The East Bay’s Premier Magazine of Culture & Commerce

The East Bay’s Premier Magazine of Culture & Commerce

Books Aplenty at Bay Area Book Fest

Books Aplenty at Bay Area Book Fest

LITERATURE | The inaugural Berkeley event goes two days and brings 225 authors to town. In other words, it’s a big deal.

San Francisco can’t have all the fun. Litquake is great and all, but it’s high time we had a lit fest of our own in the East Bay. With the inaugural Bay Area Book Festival June 6 and 7 in Berkeley, the dream becomes real. This two-day, free event will welcome more than 225 local, national, and international authors in keynotes, interviews, panels. and performances, on indoor and outdoor stages throughout a 10-block chunk of downtown Berkeley. Authors Judy Blume and Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) are slated to appear, as well as Google’s Laszlo Bock.

Cherilyn Parsons, festival founder and executive director, moved to the Bay Area five years ago from Southern California. She missed weekend-long book festivals like the one she attended in Los Angeles. Books and reading are “a personal passion,” she said.

Although she acknowledged that “it’s really hard to put on a book festival [and] sustain support,” she explored and looked for one in the Bay Area, and “finally thought maybe I should start one.”

Parsons’ sense of the Bay Area includes its international flair and the connection to Silicon Valley, so her festival will “embrace the digital revolution [and] independent bookstores.” Local indies will have booths, and Parsons said she has “several panels on new forms of digital storytelling and digital innovation.”

Best of all, “it’s free and it’s for everyone,” Parsons said. “All kinds of writers from literary award winners to genre bestsellers, poets, panels. We’ve got a phenomenal lineup.”

Festivalgoers also will see a dazzling public art installation made entirely of books. Lacuna, an interactive art installation constructed of 50,000 books donated by the Internet Archive, is a temporary temple of books, built Burning Man-style, for the reader to sit in, walk under, and pull books from its walls to read. “Lacuna is like a magical temple to books, constructed out of books, that festivalgoers can explore,” said Victoria Rojas, the festival’s public art manager. By the end of the two days, Rojas said she hopes all the available books will have found new homes, leaving the shell of the structure behind for deconstruction. “It’s a wonderfully fun and collaborative project that everyone can participate in.”

A youth writing contest for grades 7 to 12 is underway, with winners to read their submissions onstage.

Literary lights include Cara Black, Michael Chabon, Jeff Chang, Peter Coyote, Geoff Dyer, Susan Griffin, Gary Kamiya, Maxine Hong Kingston, Mark Schapiro, Robert Scheer, Orville Schell; poets Jane Hirshfield, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman; authors James Howard Kunstler, Lalita Tademy, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Ayelet Waldman; and sci-fi wordsmiths Paolo Bacigalupi, John Scalzi, and Kim Stanley Robinson.

“Worlds open up when you read,” Parsons said. We want to be that world-expander.” Check out the complete schedule and lineup at

Julia Park Tracey of Alameda is a writer, author, and poet as well as a frequent Monthly contributor.

Faces of the East Bay