Looking to meet a favorite author, chat with fellow book lovers, or discover great new reads? New England’s top book festivals have got you covered.
By Joe Bills
Nov 20 2019
Boston Teen Author Festival | New England Book FestivalsPhoto Credit : Mei Lin Barral Photography
The case could be made that no region of the country has a richer literary history than New England. And we all know that New Englanders love a good festival. It makes perfect sense, then, that some of the best book festivals in all the land can be found right here in the Northeast. Here are a few of our favorites.
Built on the belief that reading is key to a life of curiosity and imagination, the Nantucket Book Festival features author readings and presentations, panel discussions, book signings, workshops, writing competitions, school programs, and more. It celebrates books and reading in the broadest sense, while also calling out the rich literary traditions of Nantucket itself. This annual multiday festival takes place in June at venues across the island and has attracted high-profile participants including James Wood, Eileen Myles, Andrew Solomon, and Alice Hoffman.
The two-day Connecticut Children’s Book Fair is hosted by the University of Connecticut in Storrs each November. A full lineup of signings, readings, and presentations by authors and illustrators includes events tailored specifically for kids, such as story time and breakfast with costumed characters. Based on the belief that the love of children’s literature doesn’t have an age limit, this popular festival has featured Barbara McClintock, Richard Scarry Jr., and Jeff Kinney.
From meager beginnings in 2012 (14 authors and fewer than 50 attendees), the Boston Teen Author Festival has grown into a fall staple of the Boston literary scene. This one-day event is free and open to the public, featuring readings, panel discussions, and signings. Past participants have included Victoria Aveyard, Karen M. McManus, and Daniel José Older. Like a little competition with your reading? Log on to the website to download a BTAF bingo card and compete for prizes.
Three dozen or so of Maine’s best writers descend on Boothbay Railway Village each July to read, sell, and discuss their books. Admission to most events is free, and while you’re there, you’ll probably want to spring for a ticket to tour the museum and take a ride on a steam train. The roster of authors changes every year, but past participants have included Linda Greenlaw, Paul Doiron, Tess Gerritsen, and Kate Flora.
Founded in 2002, the Brattleboro Literary Festival came out of the gates strong, landing Nobel Prize winner Saul Bellow (in his last public appearance) as the headliner for its debut. It’s built on that success in the years since, attracting a lineup that has included winners of Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, Caldecott Medals, and virtually every other prestigious award. Past participants have included Charles Simic, Richard Russo, and Joyce Maynard. Events are hosted at venues throughout downtown Brattleboro each October.
For three days each July, Woodstock becomes “Bookstock.” The highlight of this weekend of literary fun is the Saturday night Town Hall presentation, which is typically the only event for which there is an admission fee. Bookstock celebrates the rich culture of the Upper Valley by encouraging appreciation for good writing, music, and art. Past participants have included Archer Mayor, Sy Montgomery, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, and Alexander Chee.
The Burlington Book Festival was declared by poet and literary critic David Lehman to be “one of the liveliest, most creatively organized events of its kind I’ve ever attended.” This three-day lineup of free public events is held each October at the University of Vermont campus and other venues throughout downtown Burlington. In addition to the presentations, readings, and signings, the festival livens things up with rare-book appraisals, workshops, film screenings, and performances. Past participants have included Russell Banks, Kim Addonizio, Chase Twichell, and Edward Hirsch.
The Newburyport Literary Festival is held each April at venues throughout downtown. Many of the daily readings and discussions are free, although there is a charge for the popular Friday night “Dinner with the Authors” event. Stephen McCauley, Ann Hood, Mark Doty, and Andre Dubus III are among the many literary lights to have participated in recent years.
This popular festival runs only every other year, but fear not: The organizers have put together a reading series at the Chilmark Community Center that runs in the years that the festival doesn’t. The festival itself is also hosted in part at the Community Center, with additional events at Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Min Jin Lee, and Judy Blume are among the many well-known names to have participated in past years. The reading series, which runs in even-numbered years, is held in July and August. The festival takes place in early August of odd-numbered years.
Founded in 2009, the Boston Book Festival has quickly become a treasured autumn tradition. The largest annual literary event in New England, the festival draws more than 200 authors and 25,000 attendees to Copley Square and the Back Bay each October. The majority of the workshops, lectures, readings, performances, and panel discussions are free and open to the public, and there are street fairs, musical performances, and lots more to keep you entertained in between. Past keynote speakers have included Margaret Atwood, Richard Ford, Atul Gawande, and Salman Rushdie.
What are your favorite New England book festivals?
This post was first published in 2018 and has been updated.