New York City’s biggest book festival is getting even bigger. Yesterday, the Brooklyn Literary Council announced a star-packed line up for this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival, which will take place on Sunday, September 12. Brooklyn has long been a hub for writers and bookworms, but the festival, now in its fifth year, is attracting talent from far outside the borough’s limits.
“There are certain authors that we’ve been lucky to have every year, like Colson Whitehead and Jonathan Lethem,” says Johnny Temple, chair of the Literary Council and director of the festival. “But this year we’re adding some high caliber, new authors who have never been here before.”
Big names like Joyce Carol Oates, Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Harding, and best-selling crime authors Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly have confirmed for readings and panels. The international stage will have authors from Pakistan, England, Puerto Rico, Ethiopia, and China, just to name a few.
Mr. Temple, who moonlights as a bass guitarist, wants the festival to show people that books are just as exciting as music or any other form of entertainment. “Music is seen as being super dynamic and accessible to people old and young alike, but books and literature can sometimes be perceived as an art for the elite, which books should not be,” he says. “Books are not stodgy, they’re not elitist, and that’s why Brooklyn is such a great place for this festival.”
“When I was a kid growing up in Williamsburg and I realized how many writers had actually come from Williamsburg, that inspired me,” says Mr. Lopate, who at last year’s festival, talked with authors on the air.
“I don’t know what they’re going to stick me in, as long as it’s something where I can joke around, I’m going to be happy,” he says. “If I don’t get my laughs, I get depressed.”
With 150 exhibitors and more than 200 authors, the festival has nearly doubled in size since its inception. Laura Sinagra, director of communications at Borough Hall, says that people continually ask them to expand the daylong event. To do that this year, Borough Hall partnered with cultural organizations throughout Brooklyn for “bookend events,” like live music, performances, and parties that will take place during the days leading up to and during the event.
Places like Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Bell House, BAM, and Littlefield are all on the roster. “All of the events by other organizations will be celebrating the written word, but through whatever their perspective is,” says Ms. Sinagra. “It’s really exciting.”
One of the cultural partners, Greenlight Bookstore, is planning an event on Friday, September 10 that will highlight Brooklyn’s independent presses. “We’re still confirming a lot of it, but it’s going to be like a big party,” says Greenlight co-owner Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, grinning.
Ms. Bagnulo and Rebecca Fitting opened Greenlight just seven months ago. “The festival is a great opportunity for us to get our name and our bookstore in front of the gazillions of readers and book lovers that are at the event,” says Ms. Bagnulo. But the duo is looking forward to the festival for non-business reasons, too.
“We listened to [the literary council] read like 110 names and I was very excited and happy about too many of them to count,” says Ms. Fitting. “It’s a really nice line up.”
“Yeah, definitely,” adds Ms. Bagnulo. “I mean, we work in books. We’re in bookstores all the time, but at the festival, I always come across something new or something local and exciting that I’ve never seen before.”
While book lovers like the Greenlight ladies are the festival’s most obvious fans, Mr. Temple emphasizes that the event is for more than just the literary crew. “Brooklyn has this incredible diversity, whether it’s ethnic or religious or socioeconomic, and we like to think that the book festival has something for everybody,” he says. “No matter who you are, there will be something for you at the book festival.”
View the list of confirmed authors here. A complete list of participating authors and schedule of events will be announced in August.