We can start with some of the Top Ten Books of 2018 selected by the New York Times. You’ll meet Esi Edugyan with the spellbinding historical novel Washington Black, David Blight with the magisterial biography Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, and Shane Bauer with American Prison, a powerful exposé based on his months undercover as a prison guard.
Fiction legend Ann Beattie will be celebrating her 21st book, A Wonderful Stroke of Luck — a “most anticipated book of 2019” by O Magazine. You’ll also find legends-in-the-making, extraordinary writers whose debuts made big splashes, including R.O. Kwon, Lydia Kiesling, Jamel Brinkley (National Book Award finalist), and others with new or forthcoming books that knocked us out (Lauren Wilkinson with a novel on race and espionage; Cai Emmons on a woman who could control weather; Namwali Serpell with an epic story set in Zambia).
Another favorite joining us — expect big crowds! — is Tayari Jones, celebrating the paperback of An American Marriage. Other stellar novelists and short story writers will talk about historical fiction (look for Terry Gamble and Christopher Tilghman), race and justice (Christian Kiefer), and motherhood (Vanessa Hua, Sheila Heti, Devi Laskar).
You might have seen the New York Times Magazine profile of Linn Ullmann, novelist and the daughter of Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann. She’s coming to us from Norway with a mesmerizing novel, Unquiet, a major bestseller in Europe, drawn from conversations with her father at the end of his life. Also traveling to us from Norway is Geir Gulliksen, bestselling novelist and famed editor; his authors include Karl Ove Knausgaard.
Each year, we shine a light on some of the most salient social issues of the day, and immigration certainly is one. You may remember when Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist José Antonio Vargas came out as an undocumented immigrant, an admission he has transformed into a platform for dialogue around citizenship. He’ll discuss his story and the politics of having papers with his memoir Dear America.
Other writers will discuss refugee stories and human rights at our borders, including journalist Eileen Truax with We Built the Wall, an expose on border corruption, and immigration attorney J.J. Mulligan Sepúlveda with the memoir No Human Is Illegal. We’ll explore a collection of Central American refugee narratives co-edited by human rights activist Steven Mayers and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jonathan Freedman.
Another urgent issue is incarceration. Albert Woodfox, one of the Angola Three, spent 43 years in solitary confinement — then had his conviction overturned. He’ll join us to discuss his memoir Solitary.
We’re excited about an on-stage conversation celebrating the profound legacy of the late feminist thinker and poet Adrienne Rich. Our moderator, Sandra Gilbert, who edited the recent Essential Essays, will be joined by Rich’s longtime friend Susan Griffin (whose seminal Woman and Nature launched ecofeminism 40 years ago); Rich’s editor at Norton, Jill Bialosky; and others to be announced.
Many other prominent female voices will speak from our stages — including Cathy Guisewite, creator of the hugely popular comic strip Cathy, which has accompanied millions through womanhood. She’s coming out with a memoir!
Mystery and thriller fans, here are clues to what lies in store for you May 4-5. What writing family has more bestsellers than, we venture, everyone else at the festival put together? Stephen King and his son Joe Hill? Close, but King doesn’t like to fly, so he’s not coming. But the Kellermans are: Jonathan, Faye, and Jesse!
Our classic Nordic Noir session will return, like a killer stepping out from a snowy night! Hints on authors: First names include Kjell and Ragnar. For now we’ll keep you in suspense for the rest.
A couple of legends of journalism are joining us this year, notably Daniel Ellsberg, whose other stash of documents (the first was the Pentagon Papers) was about the nuclear establishment; his Doomsday Machine is one of the most important books you’ll ever read. Mother Jones co-founder Adam Hochschild and notable longform writer Julia Flynn Siler investigate stories of heroism amidst tragedy.
Some of our favorite memoirs this year deftly interweave personal accounts with essay, to dazzling effect. You’ll want to hear Lacy Johnson with The Reckonings on restorative justice; Kiese Laymon with his radically vulnerable memoir Heavy, named a “best book” by dozens of reviewers; Kwame Onwuachi with Notes from a Young Black Chef; and the musician Moby with a tell-all memoir, Then It Fell Apart.
National Book Award winner Barry Lopez, a master of nature writing, will present a new book of essays. Journalist Vince Beiser captivated us with a book on sand (yes, sand), a book that can change how you look at this basic building block of the world. We’ll also feature a stunning new Heyday book on California redwoods that’s oversized like the trees.
Come hear a cross-genre conversation on political optimism and the wilderness between Pam Houston (Deep Creek) and Katie Peterson (A Piece of Good News), and a queer poetics panel featuring indigenous poet, podcast host, and author of Junk, Tommy Pico. You’ll also be able to see the renowned poet, novelist, and essayist Ishmael Reed.
If you add music to poetry, you get Bob Dylan. Legendary music critic Greil Marcus talks with UC Berkeley scholar Timothy Hampton about Hampton’s excellent forthcoming book, Bob Dylan’s Poetics: How the Songs Work. The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
Kids and Young Adult
We have a big array of authors, illustrators, and activities for kids this year. A detailed Sneak Peek is coming, but meanwhile plan to bring your kids for story time with Innosanto Nagara, author and illustrator of the justice-driven picture book, A is for Activist, and for a live taping of the Book Club For Kids podcast with Kitty Felde.
Teens are in for a treat with an incredible lineup of young adult authors including Anna-Marie McLemore (Blanca y Roja) and Zoraida Córdova, author of Bruja Born, named an NPR Top YA Book and heralded as “A richly Latin American, giddily exciting novel” by the New York Times. Andrew Smith, award-winning YA author, will present his highly anticipated MG novel The Size of The Truth. And come listen to your fave YA authors competing in a hilarious episode of the Literary Death Match, adjudicated by, yes, you teens!