First Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley a soaring success

Books appear to fly at the Lacuna installation in front of Old City Hall at the first Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley. Photo: Nancy Rubin
Books appear to fly at the Lacuna “temple of books” installation in front of Old City Hall at the first Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Nancy Rubin

How do you decide if an event is a success? One clear indicator is how many people turn up, but the day after the inaugural Bay Area Book Festival came to a close, its creator and executive director Cherilyn Parsons was still trying to put a number on that.

“I would say 50,000 to 60,000 as a ballpark figure,” she mused Monday, after throwing out some venue capacity numbers and drawing on estimates suggested by festival colleague Lisa Bullwinkel who produced the whole show.

The truth, as anyone who attended the two-day festival that took over downtown Berkeley on June 6-7 can testify, is that there were lines down the block to get in to most author events. Of which there were 100 at indoor venues across town, with many more happening outdoors on the teen and children’s stages. More than 300 authors flocked to the city to participate, and stayed on to sign books and attend panels. And the festival’s centerpiece, the dramatic Lacuna “temple of books” installation in Civic Center Park, which Parsons said quickly became “the emotional and spiritual heart of the festival,” was thrumming with people all weekend. To the extent that the 50,000 free books on offer were almost all gone by the end of the festival’s first day.

So, it seems fair to say the first Bay Area Book Festival, conceived by Parsons three years ago, and inspired by her experience working at the Los Angeles Book Festival, was an outstanding success.


“We are beyond thrilled,” Parsons said. “We are thrilled at the quality of the Bay Area crowd and so appreciative that it was there.” She added that it was wonderful to see two years of “intensive work” come to fruition, and to hear from all quarters — authors, vendors, festival-goers — that they had had a great time. (Check #baybookfest on Twitter for the tweets that went out live from the festival.)

Below, we present a collection of photographs that capture just some moments in time during a weekend that saw a large, happy gathering of book-lovers reveling in the world of reading in the center of library-loving, literate Berkeley. (And watch the video, by Kim Aronson, at the end, about the Lacuna installation.)

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Books on display at the Lacuna centerpiece where nearly all the free books were for reading and/or taking home. Photo: Richard Friedman
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Festival-goers line up at the David Brower Center for a book talk. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Kids reading at the Lacuna “temple of books” installation, where the books were there for the taking. Photo: Richard Friedman.
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Enjoying a snack in the forest of inflatable trees installed by Astro Botanicals. Photo: Nancy Rubin.
Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) signing books at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Nancy Rubin
Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) signing books at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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Floating books, part of the Lacuna installation. Photo: Nancy Rubin
Chatting at the Bay Area Book Fest. Photo: Richard Friedman
Chatting and book signing at the Bay Area Book Fest. Photo: Richard Friedman
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A child’s viewpoint at the Bay Area Book Fest. Photo: Quinn Drombrowski
Matthieu Ricard and Pico Iyer speaking at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Richard Friedman
Matthieu Ricard and Pico Iyer speaking at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Richard Friedman
Teen stage at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Richard Friedman
The teen stage on Milvia Street at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Richard Friedman
A line forms outside the David Brower Center for an author event at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Richard Friedman
A line forms outside the David Brower Center for an author event at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Richard Friedman
Lance Knobel and Ben Parr talk at the Uncharted at Bay Area Book Festival session. Photo: Ira Serkes
Lance Knobel talks with author Ben Parr talk at the Uncharted at Bay Area Book Festival session. Photo: Ira Serkes
The Moe's bookstore booth at the 2015 Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Ira Serkes
The Moe’s bookstore booth at the 2015 Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Ira Serkes
Trying out a printing press at the 2015 Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Ira Serkes
Trying out a printing press at the 2015 Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Ira Serkes
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Perusing the selection at Lacuna installation. Photo: Richard Friedman

Berkeleyside was a key media sponsor of the Bay Area Book Festival, along with the San Francisco Chronicle and KQED.

Want to know what else is going on in Berkeley and nearby? Visit Berkeleyside’s new-look Events Calendar. Submit your own events for free if they aren’t there already — and give them featured status for as little as $10 a day.