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10 Book Festivals Worth Traveling for This Fall

Emmanuel Hidalgo-Wohlleben •
Aug 11st, 2023

With Labor Day looming, it’s prime time to counteract the end-of-summer blues and plan a trip. Here at Tertulia, we always enjoy checking out local bookstores and literary landmarks wherever we travel. But planning a trip around one of the many vibrant book festivals in the U.S. is even better. From the Art Basel for the literati in Miami to San Francisco’s Litquake to Harlem’s Book Fair and Black Authors Hall of Fame, these 10 book festivals are worth traveling for – including the National Book Festival taking place this weekend in Washington, D.C. This guide is a preview to some of the top talent appearing at these festivals, as well as some recommendations on each city's literary pilgrimages, bookish hotels and even where to grab a coffee.

National Book Festival

When: August 12, 2023 

Where: Washington, D.C.

Why you should go: 

Lit lovers will find no shortage of stimulating talks and activities at this annual star-studded book festival in our nation’s capital. This year’s talent roster includes the former U.S. poet laureate, Joy Harjo, legendary short story writer George Saunders, actor Elliot Page, whose recent memoir was called an “intimate interrogation of sex, trauma and identity” by USA Today, along with sociologist Matthew Desmond, whose book Poverty, by America has been one of the most talked-about nonfiction books of the year.

Note, if you want to follow the festival from afar, several programs will be live-streamed and all recorded programs will be available online following the festival's conclusion. Click here to learn more!

Printers Row Lit Fest

When: September 9 - 10, 2023 

Where: Chicago, IL

Why you should go:

Welcome to the Windy City! Join 100,000 fellow book lovers for the Midwest's largest free outdoor literary extravaganza with a backdrop of awe-inspiring historic skyscrapers and a menu of Chicago dogs and deep-dish pizza. Headlining this year’s event are journalists Toluse Olorunnipa and Robert Samuels, distinguished winners of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for their nonfiction book His Name is George Floyd. Soak up author panels, peruse books by locally and nationally acclaimed writers, and walk along a thoroughfare lined with booksellers — an homage to the district's history as a hub of printing presses and book crafters, from which the festival gets its name. Don’t forget to take advantage of everything else this iconic city has to offer: check out the Carl Sandburg House, where he wrote his groundbreaking poem “Chicago,” the American Writers Museum on Museum Mile, or head over to nearby Oak Park to see Ernest Hemingway’s birthplace home.

Harlem Book Fair

When: September 22 - 23, 2023

Where: New York, NY

Why you should go:

This year, one of the nation’s premiere Black literary events, the Harlem Book Fair, will celebrate its 25th anniversary over two days in the historic Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Plaza on W. 125th street in Harlem. The fair kicks off with the Black Authors Hall of Fame’s inaugural induction ceremony on Friday, Sept. 22. On Saturday, the programming celebrates some of the hottest and most impactful voices in Black literature, featuring workshops, discussions, books for sale and a variety of booths. Past participants have included Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez, and Walter Mosley.

Brooklyn Book Festival

When: September 24 - October 2, 2023

Where: Brooklyn, NY

Why you should go:

The Brooklyn Book Festival is one of our favorite blockbuster book festivals in the U.S. This expansive literary gathering, the largest in New York, unfolds over a week in physical venues across all five boroughs as well as virtual events. The festival will culminate with Festival Day on Sunday, October 1 in and around Downtown Brooklyn’s Borough Hall, sure to be flooded with booklovers from around the city and world. 

This year's lineup features a blend of emerging authors and established literary figures, representing various genres and a dedicated day for children’s books. Pulitzer Prize winners Hilton Als and Colson Whitehead, poet Richie Hofman, and beloved author Joyce Carol Oates are among the luminaries featured at the event. Don’t miss the literary-themed walking tour put on by the Brooklyn Public Library, during which the books and authors you love come to life. See the areas where books were set or written, or where your favorite writers lived or frequented. Some of the authors and artists featured on the tour include Richard Wright, Patti Smith, Walt Whitman, Marianne Moore, Biggie Smalls, N.K. Jemisin and Howard Zinn.


