Boston Book Festival

October 25, 2014


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Reading Roundup from the BBF

Whether your summer travel plans include trips to the mountains, the beach, or just a well-placed hammock in your own backyard, you should never leave home without packing a great book or two. The BBF staff has rounded up our personal summer book recommendations to inspire your own literary travels this summer. Happy reading!

Deborah Z Porter, Founder and Executive Director

Never Mind by Edward St Aubyn

I just finished Never Mind, the first of the Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St. Aubyn. Perceptive and gripping, it is a sometimes painful to read but beautifully told story of one young man’s growing up in the UK among the idle ruling class.

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Thirty Girls by Susan Minot

Thirty Girls, by BBF Keynote Susan Minot, will also haunt you as you contemplate violence and its toll on everyone involved.

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My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

My Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead, is of interest to anyone who can’t get enough of George Eliot.

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The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

The Faraway Nearby, by Rebecca Solnit, is an essay, a memoir, a meditation on the spinning of tales and on the threads of stories that are knitted together to give a life meaning.

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Norah Piehl, Deputy Director

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illus. by Jillian Tamaki

If you have a special summer place, take this beautifully illustrated graphic novel with you when you go there this summer. Rose has gone to the same lake house with her parents each summer since she was a little girl. This year, however, everything—-from Rose’s family dynamics to her friendship with a younger girl whose family also summers on Awago Beach—-seems different. Has the place changed? Or has Rose? The Tamakis explore the passage of time and the transformations of adolescence through this bittersweet chronicle of a single summer, depicted in moodily monochromatic purples.

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The Watcher by Charlotte Link

Thanks to the popularity of Scandinavian thriller writers, American audiences are becoming more used to reading novels in translation, and consequently discovering a whole new world of terrific suspense writing. Now the Germans are getting in on the act. The Watcher is blockbuster German author Charlotte Link’s second novel to be translated into English, and I’m betting it won’t be the last. Its panoramic narrative soon focuses in on a handful of characters, all of whom have something to hide—-means and motives remain murky right up until the surprising end.

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Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Okay, this book doesn’t actually come out until mid-August, but that gives you just enough time to read the already-published companions (Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door) to this exquisitely swoon-worthy novel. Perkins’s latest stands on its own, but it’s even more satisfying for readers of her previous work. Perkins is a true romantic and a swell writer to boot, making her novels ideal beach-bag material—-just make sure you pack tissues and sunglasses if true love makes you weepy.

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Sarah Howard Parker, Director of Operations

Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield

Sheffield, a writer for Rolling Stone, is probably best known for his appearances on various VH-1 I Love the __’s shows. This incredibly personal memoir, both sweet and devastating, recounts his courtship and early marriage with his wife using songs as touchstones for each chapter. Also, his taste in music is excellent, and (after you stop crying) you can check out the playlist. (Hint: an intrepid Spotify user has already done the work for you.)

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Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

A BBF colleague who knows my favorite genre (ok, it was Norah!) recommended this novel to me and I couldn’t read it fast enough. It has all my favorite elements: an unreliable narrator, psychological suspense, and an ending that I didn’t see coming! Be warned: this one will stay with you (and not in a good way).

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My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

A certain member of my household has recently developed an attention span long enough to begin delving into longer bedtime stories. I never knew about this series growing up (the first one was originally published in 1948) but it’s a perfect first chapter book with just enough pictures to keep the pages turning.

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Mackenzie Kuester, BBF Intern

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

As someone studying memoir, I thought My Salinger Year was a great example of focus. Rakoff takes only one year of her life—her first year post-grad, working for the esteemed literary agent of J. D. Salinger—and writes about it with such detail and precision you would’ve thought she traveled back in time.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

I get it, I get it, I’m late to the party with this one. But between the unconventional style, quirky storyline, and overall rocket-fast pace, I found myself wishing I had invested the time sooner. This book is a great way to spark discussion about relationships, trust, and the new meaning of “normal.”

