Fest Coverage

Your comprehensive guide, complete with insider tips, to the 2013 Texas Book Festival

Insider tips and your comprehensive guide to the Texas Book Festival

Texas State Capitol in Austin at dusk
The Texas State Capitol opens its grounds this weekend for the 2013 Texas Book Festival. Photo by Stuart Seeger/Wikipedia
R.L. Stine
Relive your childhood terror with a panel or walk through the Texas State Cemetary with R.L. Stine. R.L. Stine/Facebook
Texas Book Festival
Don't forget to bring your credit cards and pick up some of the finest books. Courtesy photo
Texas State Capitol in Austin at dusk
R.L. Stine
Texas Book Festival

The 2013 Texas Book Festival is this weekend, and if you’re anything like us, that means spending way too much time wrestling with the print schedule, furiously highlighting and scribbling notes and feeling overwhelmed and frustrated that you can never refold your map the right way.

To help you avoid wandering lost around the Capitol Rotunda or being trampled by the 225 authors and 40,000 readers expected this weekend, we did some work for you. (We even suggest the best time of day to send yourself into a barbecue food-truck coma.)

Here's CultureMap’s comprehensive guide, complete with insider tips on how to schedule your days (and nights!) this weekend at the Texas Book Festival.

Saturday, October 26 & Sunday, October 27
8 am — Kayak or Bike With an Author 

Go exercise with some authors. Yep, we’re serious. We’re pretty sure this is the wackiest, most badass new addition to the book festival. For the first time ever, TBF is offering hourlong minitours of the city, meant to give readers a chance to engage with authors on a personal level. While some of you crazy morning fitness types are probably already planning to attend both, we suggest choosing one. Personally, we’re basing our decision on who we think will dish juicier insider gossip on the previous nights events.

Saturday morning (kayaking tour): Kayak around with Kevin Fedarko (The Emerald Mile) and Brad Tyer (OpportunityMontana). We’re guessing (hoping!) that the water adventure will be a little tamer than the one Fedarko chronicles in The Emerald Milehis book about launching a fishing boat into the Colorado River during the largest El Niño event on record. (Meet at Congress Avenue Kayaks: 8 am)

Sunday morning (biking tour): the brave can follow Lawrence Wright (Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief), Stephen Harrigan (The Eye of the Mammoth: Selected Essays), H.W. Brands (The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace) and Rob Spillman (editor of Tin House magazine) on a bike tour around the city. (Meet at Mellow Johnny’s, 8-9 am BYO bike or rent a TBF-discounted one.)

Insider tip: Like we said, we want dirt. There’s no doubt travel writers Fedarko and Tyler can give us a beautifully descriptive recap of Friday night's literary gala at the Four Seasons. But we’re thinking the best dirt might come from the biker dudes after Saturday night's Lit Crawl shenanigans — especially considering Rob Spillman’s magazine, Tin House, is in charge of "Sexist Bingo" at The Volstead the night before.

Both events are first-come, first-served. 

Saturday, October 26

10 am — It's a Texas Monthly showdown between former and current editor-in-chiefs Evan Smith and Jake Silverstein, respectively. Just kidding. But the first-session slot Saturday morning is star-packed. Evan Smith’s moderating a panel with Dan Balz and Jonathan Alter on America and Obama. (10-10:45am, Texas State Capitol, House chamber) Jake Silverstein is chatting with Geoff Dyer on his book-length film essay. (10-10:45, Texas State Capitol, Capitol Auditorium Room E1.004)

10 am — If we’re feeling less ambitious though, we might skip the panel and mosey over to the Cooking Tent instead to hear from Jarod Neece and Mando Rayo, authors of the cookbook Austin Breakfast Tacos: The Story of the Most Important Taco of the Day. They’ll be exploring taco culture and history in Austin and, we hope, cooking up some samples. (10-11 am, Central Market Cooking Tent)

10 am — But if we decide to brave any of the long first-session lines at a headliner event, it will definitely be to hear Meg Wolitzer (The Interestings) and Lynda Obst (Hello, He Lied) discuss their latest projects. Obst produced Nora Ephorn’s directing debut, and everybody’s raving about Wolitzer’s The Interestings, a novel that follows characters who met at an artsy summer camp in the '70s over the course of their lives. (Iconoclasts: 10-10:45 am, The Sanctuary at First United Methodist Church, 1201 Lavaca Street. Enter from Lavaca)

11 am — You’ll probably find us stuffing tacos in our face and enjoying the funky tunes of James McBride at the music tent.  His novel The Good Lord Bird is set in the Kansas Territory in 1857 amid battling anti- and pro-slavery forces and was nominated for the National Book Award. If you’re inspired by his soulful singing, you can hear him in conversation with Ray Robertson at noon on Saturday. (James McBride & The Good Lord Bird Band, Music Tent)

Insider tip: Pace yourself: Skip the early-morning headliner events and lines for breakfast tacos and soulful music.

