Here are just a few of the authors who will appear at the May 6-7, 2023 festival!

This sneak peek of our lineup is only the beginning—dozens of additional authors will be joining us this year! So make sure you’re on our mailing list to hear updates and then, of course, the full schedule reveal on March 24. And mark your calendars for the festival on May 6 – 7 in Downtown Berkeley.


Bay Area newcomers and old-timers alike love KQED’s Bay Curious podcast, which reveals surprising secrets and stories about the place we call home. Now host Olivia Allen-Price has compiled dozens of quirky tidbits, local landmarks, and little-known histories into a Bay Curiousbook. She’ll be interviewed by the always entertaining Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Total SF podcast—also no slouches when it comes to Bay Area trivia!

Ilyon Woo brings both a historian’s discipline and a storyteller’s skill to her latest work of narrative history. Her New York Times-bestselling book Master Slave Husband Wife is a gripping account of Ellen and William Craft, who escaped bondage in Georgia by Ellen passing as a wealthy, disabled white man and William posing as “his” slave. Woo’s account of the Crafts’ many perilous journeys is nothing short of riveting—an adventure story whose intersections with race, freedom, and dignity remain utterly relevant today.

If working from home during the pandemic allowed you to rediscover the quiet joy of napping, poet, performer, and activist Tricia Hersey would invite you to view that daily pause as an act of intentional defiance. Founder of The Nap Ministry, Hersey is leading a movement to understand the “liberatory power of rest.” Her New York Times bestselling manifesto Rest Is Resistance urges readers to fight back against capitalism and white supremacy through daydreaming and rest, and her new “Rest Deck” offers prompts and activities to help you join the revolution.

If you’ve ever marveled at a spectacular sunset or been moved to tears by singing in unison with strangers, you may have struggled to articulate that feeling of overwhelming wonder. Dacher Keltner, one of the world’s foremost scientists of emotion and faculty director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, offers an exploration of this experience in his groundbreaking new book Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life. Keltner traces the history of this ineffable feeling, explains the science behind it, and inspires us to prioritize awe as a fundamental expression of our humanity.

Our Saturday night keynote speakerJoan Baez!—has devoted herself to visual art after retiring from performing, and we’re thrilled to welcome her to discuss the newly published compendium of her drawings, Am I Pretty When I Fly? One of the earliest musicians to use her fame for the sake of social justice, she has been on the front lines of just about every nonviolent social justice and human rights movement of the past century.

W. Kamau Bell—stand-up comedian, Emmy-winning host of CNN’s United Colors of America, Netflix star, author, and podcaster—and Kate Schatz, activist and creator of the bestselling Rad Women series, will present their irreverent collaboration, Do the Work! An Antiracist Activity Book. This hilarious and spot-on workbook gives readers a unique, hands-on understanding of systemic racism and how we can dismantle it.

Documents are in the news these days: classified, not, maybe yes, maybe no. With the same blend of political insight and biting satire that have made her Washington Post column wildly popular, Alexandra Petri presents Alexandra Petri’s US History: Important American Documents (I Made Up), compiling fabricated documents into a 500-year satirical timeline of American political and popular history.

David Fenton, “the Robin Hood of public relations,” created some of the most powerful campaigns over the past 50 years, from anti-fracking to anti-nukes to anti-pesticides. His memoir/guide, The Activist’s Media Handbook, shares hard-earned (and fascinating) lessons for young activists, as well as Fenton’s famed photographs of the counterculture.

Adam Hochschild has been a book festival favorite since Spain in Our Hearts in 2016. His latest book, American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis, brilliantly explores how the period from 1918 to the Roaring Twenties saw battles over race, immigration, labor, and threats to democracy itself. Sound familiar?

Going back further in time is the witty, charismatic host Max Miller, whose YouTube channel Tasting History (1 million+ followers) melds cooking and history. On the show, Miller recreates ancient recipes from around the world, served with a side dish of entertaining and enlightening historical anecdotes. At the festival he’ll present the gorgeous companion book with historical recipes for more than 60 dishes, along with modern interpretations.

