Book festival features wide array of authors exploring many of today’s most complex issues

A young reader at a booth at the Bay Area Book Festival which this year takes place on May 4-5. Photo: BABF

The fifth annual Bay Area Book Festival will fill the streets of downtown Berkeley on May 4-5 with hundreds of author talks, literary exhibitors and a children’s and family area designed to “grow a reader.” Berkeleyside is a media sponsor of the festival.

Among the many authors featured at this festival this year are Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All, Kwame Anthony Appiah (The Lies That Bind and The New York Times‘ Ethicist columnist), Nell Painter (Old In Art School), Ann Beattie (A Wonderful Stroke of Luck), the entire Kellerman family of mystery/crime writers (Faye, Jesse and Jonathan), Top Chef Kwame Onwuachi, David Wallace-Wells (The Uninhabitable Earth), Jose Antonio Vargas (Dear America), and Tayari Jones (An American Marriage). The full schedule for the two days has been published on the festival website.

“This year more than ever, the festival presents a diverse array of authors, many of whom are exploring some of today’s most urgent, complex issues,” said festival founder and executive director Cherilyn Parsons. “The festival is smart fun, the kind of pleasure that comes from intellectual adventure, collective laughter, and the joy of sharing in ideas and imagination. Magic happens when people come together around books.”

Among the special events are a Saturday night keynote discussion on economic injustice with Giridharadas and UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich, moderated by Kat Taylor; a tribute to Lawrence Ferlinghetti on his 100th birthday; the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra performing the world premieres of four works inspired by Bay Area poets; and Albert Woodfox, who spent four decades in solitary confinement for a crime he didn’t commit, interviewed by Mother Jones journalist Shane Bauer.


A substantial portion of the festival is free: discussions on the Chronicle Stage in Civic Center Park, the German Pavilion (new this year), all children’s programming, and the hundreds of exhibitors. Indoor programming at the many venues around downtown Berkeley can be attended with a $15 general admission wristband (first come, first served), and/or a $10 priority admission ticket which jumps festivalgoers to the front of the line for a single event. General admission is free to people under 18, and college students can buy a wristband for half price. Both wristbands and priority tickets are now available on the festival website.