Southern Festival of Books Announces Lineup for 31st Annual Event

The Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word, announced the first list of its highly anticipated lineup of authors, presenters, programs and activities for its 31st anniversary event. Marquee appearances at this year’s Festival include New York Times bestselling authors  Ottessa Moshfegh, Samantha PowerCasey CepKaren Abbott, Karen Thompson Walker, Paul Theroux and author and co-owner of Nashville’s Parnassus Books Ann Patchett. More authors will be announced in the coming weeks.

Each year more than 200 authors from a broad spectrum of genres along with 25,000 book-lovers descend on Music City for three days of free programming made possible with funding from Ingram, Nashville Public Library, Dollar General Literacy Foundation, Parnassus Books, Memorial Foundation, Vanderbilt University, and government agencies including the National Endowment for the Humanities, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, and the Tennessee Arts Commission. The 2019 Festival to be held October 11-13 will be the opportunity to engage in conversation and enjoy a weekend of literary events, music and arts performances, as well as shop a diverse selection of publishers and food vendors. 

New this year, Humanities Tennessee has united with Southern Foodways Alliance to present the John Egerton Award. The prize recognizes artists, writers, scholars, and others–including artisans, farmers, and cooks–whose work in the American South addresses issues of race, class, gender, and social and environmental justice through the lens of food. There will be an award presentation, panel discussion and reception with food contributed by local restaurants including City House and Silver Sands.

Humanities Tennessee has also once again partnered with Watkins College of Art, an internationally recognized art and design college, to merge their Handmade & Bound Festival into the Southern Festival of Books. Handmade & Bound celebrates independent publications and printed matter, featuring artists’ books, zines, mini-comics and all things book arts. During the Festival, Watkins will offer craft sales and hands-on demonstrations. The Handmade & Bound area will be on War Memorial Plaza alongside Southern Festival of Books vendors. 

Marquee appearances and events for the 2019 Southern Festival of Books will feature:

  • Ann Patchett, named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012 and a PEN/Faulkner Award-winner, will debut her new masterpiece novel, The Dutch House.
  • Named as the 41st most powerful woman in the world in 2016 by Forbes, Samantha Power will speak about her new memoir, The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir, which focuses on her time in the Obama administration and her transition from immigrant, to war correspondent to presidential cabinet official.
  • New York Times best-selling authors Ottessa Moshfegh (My Year of Rest and Relaxation), Casey Cep (Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee), and historical non-fiction writer Karen Abott (The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America).
  • Former book editor at Simon & Schuster and author of the wildly popular The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker will appear at the Festival to discuss her latest novel, The Dreamer.
  • Acclaimed travel writers Paul Theroux (On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey) and Pico Iyer (A Beginner’s Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations) will be present. Theroux will speak about his new book, which focuses on his travel south of the border to explore a region in conflict, while Iyer’s guide circles on his adopted home country of Japan. 
  • Appearances from popular award-winning poet and internet personality Saeed Jones will debut his new book, How We Fight For Our Lives; New York Times best-selling authors of historical fiction, Melanie Benjamin (Mistress of the Ritz) and Julie Orringer (The Flight Portfolio: A Novel); and Chris Pavone (The Paris Diversion: A Novel).
  • Dani Shapiro, author of the bestselling memoir Inheritance: A Memoir of Geneology, Paternity, and Love 
  • The Last Romantics, a new book club favorite from Tara Conklin.
  • Themed track in partnership with the Robert Penn Warren Center at Vanderbilt University will focus on “Borders and Belonging.” These sessions will explore borders – be they geographic, cultural or economic – and how they shape us and our identities.
  • Award-winning children and young adult authors Judy Schachner (Stretchy McHandsome); National Book Award Finalist Deborah Wiles (Anthem); Brendan Reichs (The Darkdeep), Derrick Barnes (King of Kindergarten); and Mark Teague (Fly). 

The Festival also features three performance stages: a music stage, which will highlight a talented pool of Nashville musicians; a performing arts stage that offers theater, spoken word and poetry throughout the weekend; and a children’s and family stage that will feature authors, musicians, performers, crafts, character costumes and parties celebrating young readers.

For a regularly updated full lineup of Festival authors, click here.

The Festival is committed to curating a diverse collection of books by authors who will discuss and autograph their books. This group includes writers of adult, young adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction, Pulitzer Prize winners, New York Times bestsellers and book club favorites. More than 60 publishers, booksellers and nonprofit organizations will exhibit at the event, and Parnassus Books will again serve as the onsite bookseller.

This year also marks the return of daily food trucks dishing up something for every hungry palate and a beer garden sponsored by local Yazoo Brewing to quench the thirsty mouths of bibliophiles of legal drinking age.

All interested media can arrange author interviews and access photographs and promotional materials by sending a request to or by calling (615) 242-8856.


The Southern Festival of Books is presented by Humanities Tennessee, a nonprofit organization promoting humanities education across the state. The Festival is proudly sponsored by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, Tennessee Arts Commission, Dollar General Literacy Foundation, Nashville Public Library, Ingram Content Group, Memorial Foundation, Vanderbilt University, Parnassus Books and the Nashville Scene. 

More information about the festival can be found at Join the festival on Facebook and follow along on Twitter and Instagram at @SoFestBooks.