And speaking of time, Jenny Odell, who famously taught readers How to Do Nothing in her NYT bestseller, now urges us to adopt a new framework for our days, one not governed by the dictates of work and profit but by the rhythms of ecological time. Her new book, Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock, is nothing short of revolutionary—a “moving and provocative game-changer,” according to Publishers Weekly.

Joan Baez, W. Kamau Bell
Max Miller, David Fenton's The Activist’s Media Handbook


Literary juggernaut and festival favorite Dave Eggers is back with a warmhearted illustrated novel about freedom, mortality, and the responsibilities of a community toward one another—issues we’ve all faced over the past couple of years—but told through a fable about a dog. In The Eyes and the Impossible, Johannes serves as “the Eyes” of an urban park, alerting its animal inhabitants to any unusual activity, especially to the arrival of “Trouble Travelers” and other humans. (What, or who, have been your Trouble Travelers lately? Maybe Johannes can help.) Dave’s collaborator, artist Shawn Harris, will discuss how his richly-hued paintings create emotional power that propel the emotion of such a powerful tale. This is a book you can share with children and that they just might want to share with you.

BABF is really going to the dogs this year—in addition to Dave Eggers’s session, you won’t want to miss T. Jefferson Parker, joining our thriller lineup this year. The three-time Edgar winner’s newest novel is The Rescue, about a journalist who befriends and eventually adopts a wounded street dog from a Tijuana animal shelter. Researching her dog’s surprising back story, however, leads both her and her new best friend into some dangerous territory. This is a session for dog lovers and thriller fans alike!

In other thriller news, classical violinist Brendan Slocumb has performed around the world, but these days he’s proving to be an international sensation in a different art form—writing. His debut novel The Violin Conspiracy, about a Black musician in search of a stolen instrument, was a Good Morning America Book Club pick and named to numerous year-end “Best Books” lists. Now Slocumb’s followed it up with Symphony of Secrets, about a famous composer with a shameful secret—and his family who’s ready to cover up the scandal at any cost.

BABF 2022 audiences adored our first foray into romance—and this year we’ve got a delightful new session celebrating the diversity and delights of contemporary romance. Local luminary Jasmine Guillory (Drunk on Love) will chat with novelists Lily Chu, Claire Kann, Amy Spalding, and Taleen Voskuni about the creative ways they plant roadblocks on the path to happily ever after—and the ways their characters overcome them.

If your heart yearns for the stars, get ready to take off for this year’s science fiction panel, which features three radically different but equally fascinating stories of space exploration. Festival favorite Annalee Newitz’s The Terraformers is a masterpiece of (literal) world-building, commenting obliquely on colonialism and the ecological future of our own planet. Hugo and Nebula Award winner Mary Robinette Kowal’s SF mystery The Spare Man finds inspiration in the past—specifically Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man. And Megan E. O’Keefe’s The Blighted Stars launches a thrilling new space opera trilogy. Plus: the session will be hosted by Glynn Washington, host of the radio show and podcast Snap Judgment, distributed by PRX!

Jane Smiley's A Dangerous Business, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Tsering Yangzom Lama, Kathryn Ma

The festival will overflow with fiction this year. Bestselling novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley is back with a feminist historical mystery, A Dangerous Business, set during California’s Gold Rush.

Another writer on California—Margaret Wilkerson Sexton—was born and raised in New Orleans (where she set her first two novels), now lives in Oakland, and has located her new, jazz and R&Bsuffused new novel, On the Rooftop, in San Francisco’s Fillmore District during the 1950s, just as gentrification began.

Other fiction writers will take us all over the world. Tsering Yangzom Lama will spirit us to Tibet and a refugee camp in Nepal with We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies. Bringing us inside the competing visions of womanhood for Iranian Americans is Susanne Pari with In the Time of Our History.

This year we’ll present panels with authors who are exceptional masters of different elements of literary craft. How do the writers create their magic? Get enlightened about humor with Kathryn Ma (The Chinese Groove), dialogue with Erik Tarloff (Tell Me the Truth About Love), and point of view with Colombian author Pilar Quintana (who writes from a child’s perspective in The Abyss), among other topics to come.

Mark Twain, among others, once explained that he’d written a long letter because he didn’t have time to write a short one. Brevity is a skill, and Grant Faulknerexecutive director of the world-renowned NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and author of the new book The Art of Brevity—will bring together a star-studded lineup of California’s best writers of flash fiction for a lively reading and conversation about (very) short stories.