When: October 5 - 21, 2023

Where: San Francisco, CA

Why you should go:

Founded in 1999 and formerly known as Litstock, Litquake is the West Coast’s largest independent literary festival. Taking place over 16 days in small and large venues throughout San Francisco, the festival typically brings in more than 20,000 visitors and features as many as 500 authors at over 100 events, most of which are free. Last year’s program included a talk from Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist Maria Ressa about her book How to Stand Up to a Dictator, an interview with Interior Chinatown author Charles Yu, and the awarding of the John Steinbeck Award to MacArthur genius fellow and novelist, Jacqueline Woodson. Stay tuned for more info about this year’s lineup when the full schedule is announced on September 5. 

Iowa City Book Festival

When: October 8 - 15, 2023 

Where: Iowa City, IA 

Why you should go:

Iowa City needs no introduction to booklovers. Home to the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop and a UNESCO-designated “City of Literature,” it’s no surprise that the city’s annual book festival brings some of the lit world’s biggest names to the American heartland. This year’s roster of presenters includes novelist Nathan Hill, whose latest offering, Wellness, is scheduled for release this September, and living legend John Irving, whose 2022 novel The Last Chairlift was his first book in seven years.

Boston Book Festival

When: October 14, 2023 

Where: Boston, MA

Why you should go:

Set against the backdrop of its host city’s charming streets and iconic landmarks, the Boston Book Festival takes over Beantown’s historic and intellectual hub, Copley Square, for a day. Stroll through a labyrinth of bookseller booths, relish the people-watching – attendees have been known to dress up as their favorite literary characters – grab a bite at a food truck, and hit up your favorite author talks. Among this year’s distinguished speakers are Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series, who will speak on children’s books; Chloe Gong, the mastermind behind Immortal Longings, who will present on YA books; historian and author Heather Cox Richardson, whose book Democracy Awakening is a highly anticipated fall release, who will speak about nonfiction. Other luminaries slated to appear include New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, Tracy Flick Can’t Win author Tom Perrotta, and poetry headliners Oliver de la Paz and Diannely Antigua. We recommend getting a room at the Omni Parker House Hotel, where Ralph Waldo Emerson, Samuel Gray Ward and Horatio Woodman once convened for their illustrious Saturday Club gatherings.

Portland Book Festival

When: November 4, 2023 

Where: Portland, OR

Why you should go:

The Rose City’s annual book festival, formerly known as “Wordstock,” is the largest in the Pacific Northwest and captures the creative and vibrant spirit of its host city with a formidable lineup of local and national authors. Last year's esteemed attendees included poet and kidlit master Kwame Alexander, novelist Silvia Moreno-Garcia, the youngest ever Booker Prize nominee Leila Mottley, blockbuster author Taylor Jenkins Reid, and the beloved master of the short story, George Saunders. If you have an extra day or two to spend in Oregon's largest – and eminently walkable – city, we recommend checking out Powell’s Books, which houses approximately one million books and claims to be the largest used and new bookstore in the world.

Texas Book Festival

When: November 11 - 12, 2023

Where: Austin, TX

Why you should go:

As the literary heart of Texas, Austin has emerged as one of the frontlines in the battle against book censorship and bans. Come November, the Texas Book Festival, co-founded by former first lady Laura Bush and fellow librarian Mary Margaret Farabee, will return to the city for its 28th annual gathering, with an impressive roster of distinguished authors. Among the constellation of the esteemed writers making the trip south this fall are PEN/Faulkner-award winner Ann Patchett, the critics' darling and Covenant of Water author Abraham Verghese, politician and author Stacey Abrams, Pulitzer laureate Andrew Sean Greer, and master biographer Walter Isaacson – whose highly anticipated biography on Elon Musk is poised to be one of the biggest books of the year. In addition to its literary renown, Austin holds the dual distinction of being crowned the “live music capital of the world.” We recommend taking advantage of the city’s local music scene, where you will find some of the best folk, bluegrass and indie rock around.    

Miami Book Fair

When: November 12 - 19, 2023

Where: Miami, FL

Why you should go:

Call it Art Basel for the literati, the Miami Book Fair is a weeklong, star-studded, literary feast in the heart of Vice City. Hundreds of authors descend on the downtown campus for readings, panels, workshops, and more. You’ll be marking up the schedule like it was a Coachella map. This year’s lineup boasts Kerry Washington, Jada Pinkett Smith, “Fonz” actor Harry Winkler, legendary activist and folk singer Joan Baez, crime novelist extraordinaire Walter Mosley, and political commentator David Brooks, to name just a handful. We recommend grabbing a cafecito at Manolo & Rene Grill, about a 10-minute walk from the street fair. You’ll need the fuel to zig and zag from building to building. Bring an umbrella.

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