Noon — Claire Vaye Watkins' Battleborn is filled with rich, devastating short stories about Nevada, transporting you into worlds of brothels, glitzy Vegas and empty, long Western roads. We can’t get enough of her words, and we’re excited to hear more Saturday when she talks with Zachary Karabashliev (18% Gray). (America the Beautiful? noon-1pm, Capitol Extension Room E2.026)

Noon — If you’re still looking to hang around outside before entering the Rotunda, head to the C-SPAN2/Book TV Tent to hear Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis talk about the climate in Dallas in 1963. The 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination is coming up this November, and Minutaglio and Davis' book, Dallas 1963, explores the politics and the characters of Dallas in the months and days leading up to the fateful November 22, 1963. The history nerd in us is freaking out about it. Dallas 1963 (noon-1pm, CSPAN2/Book TV Tent)

1 pm — Our middle-school selves are beyond excited about Goosebumps author R.L Stine.  But we're thinking about skipping his panel and sending ourselves into a barbecue coma. (Plus, we’re more excited to see him in a cemetery on Saturday night anyway.)

1 pm — The newest foodie addition to the TBF is the "Cue Court," which features barbecue vendors from across our great, delicious state: Two Bros BBQ Market from San Antonio, Blue OX BBQ and a mashup of Miller’s Smokehouse and the Peached Tortilla. Umm, this will probably be our home base all weekend.  

2:45 pm — We’re hoping that if we listen to Stephen Elliott, editor-in-chief at the literary site The Rumpus, and Carson Mell, filmmaker and writer, talk about sex and drugs and rock and roll, some of their California coolness, literary hipness and talent will ooze off on us before we head out Lit Crawlin’ on the East Side. (Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll: 2:45-3:45 pm, Capitol Extension Room E2.030)

Insider tip: Hear hip, young authors talk America and Sex and Drugs but skip R.L Stine for barbecue —you can catch him later in a cemetery.

Saturday night — Austin’s third annual Lit Crawl on the East Side includes Jonathan Lethem and Lemony Snicket playing Mafia at the White Horse, R.L Stine in the Texas State Cemetery and a chance to play jeopardy against  Zealot author Reza Aslan at Cheer Up Charlies. We can’t make these kind of decisions for you. Check out the full map schedule here to plan your crawl, then meet back up with us at the afterparty at Public School (10 pm, 1021 East Seventh Street)

Sunday, October 27

11 am — We’re thinking we’ll start our Sunday off with a change of scenery and some poetry. At The Contemporary, Nick Flynn (poet and PEN/Joyce Ostwerill Award winner) is speaking with a bunch of poets he loves, including Roger Reeves, Rebecca Gayle Howell and Jenny Browne. (Poets Nick Flynn Loves: 11am-noon, The Contemporary Austin: Jones Center, 700 Congress Avenue)

noon — Try to catch some of the Who Do's set at the music tent, featuring Austin's literary musicians Lawrence Wright and Ricardo Ainslie. Ruby Jane is apparently joining them, too. (Who Do: 12-1, Music Tent)

12:30 — Book it back from The Contemporary to catch Kelly Luce and Manuel Gonzales talk about the surreal and everyday magic. We think it will make a nice transition from the morning poetry. Plus we’re super into both of the local authors. Everyday Magic: 12:30-1:30 pm, Capitol Extension Room E2.026.

2:45 pm — Keeping with the local theme, we want to be sure to see author and yoga guru Neal Pollack.  He’ll be talking with Stephen Graham Jones and Chris Terry, and,  knowing these dudes, we’re betting it will be smart and funny. On the Fringe: 2:45-3:45 pm, Capitol Extension Room E2.030.

Insider tip: Make sure to keep fellow Austinite Lawrence Wright (who caused a national sensation with his latest book on Scientology) on your radar. He's making a few appearances at this year.

3:15 pm — End your book-loving weekend with some literal love talk with Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Betsy Prioleau. Prioleau’s book Swoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them is all about ladies' men, while Schmidt’s covers the lives of literary Casanovas. We’re thinking they’ll have some scandalous stories for us. (Writers Between the Covers: 3:15-4:15 pm, Capitol Extension Room E2.026)

4 pm — Eat more barbecue, max out your credit cards at the book tent, then go home to start devouring your new reads.  


The Texas Book Festival, this Saturday October 26, and Sunday, October 27, takes place at the Texas State Capitol.  It's free and open to the public. For more information and a full schedule, visit the TBF website.