When poet, essayist, and (now) memoirist Camille Dungy moved to Colorado a decade ago, she was shocked to encounter a strict set of community standards about what plants were and were not permitted to grow. Her memoir Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden is a meditation on the plants she fought to include and a manifesto contra homogeneity of all kinds. In a session on memoirs and place, she’ll talk with author, lawyer and essayist Vanessa A. Bee, whose unconventional memoir Home Bound: An Uprooted Daughter’s Reflections on Belonging is structured around Bee’s own dictionary definitions of “home” to consider everything from familial origins to housing insecurity.

Sourdough? Puppies? What were your survival strategies as the pandemic unraveled your life? Journalist Peggy Orenstein, revered for her provocative writing about the cultural pressures on young people, embarked on a wild and woolley (literally) project. A lifelong knitter, she set out to make her own sweater from scratch—starting with shearing the sheep. Although she calls the results “the world’s ugliest sweater,” the much bigger success is Unraveling, a hilarious, brilliant, and ultimately poignant memoir that explores other unravelings too: facing the death of a parent, an impending “empty nest,” and aging itself.

V (formerly known as Eve Ensler) is an activist, author, philanthropist, and the Tony Award–winning playwright of The Vagina Monologues, among many other plays. In Reckoning, one of the most anticipated memoirs of 2023, she blends the political with the personal to trace four decades of exploring trauma, recovery, and meaningful engagement with the world.

World-famous activist Alice Wong, founder of the Disability Visibility Project, will join the festival remotely to present her new memoir Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life. In this structurally innovative, mixed-media memoir, Wong tells her own story while tracing the history of creating political change and community for disabled people.

Nicole Chung, author of the powerful, bestselling memoir All You Can Ever Know, is publishing a second memoir, A Living Remedy, which reflects on adoption, identity, and grief. It’s one of the most anticipated books of 2023.

Another “2023 must read” (Essence magazine) is Eboni K. Williams’s Bet on Black: The Good News About Being Black in America Today. A lawyer, journalist, host of the popular legal podcast Holding Court, and co-star of The Real Housewives of New York City, Williams blends memoir with a call to action for the Black community to celebrate Blackness in all of its richness and complexity.

V (formerly known as Eve Ensler), Alice Wong's Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life

Poetry, Criticism, and More on the Art of Writing

Stanford professor Selby Wynn Schwartz’s debut novel After Sappho was longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize before it was even published in the United States. Told in a chorus of voices and featuring dozens of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century feminists, sapphists, activists, and creatives, Schwartz’s novel is fierce and funny, angry and hopeful. She’ll be in conversation with award-winning poet Brenda Shaughessy, whose new collection, Tanya, pays homage to the power of women—artists, mentors, and others—inspiring creative work.

Saeed Jones, Jane Smiley

We’ll have a knockout poetry lineup, as always. Just one author to mention is Saeed Jones, whose award-winning memoir was How We Fight for Our Lives. Saeed will present his new poetry collection, Alive at the End of the World. If you don’t yet know Saeed’s work, just know that his advice column for BuzzFeed’s READER newsletter was titled “Dear Ferocity.”

A group of brilliant authors will explore “a life in books”—how we become readers, and how reading enriches us. In The Questions That Matter Most, Jane Smiley takes us on a journey through centuries of literary history and traces its influence on her own work. Dorothy Lazard, beloved Oakland librarian for 40 years, tells the story of her own literary awakenings in the wonderfully titled What You Don’t Know Will Make a Whole New World. Joan Frank’s latest essay collection—Late Work: A Literary Autobiography of Love, Loss, and What I Was Reading—is the best possible companion for the literary life, whether of reader or writer.

Youth Programs

BABF truly appeals to all ages—and this year’s festival features several authors who will present as part of both our adult and youth programs—catch Marie Myung-Ok Lee (The Evening Hero and Hurt You), Brandon Hobson (The Removed and The Storyteller),Claire Kann (The Romantic Agenda and Suitehearts 1: Harmony and Heartbreak), and Amy Spalding (For Her Consideration and No Boy Summer) discussing their works for adults and kids or teens throughout the weekend.

