During a normal October, Congress Avenue would be transformed into a bibliophile's dream, complete with rows of tents housing books of every genre. The crisp cool weather (just kidding, it's still Austin in October) gives way to writers in tweed jackets (actually, T-shirts) and the annual Lit Crawl is topped off with mugs of Hot Toddies (or ice-cold beer). Regardless of the weather, it's an Austin fall tradition and yet another event forced to pivot due to the pandemic.
This year, the beloved Texas Book Festival is going digital and bringing with it a lineup of Pulitzer Prize winners (Isabel Wilkerson), movie stars (Matthew McConaughey), big-name chefs (David Chang), and more publishing personalities to your screen. In total, 125 authors, illustrators, poets, journalists, artists, and thought leaders are slated to make appearances.
Wilkerson, who won a Pulitzer for her first book, will be discussing Caste, her newest New York Times bestseller that reckons with America's deeply rooted system of social injustice. Austin's own McConaughey will be on hand to chat about Greenlight, his new memoir, while Chang will be promoting Eat a Peach: A Memoir, "an intimate account of Chang’s rise through the restaurant world."
Unlike the traditional festival, which runs over a weekend, this year's 25th anniversary celebration kicks off October 31 and run through November 15. It's free, open the public, with programming broken up into blocks. The event begins with the 2020 Texas Teen Book Festival, taking place online on October 31 and November 1. Keynote speakers Elizabeth Acevedo and Nic Stone will join a lineup that includes Tiffany D. Jackson, Candace Bushnell, Natalia Sylvester, Lilliam Rivera, Yamile Saied Méndez, Rory Power, and Francisco X. Stork, among others.
Children's programming then follows November 2-6, with children’s authors and illustrators including Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg, Derrick Barnes, Raúl The Third, David Bowles, Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey.
It's then the adults turn, beginning with the Literary Gala on November 6 at 7:30 pm, TBF's official fundraiser, and the only thing that isn't free in the lineup. Emcee Michael Ian Black hosts Julia Alvarez, Nick Hornby, and Natasha Trethewey for an evening of literary thrills.
Tickets to the gala begin at $600, and proceeds go in part to funding the festival; TBF's Reading Rock Stars and Real Reads programs, which provide author visits and book donations to students in low-income schools; grants to Texas public libraries across the state; and free literary programming throughout the year.
The free programming returns with appearances by Kevin Kwan, Sigrid Nunez, Julia Alvarez, Michael J. Sandel, Ibi Zoboi, and more. Of course, the Lone Star State is well represented, with Texas writers José R. Ralat, Deb Olin Unferth, Natalia Sylvester, John Mackey, Julia Heaberlin, Lupe Mendez, H. W. Brands, Rebekah Manley, Rubén Degollado, Peniel E. Joseph, Tom Philpott, Robert Draper, Richard Z. Santos, James Wade, and Amanda Eyre Ward.
“We’re so excited to share this year’s lineup, and we’re especially proud about how many Texas authors will join us at this year’s Festival,” says TBF Literary Director Matthew Patin. “In such an unconventional year, it’s more important than ever to support the local literary community, and we can’t wait to showcase their work.”
As mentioned, this year's programming is free and open to all, with the exception of the Literary Gala on November 6. For more information and to see the schedules once they're announced, visit the Texas Book Festival site or follow them on social media.