in lending some Shelf Help to the Boston community. If you’d like to donate a book (or two!), please come to Hubbub on June 20th and look out for our merchandise booth, where we’ll have the opportunity for you to donate a specific title through our online book wish list. Email us at to receive a link to the Shelf Help donation site when it’s available. If you’d prefer to make a cash donation, please visit our donate page. Upon checking out, select “Make this a gift” and designate “Shelf Help” as the gift recipient in the appropriate box.

With Shelf Help, we aim to support students’ discovery and expression of their own unique voices through access to an increased selection of books within their school environment. Words have great power to motivate and provoke all readers to explore themselves and their place in the world around them, and we hope that Shelf Help will encourage students to view themselves as such literary explorers!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

These Are a Few of Our Favorite Books of 2014

Yes, the Internet abounds with “best-of” lists, but that doesn’t stop us from adding our own picks to the mix! Here are our staff’s eclectic choices for the best books we read in 2014. We hope one (or more!) of our titles speak to you, and we wish you a very happy new year full of books and reading!

Deborah Z Porter, Founder and Executive Director

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

I just finished Fourth of July Creek, a debut novel by Smith Henderson. It is a story of contemporary America, the American West to be specific. The West’s legacy of individualism, lawlessness, and violence is visible in the story of a decent but flawed man who, as a child welfare worker, strives to save unlucky children from their hapless, deranged, and dangerous parents but who has failed his own child. The story is reminiscent of Charles Bock’s Beautiful Children, but its plot is more complex and touches on many troubling aspects of American society. The prose is beautiful and evocative, precise and at times devastating. It is always tempting to say that the last book I’ve read is the “best,” but for 2014, this actually may be the case.

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Norah Piehl, Deputy Director

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

First, a couple for the kids. Absolutely Almost is an almost perfect book, the kind of poignantly funny story you’re going to want to give to (or, even better, read with) any kids you know who have to work just a little bit harder than everyone else to make it through the day. It can be easy for kids and adults alike to overlook or devalue the kinds of talents Graff’s protagonist possesses—which include being a first-class expert on New York City as well as being, in his mom’s words, “caring and thoughtful and kind.” Absolutely Almost offers the much-needed (and totally non-preachy) message that there are things to be proud of that don’t involve fastest times or perfect scores.

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Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Another remarkable book for young readers published in 2014, this novel offers an gut-wrenching dog story (no, the dog doesn’t die, but you’ll still want to have plenty of Kleenexes nearby!) and a protagonist whose singular voice and strong sense of right and wrong offer readers a new model of what a hero can look (and talk, and think) like.

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How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman

From dawn to dusk, historian Ruth Goodman walks readers through exactly what a day would be like for typical Victorians, both upper- and lower-class, urban and rural. If you enjoy reading Victorian literature or are just fascinated by nineteenth-century life, you’ll be enthralled by the intimate details Goodman provides—and deeply appreciative of how much we still owe to our Victorian forebears' inventiveness and ingenuity.

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Sarah Howard Parker, Director of Operations

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The 80s! Slow-burning teen love affair! Red-haired protagonist! This book has it all. And, I must confess, it was my first foray into YA (which it turns out is just another name for “good books that people read”). I loved it.

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Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

This is an autobiographical comic (a tragicomic as the front cover tells you) about the author’s upbringing and changing relationship with her family. Really poignant and surprisingly relatable, even given the extreme circumstances detailed within. I’ve been meaning to read this for years, but recently remembered due to the recent press for the upcoming Broadway musical. Fun Home fun fact: the author is the originator of the “Bechdel test.”

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Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg

I haven’t actually read this book yet, but I have read some of the earlier incarnations of the texts on Ortberg’s brilliant site The Toast. It turns out I will read anything she writes, even if it sounds trendy or can be categorized as a “humor” book (another genre that has always frightened me). What am I afraid of? Laughing?

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Mackenzie Kuester, BBF Intern

The Smartest Kids in the World (And How They Got That Way) by Amanda Ripley

I’m a bit of a fanatic about the education system. Going through the International Baccalaureate program, being a “gifted kid,” doing a huge finals project on unschooling … I’m well-versed in the subject of schools. In this book, Ripley manages to deeply analyze the United States’ culture on learning, as well as Finland, South Korea, and Poland. All of these are done with accounts from kids who have studied in both the US and the various countries, giving this research-supported study a narrative arc. The conclusions she draws are legendary and will make you want to do more than just volunteer for the PTA.