As anyone who’s spent any time with a young child knows, kids are pros at asking questions—so we’ll offer a Sneak Peek quiz about this year’s stellar lineup of authors for young people!

Our first picture book author’s voice might be most familiar to R&B fans, especially if you remember her single “1 Thing” that was featured in the Will Smith film Hitch. She’s a true triple (sextuple?!) threat: singer, songwriter, record producer, actress, dancer, and author Amerie! She’ll present her empowering picture book You Will Do Great Things. As if she weren’t busy enough, Amerie has somehow found time to launch her own book club!

She might have a familiar last name (and a trailblazing aunt), but this author and entrepreneur (and fellow book club founder) is making a name for herself, with the #1 NYT bestseller Ambitious Girl and her own media company, Phenomenal: it’s Meena Harris, whose new picture book A Is for Ambitious reclaims words often used to undermine girls and women from A to Z and gives young readers the vocabulary they’ll need to take on the world!

Graphic novels for kids are as hot as it gets, and we’ve got two virtuosos of the craft joining us this May, this time giving glimpses into their own teenage years in graphic memoirs. One won the Caldecott Medal for The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend and is well-known for collaborating with folks from Minh Lê to Mo Willems to Ahmet Zappa. It’s the amazing Dan Santat, of course, whose A First Time for Everything tells a true story about a middle school class trip to Europe that transformed his life.

Younger kids might know this next graphic novelist from his phenomenally successful Lunch Lady and Jedi Academy series—and their older siblings might recognize his first graphic memoir for teens, Hey, Kiddo, which racked up a slew of awards and nominations. It’s the multi-talented Jarrett J. Krosoczka, whose new memoir Sunshine about a life-changing summer as a camp counselor just might give Hey, Kiddo a run for its money in the awards department!

If you’re a fan of this author (or of the K-pop and K-drama that inspires her romantic comedies), you might already be holding your breath awaiting the adaptations of I Believe in a Thing Called Love and Somewhere Only We Know, coming soon to Netflix. Who is this rising star? Maurene Goo, whose new novel Throwback is being described as “Back to the Future meets The Joy Luck Club,” as a Gen Z Korean American girl goes back in time to the 1990s to help her mom win homecoming queen.

This author is no stranger to book festivals—after all, she is a co-director of YALLFEST and the co-founder of YALLWEST, the largest festivals devoted to young adult literature. And she’s recently started her own imprint at Disney Publishing, too! We have no idea where she finds the time to write, but we’re glad she does—it’s Melissa de la Cruz, whose new novel, The Headmaster’s List, is a twisty thriller.

Our YA program has thrills galore, thanks to authors like this one, who first worked in the video game industry before turning to writing full time. Who is this author of smash hit series like Legend, The Young Elites, and Warcross? It’s Marie Lu, whose fun new romantic spy thriller, Stars and Smoke, is set in the glamorous world of pop music superstardom.

This author didn’t waste any time—her debut novel, Firekeeper’s Daughter, won the 2022 Printz Award (YA’s highest honor!) and was a selection of Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club. Now she’s back with its companion, Warrior Girl Unearthed. We’re thrilled to have Angeline Boulley join our lineup to share more about what’s got to be one of the most anticipated books of this spring.

We mentioned thrills, but how about chills? We’ll have those, too! This author’s debut collection of horror stories grounded in Cherokee legends received a staggering six starred reviews and recently won the prestigious Walter Award. Who is it? Andrea L. Rogers, whose Man Made Monsters will certainly keep you up at night.

Elsewhere at the fest, our stupendous youth program will feature hands-on STEM experiments, art activities, and all-ages sessions on food, travel, magic, imagination, and so much more!

Amerie, Meena Harris' A Is for Ambitious
Dan Santat's A First Time for Everything, Jarrett J. Krosoczka's Sunshine
Maurene Goo, Marie Lu
Angeline Boulley's Warrior Girl Unearthed, Andrea L. Rogers' Man Made Monsters

This sneak peek of our lineup is only the beginning—dozens of additional authors will be joining us this year! So make sure you’re on our mailing list to hear updates and then, of course, the full schedule reveal on March 24. And mark your calendars for the festival on May 6 – 7 in Downtown Berkeley.