Fall Guide 2017: Books – Nashville Scene

Books All Grown Up

The Southern Festival of Books Brings Notable Names to Nashville This Season

Every fall some of the country’s most exciting authors descend upon Nashville to participate in the Southern Festival of Books, and this year’s lit-nerd party has an especially enticing lineup — there’s a vice president, multiple Pulitzer Prize winners, award-winning poets and journalists and too many bestselling authors to count. There’s an impressive array of up-and-coming locals, too. The festival is free, and events are open to all on a first-come-first-served basis. Here are just a few of the highlights — a full schedule is available at humanitiestennessee.org.

On Friday, New York Times bestselling author Jami Attenberg (who is wonderful on Twitter, btw) will read from her latest novel, All Grown Up. It’s a story about a childless 39-year-old New Yorker attempting to maneuver through relationships with friends and family as they settle into lives that are antithetical to what she has (or even wants) — getting married, having babies, being a dedicated-but-broke artist. Newsweek called the national bestseller “sexy, charming and impossible to put down.”

Saturday brings the festival’s biggest star, former Vice President Al Gore, who will discuss his latest documentary and its companion book, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. An Inconvenient Sequel was first intended to follow Gore’s progress as he worked with world leaders to combat climate change, ultimately resulting in the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement. But the documentary had to be reworked when, before the film’s release, President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement. Gore will surely have plenty to say about that.

Also on Saturday is an appearance by Omar El Akkad, a Canadian journalist who’s covered everything from the Arab Spring to the Black Lives Matter movement. This year El Akkad released his first novel, American War, which is about a second civil war that occurs as America is being ravaged by climate change and fossil-fuel shortage.

Books BravetartOn Sunday, cookbook author (and James Beard Award nominee) Stella Parks will talk about her new cookbook Bravetart. Named one of the country’s best new pastry chefs by Food & Wine magazine, Parks brings at-home baking to a new, nostalgia-drenched level with her latest, supplying recipes for all of your favorite childhood snacks — including homemade Nutter Butters, McDonald’s-style apple hand pies, Fig Newtons, Twinkies, Oreos and Thin Mints. Bravetart even shows you how to make your own rainbow sprinkles from scratch. May you never have to purchase a tube of colorful carnauba wax again.

Several local authors will also be hosting readings and discussions, including No. 1 New York Times bestseller Victoria Schwab, music critic Holly Gleason, songwriter Peter Cooper, Nashville’s youth poet laureate Cassidy Martin and young-adult author Jeff Zentner.


Booksshanthisekaran LuckyboySept. 28: Celeste Ng and Shanthi Sekaran at Parnassus Books

Celeste Ng and Shanthi Sekaran both released their second novels in September — Little Fires Everywhere and Lucky Boy, respectively — and while the books follow very different paths, the writers explore similar topics, including race, identity politics, immigration and motherhood. The two authors will discuss their work with Parnassus’ Mary Laura Philpott.

Oct. 19: Kirstin Valdez Quade at Vanderbilt’s Buttrick Hall

Night at the Fiestas, Kirstin Valdez Quade’s debut collection of short stories, received critical acclaim when it was released in 2015. The New York Times said the book is a “haunting and beautiful debut story collection,” and Quade won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize. She visits Vanderbilt as part of the university’s Gertrude & Harold Vanderbilt Visiting Writers Series. 

Nov. 6: Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis at the Nashville Public Library downtown

Music fans may know Colin Meloy as the frontman for the lit-loving indie-pop outfit The Decemberists, but anyone who follows children’s literature knows Meloy as a talented author, too — which isn’t really surprising if you’ve ever dug in deep on some of those poetic Decemberists lyrics. In November, he and his wife Carson Ellis, an accomplished artist and illustrator, will read from their new middle-grade book The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid, due to be released Oct. 24.

Nov. 11: Literary Award Gala feat. Elizabeth Gilbert at the Nashville Public Library downtown

This year’s recipient of the Nashville Public Library Literary Award is Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, which has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. If a pricey gala ticket is out of reach, Gilbert and Ann Patchett are hosting a discussion earlier in the day, at 10 a.m., at Montgomery Bell Academy. Tickets are free, but must be reserved in advance. They will be available Oct. 2 at nashvillepubliclibrary.org/salon615.

Nov. 14: Dan Rather at War Memorial

With poignant, emotional Facebook posts, journalist Dan Rather was able to help countless numbers of people make sense of the turbulent 2016 presidential election and, after that, President Trump’s inexplicable actions. In his new book, What Unites Us, Rather follows those thoughts even more deeply, examining what it means to be an American today. Advance tickets for his talk are available at wmarocks.org.

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