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I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

From a plastic bag of toy ponies gifted to her by ex-boyfriends to a menace of a first boss who used staplers as ammo, Crosley leads you through pieces of her life with a whimsical voice and whip crack sense of humor. This collection of essays is up-front, self-effacing, and somehow both snarky and heartwarming. A great read for anyone willing to repeatedly burst out laughing while reading in public—not that I’m speaking from firsthand experience …

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Niki Marion, BBF Intern

Gaston written by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Christian Robinson

My favorite picturebook this year, and one I truly hope gets a Caldecott nod. DiPucchio’s story of Gaston, a French bulldog who ends up with a family of French poodles, is a smart and comprehensible approach to the nature/nurture debate and a heart-warming tale of adoption, but Robinson’s illustrations steal the book for me. His evocative details—the telling eyebrows of the main pooches in one spread in particular—enhance the personalities of the dogs with deliberate thought. A perfect pairing of art and text makes for a gently funny and comforting read.

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Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

I had never read Card’s 1985 science-fiction novel and was so delighted to have the opportunity to rectify this deficit for a course this year. Card packs so much into fewer than three hundred pages of text, and the rich characterization and self-reflection of the individuals drives the plot forward. Religion, politics, gender and power dynamics, constructions of childhood, psychology, and more combine to make this a truly multifaceted narrative, with potentials to find countless new discoveries upon each rereading. And you will want to reread it.

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Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Newcomer alert! Emily Carroll is a Canadian comic book artist with lots of deserved buzz. Her first graphic novel is a compilation of five short horror stories, complete with bone-chilling cliffhanger endings. Just her cover, with its textured black forest, blue and red accent colors, and reliance on recognizable fairy tale imagery, immediately piques the reader’s interest. Carroll also just made an appearance at the 2014 Massachusetts Independent Comic Expo in October, and meeting her in person made me even more excited to see what she thinks up next!

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Melanie McFadyen, BBF Intern

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Okay, I’ll admit, this was my third reading of of this book in as many years. This story follows Kathy, a student at Hailsham, a private school that shelters its students from the rest of the world. Told in retrospect from an older Kathy’s point of view, the novel shares the story of her upbringing with her friends Tommy and Ruth, as they gradually discover the “open secret” of their future. Beautifully written, with deceptive simplicity through Kathy’s compelling narrative voice, Never Let Me Go is a story that (if you’ll excuse the pun) I will never be able to let go of.

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World War Z by Max Brooks

The zombies are coming, and they look nothing like Brad Pitt. In World War Z, Max Brooks presents a compelling look at how our world would react to a zombie apocalypse in a series of interviews with survivors from all across the globe. Based on real events that have happened throughout history, Brooks raises the all-important question of how can we avoid repeating our own history. If you’re a fan of zombies, or Brooks’s Zombie Survival Guide, you’ll enjoy reading this account of the hypothetical zombie war to come.

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Afterworlds_ by Scott Westerfeld

Okay, so I haven’t actually been able to read this yet, but I am so. excited. about. it. Scott Westerfeld’s most recent novel, Afterworlds tells two different stories: the story of Lizzie, a teen who drifts between our world and the “Afterworld” when she escapes there to survive a terrorist attack, and Darcy, the teen author behind Lizzie’s story. Dedicated to the writers who participate in “NaNoWriMo” (National Novel Writing Month), this story pays tribute to the struggles of a young writer attempting to finish and publish her first novel. As a past participant in NaNoWriMo, and as a huge fan of Scott Westerfeld’s novels, I cannot wait until winter break when I can finally sit down and read Afterworlds.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

BBF 2014: Journeys and Destinations

Historical Map of BostonWe didn’t set out to have a theme for this year’s BBF, but as we began inviting presenters and assembling sessions earlier this year, we noticed the word “journey” cropping up all over. In some cases the journeys were literal, in other cases metaphorical—but the idea of traveling, questing, and finding one’s way is one explored by many of the participants in this year’s festival. Certainly, the theme of the journey is not the only topic of inquiry at this year’s BBF, but it can provide a useful road map through our more than five dozen sessions and activities for kids and adults. Here are a few highlights:

Not one but three of our sessions have the word “Journey” right there in the title. Perilous Journeys brings together writers of three true tales of adventure (and misadventure): Scott Anderson, Vicki Croke, and Carl Hoffman. The memoirists in our Journeys Home and Abroad panel take readers to the far corners of the earth—and on an exploration of personal and family history. And, for younger armchair travelers, there’s Journeys Near and Far, in which Paul Durham, Laura Godwin, S. E. Grove, and Ann M. Martin whisk readers away to the high seas and even through time.

Taking the idea of the journey more broadly, My Memoir My Quest brings together Rebecca Mead, Joanna Rakoff, and Max Tegmark, three writers whose investigations into subjects as varied as mathematics and Middlemarch also prompt journeys of self-discovery. And, for those interested more specifically in the history and future of getting from point A to point B, Finding Our Way explores the evolution of navigation systems.

Several of our sessions offer a global journey of sorts, exploring themes and topics from South Asia, Finland, Africa, and more. In Another Country, novelists Joseph O'Neill, Lily King, and Rupert Thomson set their novels in Dubai, New Guinea, and Renaissance Italy. In a special ticketed event, architect Norman Foster displays the creativity that have made his designs landmarks around the world. And, in our new partnership with the French Cultural Center and the French Embassy in the United States, attendees can celebrate the work of French writers and scholars.

