6 Literary Festivals Around the World You Can’t Miss

Like a good book, you won’t be able to pass these parties up.

6 Literary Festivals Around the World You Can't Miss


Book lovers, rejoice! Here are six literary festivals around the globe where you can hear famous authors speak and read excerpts from their books, hobnob with fellow literati, and get your dose of intellectual stimulation.

1. Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana

March 30-April 3

This popular festival always has panels with well-known authors and performances, but this year, one of the most exciting events is a bit out of the norm—a VIP party at Tennessee Williams‘s former French Quarter home where The New Yorker drama critic John Lahr, his biographer, and TV personality Dack Cavett, his interviewer, will speak.

Most events take place in the French Quarter, and include a literary walking tour, a Creole food tasting with a cookbook author, jazz concerts, and performances of The Glass Menagerie and Orpheus Descending. Authors such as John Berendt and Dave Eggers have spoken in past years about their inspiration that stemmed from places like Venice, Italy and Savannah, Georgia, along with their personal creative process. If you go for the single day pass over the festival pass, try not to miss the closing event: a shouting contest, where amateurs emulate Marlon Brando’s heartfelt “Stellaaa!” bellow from A Streetcar Named Desire.

2. PEN World Voices Festival, New York, New York

April 25-May 1

This international literature-focused festival has a different theme highlighting specific issues every year. And for 2016, its focus is on Mexico and migration issues, featuring a panel on creativity and exile with journalists, poets, choreographers, and expatriate writers, not to mention a discussion on issues about the U.S.-Mexico border. Festival founder Salman Rushdie, author of Brooklyn and chairman Colm Toibin, PEN (an international literary organization) president Andrew Solomon, and many others will speak at the event, which is taking place throughout four boroughs, including New York‘s oldest artistic community of Westbeth.

3. Hay Festival of Literature & the Arts, Hay-on-Wye, Wales

May 26-June 5

Britain’s most prestigious literary festival is in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, a tiny “town of books” crammed with about 30 second-hand bookstores and artisans on the English border. The festival is so large, it swells the population of the town from 1,600 to 250,000. Since it started in 1987, the 10-day festival has had its fair share of noteworthy speakers, from John Le Carre to Jimmy Carter and Man Booker Prize winners. Sting has performed in the past, and Bill Clinton dubbed it the “Woodstock of the mind.” And it’s not just for adults: Hay Fever, a children’s festival, runs concurrently for book-hungry little ones.

4. Bay Area Book Festival Berkeley, California

June 4-5

This festival in downtown Berkeley offers over a dozen panel talks each day, plus an unforgettable peice of artwork composed of 50,000 books—free for the taking on a first come, first served basis. In 2016, Game of Thrones language inventor David Peterson, author of Season of the Witch David Talbot, and author of The Faraway Nearby Rebecca Solnit, will be speaking. Films highlighting writers will be shown at UC Berkeley’s Pacific Film, including John Huston‘s Fat City that is followed by an author and film critic discussion. Reserve your seat in advance due to scads of Bay Area bibliophiles.

5. Litquake San Francisco, California

October 7-15

This nine-day festival is the biggest literary celebration in the Bay Area, featuring over 900 writers specializing in diverse genres—ranging from fiction to sci-fi. The signature event is the Lit Crawl, a popular pub hop through the Mission District’s Valencia corridor, filled with readings and panels in bars, shops, cafes, and galleries. This event is so popular, it’s birthed look-alikes in places such as New York, Portland, Austin, London, and Helsinki. Travel writer Paul Theroux, poet and visual artist Patti Smith, and novelist Jane Smiley have made appearances in the past, and at the event, AFAR writers read stories from past issues. Bummed you can’t go? Get the podcast of past readings and talks at iTunes.

6. Jaipur Literature Festival, Jaipur, India

January 19-23, 2017

Combine a trip to Rajasthan with the world’s biggest free literary festival, starring a global list of 400 writers, dominantly South Asian and British. Filled with Indian music concerts and twirling dancers, the festival is held at the 19-century family mansion called Hotel Diggi Palace in the Pink City, named after the terra-cotta-colored buildings in its Old City. At next year’s event, mingle with luminaries like Simon Winchester, Michael Ondaatje and Richard Sennett, in addition to thousands of students and local villagers.

Travel, Food, Drink, Culture WriterI’m a travel, food, drink, culture, “green,” design, history writer for print/online outlets. I also write on business, health, animals and am a nonfiction author.
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