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Niki Marion, BBF Intern

Gut Symmetries by Jeanette Winterson

The act of reading this book is moving, unnerving, enthralling, and downright invigorating. Winterson always plays with time in unusual ways, and Gut Symmetries is no exception. There are lots of boats and accompanying symbolism involved in the narrative, so you’ll catch a whiff of salty air that will bring you to the seashore no matter where you’re reading it.

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Journey by Aaron Becker

As a master’s student of children’s literature, I am compelled to include a picture book in this list. This particular one inspires all readers to escape the monotonous doldrums and explore the imaginative realm that resides just outside their front door. A perfect way to encourage indoor dwellers into the summer sunlight! (And look for the second installment, Quest, in August!)

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Any Sarah Dessen novels, but particularly The Truth About Forever or This Lullaby.

These books are my ideal YA summer romances. My copies are filled with sea water-warped pages and sand speckles because I always break them out for beach reading. As the tide comes in, Dessen’s protagonists mature and overcome their emotional obstacles, and by the time the sun sets over the ocean, you’ll be ready to take on the world with them.

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Melanie McFadyen, BBF Intern

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I normally try to avoid reading books based on their popularity, but when I heard some of my most trustworthy book-loving friends raving about Cinder, I knew I had to try it. After all, how could I resist a modern retelling of Cinderella with cyborgs? In terms of fairy tale adaptations (of which I’ve read a lot), this one is easily my new favorite. It is so smart and subtle, modifying not just the settings but the characters, creating richly developed, deeply complex heroines who do much more than sit around and wait for their equally compelling heroes. The first installment of the Lunar Chronicles sets up a story that goes far beyond a shoe abandoned at the stroke of midnight, and I encourage anyone who enjoys fairy tales and/or science fiction to give it a try.

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Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

As a huge fan of Speak, I picked up Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson partially out of curiosity to see if the author’s other books could possibly be as engrossing and powerful (a question that I will never ask again). Wintergirls introduces us to Lia, who is struggling with an eating disorder even after her best friend has died from one. The strong narration allows us to see as Lia sees while also allowing us to see with horrifying honesty what she cannot, the brutal hold an eating disorder can have on someone. With subtle tie-ins to the myth of Persephone, Anderson has once again tackled an extremely difficult topic in a way that few have before.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

In the interests of reading as much as possible this summer (and taking a break from books I might find in my Literature courses), I promised myself to stick to “light reads,” i.e., no classics. I threw that rule out the window almost immediately for Their Eyes Were Watching God, one of those stories that I have always heard of and thought “Yeah, I’ll read that one day.” I’m glad I finally did, because this book introduced me to Janie Crawford, a strong woman searching for her true self, and her true love, willing to defy conventions and follow her own lead. I spent half of the book looking for Post-it notes to mark down my favorite quotes and passages.

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Monday, June 02, 2014

Guest Post: Boston Stories by Kate Racculia

In 2014, we’ll be featuring posts by guest bloggers: BBF staff, authors, and friends of the festival. This month, we asked Kate Racculia, former BBF volunteer and author of the recently-published novel Bellweather Rhapsody, to share a post with us. Thanks, Kate!

Red Line graffitiWhen I came to Boston in 2003, you needed tokens to ride the T. The Greenhouse, with its four-story slices of chocolate cake, was still in Harvard Square, and the Red Sox had yet to break the curse of the Bambino. I came to get serious about writing, to get my MFA from Emerson College, but what I really ended up getting was a ten-year degree in Boston.

I grew up in central New York, in the city of Syracuse and its surrounding suburbs and towns, went to college in Buffalo and spent a year outside Philadelphia, but Boston—or technically, Cambridge—was the most city-like city I’d ever lived in. People walked. It wasn’t unusual, on the way from my first apartment to the T in Harvard Square, for me to overhear conversations in multiple languages. I had never had Indian food like the Indian food here—so rich and comforting, so easy to order that I quickly had a usual, and a delivery guy who came so frequently he noticed when I moved to a new apartment.

