Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Texas Book Festival in Austin. The two-day event was definitely worth the six and a half hour drive from Lubbock. From visiting rows of bookish booths to attending various author panels to listening to Dan Rather speak about his latest book, I thoroughly enjoyed myself (especially when I met Tom Gauld and had him sign my copy of Baking With Kafka). My only complaints were the muggy hot weather and how difficult it was to choose between author panels. However, despite all of the wonderful things happening around me, it was my fellow readers that stood out and for good reason.
I’ve heard time and time again that reading is going out of style or that books are destined to become obsolete with the emergence of new technologies. What I saw at the book festival was directly opposite of these “popular opinions.” Rows of people bustled along the streets surrounding the state capitol building, many of them popping in and out of the tall white tents where publishers and vendors had set up tables. The main book signing tent was the most popular, with the BookPeople tent coming in second, as they were selling books from the festival’s featured authors. By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, it looked to me that most of the books had been sold (a great win for the largest independent bookstore in Texas, I’m sure).
Each author panel I attended was full. So full, in fact, that several had standing room only or had to turn people away at the door. People were attentive and they asked questions when the time came. Authors shared great stories about their books and where they find their inspiration. Some shared what reading and literature means to them, and, in doing so, reached camaraderie with the audience. The children’s reading tents were always full (when I passed by anyway) and those authors engaged their young readers well. At one point I remember hearing the children cheer as one author read. Here, readers and authors came together to share their passions, and it was a lovely thing.
Love for books doesn’t end at the Texas Book Festival, but can be seen throughout America and across the world. From Texas to California to Scotland to Berlin to Malaysia to Australia to everywhere in between, book lovers unite to celebrate the beauty of literature. It’s in literature that we find new worlds, new information, and new ideas. We can escape the humdrum for the extraordinary. Book festivals not only provide access to authors and books, but are great places for strangers to come together as literary collective, as it were. Though that sounds cheesy, I’d say it’s an honest portrayal. So, the next time someone says that books are going out of style, point them to a book festival. Books aren’t going anywhere and neither are their readers.
If you’d like to learn more about book festivals in your state or abroad, I’ve provided a few helpful links: