Texas Book Festival 2011

25th October 2011

Ahh. I am exhausted (thus no post yesterday), but this weekend was fantastic. I was in Austin for the Texas Book Festival. At lunch, I met up with Cassandra from Indie Reader Houston and JT of A Pretty Book, as well as my bff Sommer, and my mom, and I think we all ended up having a pretty great day.

I was able to attend 5 panels, which was really great, and this year, I felt much less guilty about leaving one early and ducking into another a bit late. The schedule is chock full of good stuff, so that’s expected. Here’s a rundown of the panels I sat in on:

Sarah Dessen and Libba Bray:

These two are mainly young adult authors. Sommer and my mom are big fans, so I followed them over. They were both funny, but there wasn’t anything that really pulled me in. The moderator let them do a lot of talking, so it was a bit of “rah rah, we love each other.” Since I wasn’t overly enthusiastic, JT and I ran over to another panel.

Chad Harbach, Justin Torres, and Amy Waldman:

These three debut authors have received a lot of critical acclaim, so this panel was devoted to this sort of phenomenon. There was nothing really all that interesting. I think all three are a bit shocked, so there was a lot of: “What do you think of all of this attention?” “Wow. It’s amazing.” Eh. I expected a bit more, but honestly, the panel is very much crafted by the moderator. If the moderator doesn’t introduce anything new, then there isn’t a lot of hope for something new.

Andy Borowitz:


Oh. My. Gosh. You guys are negligent. Why have you all not introduced me to The Borowitz Report before now? He talked about his new book, The 50 Funniest American Writers, a compilation that I can’t wait to get my hands on. Then when I got back to the hotel I laughed until I cried reading his Twitter feed.

However, my favorite panel of the day was the first one I went to with my mom. She and I also had great luck when we stumbled upon our favorite panel last year. It’s amazing the books and information you stumble upon at the festival:

Candice Millard:


President Garfield. Chester Arthur. These are names I vaguely knew but was never all that interested in…until Candice Millard showed me the error of my ways.

Her book Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President is one I cannot wait to crack open. I never had any idea what an impressive figure Garfield was, a poor young man who vaulted himself, through careful study, into the presidency of a university; a man not interested in the presidency but voted into office by Americans impressed with him; a man shot by a delusional supporter who went on to live in immense pain for three months.

Millard’s passion for her subject matter was incredibly persuasive and honestly reminded me of myself when I get on my obscure little tangents. She was an impressive speaker who obviously knew how to make history interesting.

I’ll leave you with the moment that brought tears to my eyes. President Garfield knew he was dying and requested to see the sea once more. A wealthy man offered up his New Jersey beachfront house, and train tracks were laid to its location. However, the train would not go up the final hill, and bystanders along the way lifted Garfield’s train car, carrying him all the way to the property. Amazing.


The weekend was, as always, wonderful and bookish. This was my 3rd annual trip to the Book Festival, and I thank everyone involved who makes it such a fantastic event that supports libraries and literacy programs.

Plus I picked up some great posters from past festivals for my classroom for $5 a piece. Score!

Hope all those involved in the Readathon had a great time.

  • Book festivals! I love the smaller ones so much more than the behemoth BEA one. Thanks for the heads up on the Borowitz Twitter feed! It is absolutely hilarious!

    And oh my goodness – that scene you described with Garfield wanting to have one last look at the sea again? Tears to my eyes as well, my friend. Will have to look for this book as well.

    • Yes, although the further I get away from BEA, the more I want to go back. And isn’t he hilarious? Love the brutal honesty.

      Isn’t that such a beautiful scene? I was so impressed by this author. I definitely can’t wait to read this book.

  • JT

    Thanks again for getting us all together, it was so much fun. Wandering in to see Andy Borowitz was such a funny adventure! I can’t wait to go again next year.

    • JT – Most definitely. I had such a great time, and yes, Andy Borowitz was hilarious. I cannot wait to pick up his book. I’m anxious to read some humor.

  • Yvette

    Candice Millard’s book is on my Must Read List. Thanks for the this post.

    • It looks fantastic. Can’t wait to get to it.

  • Sounds like you did have some good time! I would have loved to be on that panel of hyped up first-time authors, but sorry it wasn’t too good. Still, would be nice to meet the authors.

    • Yes, it’s always fun regardless. I really like hopping between panels. 🙂