A Read-y Good Time

The insider's guide to navigating the best of Texas Book Festival 2019

The insider's guide to navigating the best of Texas Book Festival 2019

Temperatures have finally dipped below 90 degrees, H-E-B put out ornamental pumpkin displays weeks ago, and it’s not totally crazy to wear a thin sweater during the daylight. You know what that means: It’s (what passes as) fall in Austin, and when it’s fall in Austin, it’s Texas Book Festival season, folks! (Football, be damned.)

The 2019 Texas Book Festival returns to downtown Austin October 26-27, and is always free and open to the public. One of the biggest and most prestigious book festivals in the country, this year’s festival promises to be as inspiring, enriching, and lit-tastic as ever, with a seriously stellar lineup of 275-plus authors and exhibitors, including John Grisham, Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Choi, Jericho Brown, Tim O’Brien, Samantha Power, and hundreds of other big names in the literary world.

“The Texas Book Festival is a large, free festival celebrating books and the people who love reading," says TBF development director Claire Burrows. "There is something for everyone, from Austin‘s own barbecue connoisseur Aaron Franklin to debut novelist Fernando Flores, from poet and memoirist Saeed Jones to bestselling YA author Rainbow Rowell, and Kids on Congress for the whole family. It’s a festival that reflects the exciting and unique culture of Texas.” 

Time to text fellow book club members, print out the festival schedule, and start creating a Google spreadsheet with all those must-see authors (or is that just us?). Here's a handy guide to get you started.

Do your homework.

The Texas Book Festival isn’t unlike ACL Music Festival — if writers were rock stars, that is. Like ACL, it helps to look at the lineup and a map of the grounds before getting to the Texas Capitol grounds. Otherwise, there is a risk of getting lost in the boisterous crowds of bookworms swarming the Capitol, wielding their hardcovers like armor. Take a look at the How to Attend the Festival page to find info on parking, maps, walk-in points, venues and rules, and virtually everything else to know pre-festival. And here’s the link to the full schedule, complete with a printable PDF version.

Get to sessions early.
Don’t be the person who gets to sessions 20 minutes late, sweaty and panting. Not only will you not be able to snag a seat, but this is disruptive to the authors. It pays to get there not just on time, but early. 

Bring the kiddos.
The festival’s children’s and YA programming, Kids on Congress, is always excellent, so be sure to bring the youngster book lovers along. Here’s a look at some of this year’s kid-friendly highlights, including author talks, bilingual story times, and an appearance from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote a picture book called Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You (note that space is limited for this event).

Don’t skip out on Lit Crawl.
Lit Crawl is your best chance meet writers, get a little tipsy, and compete in all kinds of crazy, hilarious, literary-themed party games and trivia matches ... what’s not to love? The crawl is held in various locations throughout the Red River Cultural District this year, and events include the Literary Death Match, Noir at the Bar (a round of noir readings by crime fiction authors, hosted by MysteryPeople), Chicon Street Poets, and the always killer Lit Crawl Against Humanity (of the latter, the TBF website says “Prepare to be shocked, disgusted, and amused”).

Buy books and get them signed.
All books by festival authors are available for purchase in one of the BookPeople Sales Tents, and book sales fund TBF’s awesome programming, such as its Library Grants initiative and Reading Rock Stars program. So in short — buy all the books. Also, note that authors will sign books in either the Main Signing Tent or the Children’s Signing Tent directly after their sessions. Just be sure to take a look at the guidelines before getting a book signed.