Founded in 1995 by former first lady Laura Bush, the Texas Book Festival is the literary antidote to Austin’s hipster-studded music festivals. Every year, hundreds of authors of virtually every genre descend on the State Capitol lawn for informative and inspiring panels, book signings, Q&As, demonstrations, and more.
This year, the festival is chock-full of lauded fiction authors, celebrated journalists, award-winning chefs, and even a Hollywood celeb or two. To help you decide which events to attend, we present our picks for the best sessions and events at this year’s festival:
Friday, November 4
Get the weekend started at the 2016 TBF kickoff party. Festivities take place at Antone’s, where for a mere $45 you can party in book-friendly style with your fave authors and fellow fans. Ticket price includes food from El Alma, specialty Tito’s cocktails, and entrance into the Book Bash Raffle.
Saturday, November 5
8 am: Rise and shine for some literary-fueled exercise. Join TBF authors and friends for yoga, kayaking, biking, or running. Stretch out on your yoga mat on the Capitol lawn, bike through downtown, or get in some early morning kayak time on Lady Bird Lake. Events are free, but space is limited. Check out the full schedule here.
10 am: Join Laura Bush and Jenna Bush Hager as they share their National Parks Service-inspired children’s book, Our Great Big Backyard, at First United Methodist Church. Then get ready to start planning your next trip to Big Bend.
Our Great Big Backyard, 10-10:45 am, First United Methodist Church
10:30 am: Mosey on over to the Capitol to hear famed Lonesome Dove screenwriter and Texas national treasure Bill Wittliff as he discusses The Devil’s Sinkhole, the captivating sequel to 2014’s The Devil’s Backbone.
The Devil’s Sinkhole, 10:30-11:15 am, Capitol Extension Room E2.014
11 am: We’re excited for what’s sure to be a fascinating conversation between National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and equally acclaimed novelist Kaitlyn Greenidge. Woodson’s Another Brooklyn and Greenidge’s We Love You, Charlie Freeman were two of the most talked-about novels of 2016; both were poetic, powerful explorations of the intricacies of female friendship, racial identity, and the families we create.
Signs & Wonders, 11-11:45 am, Central Presbyterian Church
Noon: You know her from Orange Is the New Black, but actress Diane Guerrero has also written a harrowing account of her personal experience with the plight of undocumented workers in this country. In her book, In the Country We Love: My Family Divided, she delves into the story of her parents’ and brother’s quest for citizenship, and their eventual deportation back to Colombia.
In the Country We Love, 12-12:45 pm, C-SPAN2/Book TV Tent
12:30 pm: In the mood for some lighthearted woodworking humor? Parks and Recreation star (and woodworking aficionado) Nick Offerman is in town, and he’s ready to share his experience of working at the Offerman Woodshop.
Woodworking with Nick Offerman, 12:30-1:15 pm, First Baptist Church
Though this event will undoubtedly be hilarious, it’ll also likely be packed — you could always head back over to the Capitol to see Jennifer Close (The Hopefuls) and Teddy Wayne (Loner) speak. Both works deal heavily in lonesomeness — Close’s book is based on her experience as an outsider during the Obama campaign in D.C., while Wayne’s protagonist is a, well, loner at Harvard — and both have been on the receiving end of some serious buzz.
Outside Looking In, 12:30-1:15 pm, Capitol Extension Room E2.030
1 pm: A Top Chef host (Padma Lakshmi) and a world-renowned novelist (T.C. Boyle) have been scheduled for the same time slot; what’s a festivalgoer to do? Why, skip both and head over to see Belle Boggs (The Art of Waiting), Sady Doyle (Trainwreck), and Phoebe Robinson (You Can’t Touch My Hair) speak, of course. These three acclaimed authors are set to have a rather timely conversation about our expectations for women in the public sphere, and it’s gonna be good.
Great Expectations, 1-2 pm, Capitol Extension Room E2.014
2 pm: The legendary poet, writer, and anti-patriarchy activist Eileen Myles is speaking. That is all.