My Boston life has been divided into three ages: the age of Emerson; the age of investment marketing, first at Putnam and then at a subsidiary that’s now a part of Bank of America; and the age of Mass General Hospital, where I was most recently a prospect researcher in the development office. During each of those ages, I was writing, working on what would become my first two novels—This Must Be the Place, published in 2010 (and written, largely, at Diesel Café in Somerville), and Bellweather Rhapsody, just out this summer. Both novels are set in central New York, a place I loved and left, a place with a gravity that I couldn’t escape even if I wanted to. Reading is a form of travel—through time and through space, into the imaginations and experiences of other people living, inventing, and describing other lives—but so is writing. One of the great joys of being a writer is the ability to cast yourself back to a world, a place and a time that you knew, that shaped you, that you miss, and bring that world to life for someone who has never been there, for someone who has—or for someone who shared that world with you.

I have discovered this about my writing self: my imagination needs distance. I tend to write from memory—not descriptions of exact events but of feelings and details, stories I’ve collected, experiences I’ve had time to process. I need to leave a place before I can begin to see it as a writer.

This summer, after more than ten years, I am leaving Boston. It’s a typical college town story: I came for school and never left. But as much as I know it’s my time to go, how can my heart not be a little broken? This is the place where I finished growing up, where I wrote my first two books; these are the people who made this city, so unlike anywhere else I’d lived, my home.

But here are the details and the stories I have already collected: the view of the Common from the GrubStreet office. Kicking over a beer in the stands at Fenway. That time I passed out on the T. That feeling, even if it’s raining, that the day of the Boston Book Festival is the sunniest of the year. The smell of rosemary fries wafting from the Clover food truck; the smell of the sea, salty and sticky, from the ferry to the Vineyard. The cool, unreachable paws of the lions at the BPL; the used book basements of the Booksmith and the Harvard Book Store. Walking through the Common into the Public Garden, listening to a song, watching the leaves on the trees, watching the people. Ice cream from Christina’s. The cool rush of air into the bus when you pry open a window. Late at night, riding the Red Line home—crossing the river, watching the city glow.

I will come back to Boston to visit; there are too many people I love here for me to stay away. But I will also return, again and again, in my imagination, in my next novel and all the novels I have yet to write. This place has a gravity that I couldn’t escape even if I wanted to, because this place is a part of me.

I can’t wait to tell my Boston stories.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

BBF Unbound 2014: Seeking Submissions

2013’s series of BBF Unbound community-curated sessions was wonderfully diverse, focusing on such varied topics as discovering world literature for kids, reporting on the Boston Marathon bombings, and plotting a successful mystery novel. We love hearing your ideas for sessions and working with you to develop successful BBF presentations and workshops.

We’re now accepting proposals for 2014 BBF Unbound sessions, to be presented at the Boston Book Festival on October 25.

We are looking for outside groups/individuals who can introduce fresh voices and new ideas to the BBF. Be creative! The session can involve a debate, demo, workshop, literary improv, dramatic readings, panel discussion, literary games, etc. We are not looking for product promotions, plugs for businesses, or sessions featuring a single author publicizing his or her book.

You will be responsible for running your session, i.e., gathering participants, beginning and ending on time, and covering any expenses (beyond room rental and basic A/V). We will publicize your session on our website and in our Program Guide, and we will ask you to publicize it as well.

We will evaluate proposals based on: 1. Will the content appeal to the BBF audience? 2. Does the content offer something different from standard BBF fare? 3. Is the individual/group offering a plausible plan for implementing the session?