You may find your own GPS coming into play as you navigate toward the French Cultural Center or our other new venues (or you can be old-fashioned—kind of—and download our venue map). For those who prefer the scenic—and educational—route, join Boston By Foot for a literary walking tour of the Back Bay. Even the little ones can take to the streets for our costume parade. Don’t have a costume? No problem! You can make one on the spot.

Whether or not you delve into our accidental “journeys” theme, we like to think that everyone who attends the BBF is embarking on a journey of discovery, inspiration, and lifelong learning. Won’t you join us?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Guest Post: Jennifer Haigh Interview by Anna Solomon

In 2014, we’re featuring posts by guest bloggers: BBF staff, authors, and friends of the festival. This month, we asked Anna Solomon, 2012 One City One Story author of “The Lobster Mafia Story,” to share a post with us. Thanks, Anna!

Alicia Anstead--1C1S Town Hall
Alicia Anstead leads a 1C1S Town Hall discussion at the BBF

In the fall of 2012, I was lucky enough to attend the Boston Book Festival’s One City One Story Town Hall, where in a packed room people were discussing my short story, “The Lobster Mafia Story.” I say “attend” because, for the first hour at least, that’s what I did: I sat in the audience and listened as people discussed my story. They spoke readily, bravely, some offering interpretations, others posing questions. It was clear that many of them had read the story multiple times, that they had thought hard about it, wrestled with it, and come excited to share their thoughts and hear what their fellow Bostonians had to say. There was a palpable buzz in the air as readers debated the symbolism of particular lines and connected the story’s themes with their own lives. I almost forgot, for a time, that they were talking about my story. It was an amazing example of what literature can do and mean in a community, when it’s distributed widely, promoted smartly, and translated into multiple languages.

That afternoon was one of my most gratifying moments as a writer. So I was excited to talk with the latest One City One Story author, Jennifer Haigh, about the run-up to her festival experience this year, and about her quiet, moving, and provocative story, “Sublimation.”

AS: You and I both know that it’s hard to bring a short story to a wide audience. Even when you publish in a prestigious journal, you’re still talking about a small readership, often made up primarily of other writers. What’s it like knowing this story will be read by tens of thousands of people over the next couple months?

JH: Publishing a short story can be very depressing. The difference between publication and not is very slim. So it’s nice for this one to get a bigger audience, get a second life. I think it’s delightful. It gives me a chance to reach readers who are probably new to my work, who probably haven’t read my novels, and I’m very happy about that. I also think, having just published a collection of short stories this year, for readers of that book, “Sublimation” is quite a different thing, so it’s nice to think of people who think they know my stories getting their hands on this one.

AS: How would you describe that difference?

JH: My story collection, News From Heaven, is linked stories. They’re linked by landscape, and mainly set in western Pennsylvania, in a dying coal town. It’s been a while since I’ve written a story set somewhere else. Baltimore, where “Sublimation” is set, is a city I love.

AS: News From Heaven, I want to mention, has already won the 2014 Massachusetts Book Award and the 2014 PEN/New England Award in Fiction—an incredible feat! My understanding is that these stories were many years in the making. Tell me what the process of writing “Sublimation” was like. Did it come in a rush? Was it a story that grew slowly? I know it can be hard to remember the early life of a story, but what do you recall of how it developed?

JH: Gosh, it is a hard question to answer. This one did not take as long as some of my others. I don’t know, maybe—I was probably writing at it for less than a year. I have some that takes years and years to come together. This one … I guess it was just the image of Bruce and his mother, Dolly, watching Jeopardy!, the two of them in their old spots …

AS: Did you know from the start that it was Dolly’s story?

JH: Yeah. I’m very interested in writing about relationships between parents and adult children. To me they’re endlessly interesting and complicated in a way. We don’t choose the people in our families, and often the only thing we have in common is this blood tie and some history. This situation was interesting to me because Bruce is back home, a place he never thought he’d be. He lost his job and his mother got sick and these are the things that happen sometimes to conspire to bring adult children home. It’s uncomfortable in a lot of ways. Dolly used to live on her own. Bruce used to, too. But here they are, back on the familial couch.

AS: Bruce is a cross-dresser. You reveal this quietly, not by declaring it or showing him in his clothes but by describing the lipstick he leaves on his glass. That choice is critical, it seems to me.

JH: Yes. The cross-dressing, it’s not the primary thing for Dolly. Her relationship to Bruce long predates her discovery that this is a habit of his. This is a fairly recent revelation. She’s known Bruce for forty-five years. She’s in a position of having to reconcile the person she’s always known with this new thing she’s discovered.

AS: I think that’s enough to whet readers’ appetites without spoiling any surprises. Are you excited for the Town Hall in October?

JH: I think the Boston Book Festival is probably my favorite lit event of the year. I’ve gone several times, usually talking about one of my novels. So for me this is going to be an entirely different experience.