The Second Life of Eileen Myles, 2-2:45 pm, Central Presbyterian Church
3 pm: This year, a little book by the name of The Girls came out — perhaps you’ve heard of it? Join Emma Cline (The Girls) and Robin Wasserman (Girls on Fire) for a discussion on what it means to move through the world as a teenage girl and come of age amid a backdrop of violence and alienation.
Girls on Fire, 3-3:45 pm, Central Presbyterian Church
4 pm: The prolific Pulitzer Prize-winning author Don DeLillo (of White Noise fame) will be in conversation with screenwriter Noah Hawley (Before the Fall). DeLillo’s latest novel, Zero K, has been widely critically acclaimed, as has Hawley’s latest work. This will likely be your only chance to see the notoriously reclusive DeLillo speak; don’t miss it.
Don DeLillo in Conversation with Noah Hawley, 4-5 pm, First Baptist Church
7 pm: It’s Lit Crawl time. Join your fellow festival attendees for a books- and booze-soaked night out on the town, and watch this year’s TBF authors compete in events like the “Lit Crawl Against Humanity” and the “Literary Death Match.” We’re particularly excited for the Pun-Off World Championships. A full schedule of Lit Crawl events can be found here.
Sunday, November 5
11 am: With your breakfast taco in hand, head on over to the Paramount Theatre for your first event of the day: a conversation between famed author and Newberry Medal winner Lois Lowry (whose most notable works include The Giver and Number the Stars) and Texas Teen Book Festival co-director Shawn Mauser. Lowry’s most recent work is an updated version of her well-received memoir (first published in 1998) titled Looking Back: A Book of Memories — it’s a poignant look at her life, and the moments that have deeply inspired her and her writing.
Looking Back with Lois Lowry, 11-11:45 am, Paramount Theatre
12:30 pm: Twin Peaks fans, rejoice! Mark Frost, co-creator of the cult classic TV series is in town and ready to discuss the show, along with his new book, The Secret History of Twin Peaks. If you get the chance, make sure to let him know where he can get a damn fine cup of coffee in Austin.
The Secret History of Twin Peaks, 12:30-1:15 pm, Omni Ballroom
2 pm: After your lunch break, go straight back to the Omni Ballroom to hear Natashia Deon (Grace) and Yaa Gyasi (Homegoing) discuss their debut novels, both of which examine the long-term effects of America’s history of slavery, albeit in vastly different settings. This is sure to be an interesting and vital conversation.
Freedom, Where Are You? 2-2:45 pm, Omni Ballroom
2:30 pm: Decisions, decisions. You can go hear Chloe Caldwell (I’ll Tell You in Person) talk about her failed sleepover with Lena Dunham.
Life on the Page, 2:30-3:30 pm, Capitol Extension Room E2.014
Or listen in as Stephanie Danler (Sweetbitter) describes how she went from being a long-time waitress in NYC to having one of the hottest debut novels of 2016.
We’re Gonna Make It After All, 2:30-3:15 pm, Capitol Extension Room E2.010
3:30 pm: Critics’ darlings Angela Flournoy (The Turner House), Derek Palacio (The Mortifications), and Chigozie Obioma (The Fishermen) will be at the Capitol discussing the meaning of home, as defined in each of their latest works.
Homecoming, 3:30-4:15 pm, Capitol Extension Room E2.030
Meanwhile, at the Omni Ballroom, Maria Semple (Today Will Be Different) and Amor Towles (A Gentleman in Moscow) will be chatting about confinement as a literary device — Semple’s novel takes place over the course of a single day, while Towles’ is set entirely in a luxurious Moscow hotel.
The Tight Quarters of Time and Space, 3:30-4:30 pm, Omni Ballroom
The 2016 Texas Book Festival is November 5-6. All events are free and take place in and around the Texas State Capitol. For more info and a full schedule of events, check out the Texas Book Festival website.