In your proposal, please tell us:

Who You Are (your name, name of organization [if applicable], your bio, your or your org’s website):

Title of Proposed Session:

Description of Session (150 words max):

Intended Audience:

Implementation Plan (400 words max, including answers to the following questions: If there are expenses associated, how will you fund your session? How will you guarantee your proposed participants' involvement? How will you communicate your plans and needs to BBF staff? Through what channels will you publicize your session?):



Audiovisual Requirements:

Deadline for Application: July 18

Notification: August 15

Questions?: Contact Norah Piehl, 617-714-4748,

Submit all materials (including samples of previous work, if applicable), to:

Norah Piehl, Deputy Director
Boston Book Festival
1100 Massachusetts Ave., Suite 300B
Cambridge, MA 02138

Because of space constraints in 2014, we will unfortunately be unable to accept as many sessions as we did in 2013, but we are committed to continuing this popular and important component of our programming. We look forward to reviewing your submissions!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

IFF Boston 2014

Here at the BBF, we love movies (almost) as much as we love books. That’s why we’re proud to partner again with the smartest film festival around, Independent Film Festival of Boston. The twelfth annual IFF is set to take place April 23-30 at the Somerville Theatre, Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and UMass Boston. They’ll be screening close to a hundred films, as well as hosting weekend panel discussions (and some pretty swell parties for badge holders, too). Tickets for all events are now available on IFF Boston’s website.

The BBF is pleased to be screening sponsor of two films during the festival. Make plans to attend—we hope to see many of you there!

Palo AltoPALO ALTO Fri. 4/25 – 9:30pm – Somerville Theatre
Based on James Franco’s first book of linked short stories about modern teens in the eponymous California city, this film marks the directorial debut of Gia Coppola (Sofia’s niece and Francis Ford’s granddaughter). Variety writes that Coppola’s adaptation “ balances the tired sensationalism of kids behaving badly with a welcome dose of sympathy.”

The DoubleTHE DOUBLE Tue. 4/29 – 9:45pm – Coolidge Corner Theatre
An adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella, The Double tells the story of Simon, a meek government worker met with indifference and scorn in every aspect of his life. Unable to woo the woman of his dreams and ignored by his peers, Simon feels powerless. Enter James: confident, charismatic … and Simon’s exact physical double. Slowly, James begins to take over Simon’s life. Called “visually groundbreaking and darkly funny” by Film Journal International, this won’t be one to miss.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dispatch from Maternity Leave

In 2014, we’ll be featuring occasional posts from a variety of different voices, including BBF presenters, partners, and staff. First up is Norah Piehl, the BBF’s deputy director. Remember those “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essays from elementary school? This is kind of like that, but about maternity leave. Enjoy!

baby hands with book

Dispatch from Maternity Leave

You may have seen me at the Boston Book Festival in October, like a frigate under full sail, sweeping (or perhaps waddling) my way across Copley Square throughout the day. I was nearly 37 weeks pregnant at BBF 2013, and my son had the good sense to wait a full four days after the festival to be born.

Since then, I’ve been on maternity leave. When I first started my leave, several people asked me, “What do you plan to do during your time off?” I bristled at this at first. Did I really need to accomplish anything—wasn’t seeing my son and our family through the chaotic newborn months enough? As the fuzzy-headedness of those first few weeks began to wear off, however, I discovered that yes, there are portions of the day that can be devoted to tasks other than eating, sleeping, and gazing adoringly at my eating/sleeping baby.

As I prepare to return to work full time (it’s high time to start planning BBF 2014, after all!), I thought I’d gather some of the things I learned during my leave, in the hopes that they may be helpful to other bookish mamas-to-be.

Do Something Smart

Just because you’re “on leave” doesn’t mean you’ve taken leave of your senses, and that includes your sense of intellectual curiosity. Consider your leave a sabbatical of sorts, a chance to dabble in something new or reawaken a dormant scholarly passion. Rediscover the exercises in your high school Wheelock’s Latin textbook, dive into Proust, or persevere until you finish each Sunday’s New York Times crossword. I tried to squeeze in reading time while my son was nursing, and I was able to get through more books than I would have thought, including Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree and Jennifer Senior’s All Joy and No Fun. While both of these focus on issues of parenthood, they are more than just “baby user’s manuals”—they helped me feel I was staying engaged with larger social and cultural issues, too.

