Second Bay Area Book Festival fills downtown Berkeley with literati, kids’ events, ideas

UC Berkeley philosophy professor Alva Noë speaks about "Strange Tools" at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Richard Friedman
UC Berkeley philosophy professor Alva Noë speaks about “Strange Tools” at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Richard Friedman

The second Bay Area Book Festival took over downtown Berkeley on Saturday, June 4 and Sunday, June 5. Tens of thousands of book lovers filled 11 different venues, as well as the open-air kids’ stage, the Lacuna book installation in Civic Center Park, and scores of publisher booths.

According to festival founder and organizer Cherilyn Parsons, nearly 10,000 tickets were issued, which guaranteed seats at events, and thousands more participants were “walk ins” for the free sessions with authors.

“What really stands out this year was the excellent literary quality of the festival,” Parsons said. She also cited the popularity of the kids’ stage, the literary-themed movies at the Pacific Film Archive, and the international authors. 

Bay Area Book Festival 2016 by William Newton
A “forest” of reading nooks at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: William Newton

The festival instituted a new ticketing process this year, which eliminated the long lines to get into sessions that some had griped about in year one. But the ticketing also seemed to deter some people, who either did not understand that most seats were still free, or were concerned that they would have to wait on lines while ticket-holders found their seats. In the event, it was easy to find a seat at most of the festival events.


The Lacuna installation at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Nancy Rubin
The Lacuna installation at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Nancy Rubin

Exhibitors reported good traffic at their stands, although one bookseller told Berkeleyside that she found the arrangements for author signings confusing. Authors went from speaking venues to exhibitor areas to sign books, losing some of their following in the process, she said.

Some exhibitors around Civic Center Park also said they had difficulties with some homeless people. Parsons shared with Berkeleyside an email from an exhibitor complaining about disturbances from noisy, smoking homeless people near their stand. Another lauded a festival volunteer who swiftly cleaned up some smeared feces from the back of the booth.

Heyday founder Malcolm Margolin and Steve Wasserman at Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Nancy Rubin
Heyday Books founder Malcolm Margolin and publisher and executive editor Steve Wasserman at Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Nancy Rubin
Festival-goers browse books at the Lacuna installation. Photo: Ted Friedman
Festival-goers browse books at the Lacuna installation. Photo: Ted Friedman
Booths at the Bay Area Book Festival on June 4, 2016. Photo: Richard Friedman
Booths at the Bay Area Book Festival on June 4, 2016. Photo: Richard Friedman

But complaints were the exception. More typical was the email Parsons received from poet, novelist and translator Idra Novey, who thanked her “for creating such a friendly, meaningful two days of literary celebrations. Both the panels I was on and the ones I attended were full of fresh, illuminating conversations I haven’t heard or taken part in at any other festivals.”

Berkeleyside and our Uncharted Ideas Festival, which takes place on Oct. 14-15, also in downtown Berkeley, were media sponsors of the Bay Area Book Festival.

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