If You’re a Writer, Write

Your mother-in-law or someone else has probably told you to “nap when the baby’s napping.” This is, of course, admirable advice, but if you’re the kind of mother for whom creating a new life has also awakened other kinds of creative urges, the baby’s naptime can also be the perfect time to hit the notebook or keyboard. In her memoir, Great with Child, Debra Rienstra writes that in the postpartum period, “I went to the writing place … because I desperately needed a place of retreat.” Having created a tiny, unpredictable life, creative women may feel a need to give birth to something over which they have at least some control. Stuck on what to write? Start with your baby’s birth story. Everyone’s got one, and recounting birth’s inherent drama just might inspire you to bring other stories or poems to life.

Nurture Yourself

When I was in college, what I valued nearly as much as the give-and-take of the classroom was the relatively unstructured days. While you’re on leave and when your baby’s young and portable, you can recapture some of this freedom. If it’s a beautiful day, take a walk in the sunshine; if it’s freezing, visit your neighborhood coffee shop at 11 am. Just because you can (and you won’t believe how much shorter the line is). Take advantage of long days at home—especially if your leave happens to fall, say, during one of the snowiest winters in Boston’s history—to explore a hobby more deeply. For me, that’s cooking, and I’ve spent wintry afternoons talking to my baby as I made granola bars, soups and stews, pumpkin butter, bread, and pasta sauce. In addition to occupying dark days and giving me a sense of daily accomplishment that can be hard to come by with an infant, my freezer is now stocked with provisions that will make weeknight dinners a little easier once I return to work.

Connect With Others

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying every moment was filled with rosy-hued light and the aroma of baking bread. It can also be a stressful and lonely time, especially if you’re accustomed to a stimulating career. Seek out other new moms at breastfeeding help sessions, postnatal yoga classes, or the baby matinees at movie theatres in Arlington and Brookline. This year, I’ve actually seen more Oscar-nominated films with my four-month-old than I have with my husband! Find a Meetup group for new moms, or start one (maybe a book group?) of your own. Make dates to meet friends, colleagues, or your spouse for lunch near their offices. Seeing you and your baby in the middle of a workday will be as much of a treat for them as leaving the house is for you!

Do Something Dumb

Let’s face it: there will be days and maybe whole weeks when sleep deprivation and your baby’s incessant demands will mean that preparing a hot meal (or even taking a hot shower) will skip ahead of Anna Karenina on the to-do list. For those times, find something frivolous to read, watch, or do. Devour Penny Vincenzi’s Spoils of Time trilogy, check in on the soap operas you watched in college, or master your favorite smartphone game. My not-so-guilty pleasure has been Miranda, a British sitcom starring Miranda Hart, who plays Chummy on Call the Midwife. I like to fool myself into thinking the British accents make the show more cerebral than it is; in fact, it’s just jolly good fun.

Do Nothing at All

After I return to work, I’m sure I’ll get another round of “but what did you do during your time off?” The truth is, while I’ve actually done a fair amount, the moments I’ll remember most are those that look an awful lot like doing nothing at all. Holding my newborn in the crook of my elbow as we laze in bed together; seizing warm(ish) February afternoons to walk with him through our neighborhood; setting aside my latest book or project because I just have to look into his eyes for a moment or an hour—these are the memories that I will cherish most after I return to the routines and schedules of a working parent. No matter how short or how long, maternity leave is a gift of time—more than that, it’s a sort of time out of time, the rare opportunity to escape from deadlines and meetings and instead just be.

I may not have written the next great American novel, remodeled the bathroom, or even gotten my son’s baby book completely up-to-date, but I do feel refreshed, renewed, and ready to throw myself back into the career I love. And at BBF 2014? I’ll be the one striding across Copley Square, hopefully a little thinner this time, perhaps taking a break or two to introduce Curious George to a certain brand-new one-year-old.