Southern Festival of Books Announces Lineup

Humanities Tennessee today announced the initial lineup of award-winning, bestselling authors who will headline the 35th Annual Southern Festival of Books, taking place in person at Bicentennial Mall, the Tennessee State Museum and Tennessee State Library Oct. 21-22, 2023.

The time-honored annual event will be open to the public 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, October 21, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, October 22, for panel sessions, discussions, and readings from a wide variety of genres including fiction and nonfiction, young adult literature, poetry, science fiction, and mystery.  Featured festival books will be available for purchase and can be signed by authors throughout the weekend. Parnassus Books is the festival bookseller.

For the first time in the festival’s history, Friday, October 20, will be a designated Student Day, welcoming 1,000 students from Davidson County schools for author meet-and-greets, including marquee YA and adult novelist Carl Hiaasen, plus book giveaways and educational programming. A series of community events will take place October 15-19, leading up to the festival. These will include: a National Black Poetry Day event, presented by Po’ Boys and Poets in East Park on Sunday, October 15; a spoken-word workshop with TSU students conducted by poet Terrance Hayes, followed by a public reading, discussion and book signing on Wednesday, October 18; and a ticketed author talk with science fiction writer John Scalzi at Parnassus Books on Thursday, October 19.

The festival weekend will feature appearances from approximately 150 authors, offering attendees the opportunity to connect with their favorite writers through a series of live events, panels, book signings and more. In addition to Hiaasen, Hayes, and Scalzi, the 2023 roster includes Jefferson Cowie, Timothy Egan, Tracy Kidder, Chrissy Metz, Drew Gilpin Faust, Ben Fountain, Mark Greaney, Gary Gulman, Megan Miranda, Ann Patchett, Margaret Renkl, Etaf Rum and Lee Smith, among others.

“The 2023 festival is a milestone year for us, as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Southern Festival of Books and move to an incredible new location at Bicentennial Mall,” said Humanities Tennessee Executive Director Tim Henderson. “We are once again honored to welcome so many talented and respected authors as we gather thousands of book lovers for the ultimate celebration of the written word.”

Major appearances and events for the 2023 Southern Festival of Books will include:

  • CARL HIAASEN (Wrecker):
    Hiaasen is the author of many best-selling novels, including Squeeze Me and Razor Girl. His books for younger readers include the Newbery Award winner Hoot, as well as Flush, Scat, Chomp, Skink — No Surrender, and Squirm.
  • TERRANCE HAYES (So To Speak (Penguin Poets)):
    Hayes is the author of Lighthead, winner of the 2010 National Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as To Float in the Space Between: A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. His honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 2014 MacArthur Fellowship.
  • JOHN SCALZI (Starter Villain):
    Scalzi is one of the most popular science fiction authors of his generation. His debut, Old Man’s War, won him the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and his New York Times bestsellers include The Last Colony, Fuzzy Nation and Redshirts (2013 Hugo Award winner for Best Novel), and 2020’s The Last Emperox. Material from his blog, “Whatever,” has earned him two additional Hugo Awards. Scalzi also serves as critic-at-large for the Los Angeles Times.
  • JEFFERSON COWIE (Freedom’s Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power):
    Cowie holds the James G. Stahlman chair in history at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of three books, including Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, and his work has appeared in numerous media outlets, including Time, the New York Times, Foreign Affairs and Politico. Freedom’s Dominion is the recipient of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction.
  • TIMOTHY EGAN (A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America):
    Egan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of nine other books, most recently the highly acclaimed A Pilgrimage to Eternity and The Immortal Irishman, a New York Times His book on the Dust Bowl, The Worst Hard Time, won a National Book Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. His account of photographer Edward Curtis, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, won the Carnegie Medal for nonfiction.
  • TRACY KIDDER (Rough Sleepers: Dr. Jim O’Connell’s Urgent Mission to Bring Healing to Homeless):
    Kidder has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Award, among other literary prizes. His books include Mountains Beyond Mountains, Strength in What Remains, The Soul of a New Machine, House, Among Schoolchildren, Old Friends, Hometown and A Truck Full of Money.

  • CHRISSY METZ (When I Talk to God, I Talk About You):
    Metz is an Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actress, best known for This is Us, and the bestselling author of This is Me. Her new children’s book, When I Talk to God, I Talk About You, is a heartwarming picture book of faith, prayer, and the loving bond between parent and child.
  • DREW GILPIN FAUST (Necessary Trouble: Growing Up at Midcentury):
    Faust is the Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University. She was Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study from 2001 to 2007, and after 25 years on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, she served as Harvard’s president from 2007 to 2018. Faust is the author of several books, including This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, winner of the Bancroft Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; and Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, which won the Francis Parkman Prize.
  • BEN FOUNTAIN (Devil Makes There: A Novel):
    Fountain’s work has received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Los Angeles Book Prize for Fiction, and a Whiting Writers Award, and has been a finalist for the National Book Award and runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.
  • MARK GREANEY (Burner: A Gray Man Novel):
    The Gray Man series includes Sierra Six, Relentless, One Minute Out, Mission Critical, Agent in Place, Gunmetal Gray, Back Blast, Dead Eye, Ballistic, On Target and The Gray Man. Research for the series has taken Greaney to more than 35 countries, and he has trained alongside military and law enforcement in the use of firearms, battlefield medicine and close-range combative tactics. With Marine Lt. Col. Rip Rawlings, he wrote the New York Times bestseller Red Metal. He is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Tom Clancy Support and Defend, Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect, Tom Clancy Commander in Chief and Tom Clancy True Faith and Allegiance. With Tom Clancy, he coauthored Locked On, Threat Vector and Command Authority.
  • GARY GULMAN (Misfit: Growing Up Awkward in the ’80s):
    Debut author Gulman is one of the most popular touring comics, selling out theaters nationwide including Carnegie Hall. He has been a guest on every major late-night comedy program, and his four comedy specials include HBO’s The Great Depresh, a highly acclaimed look at mental illness. In 2019 Gulman appeared in the international blockbuster Joker. He has a recurring role on the Hulu comedy series Life & Beth.
  • MEGAN MIRANDA (The Only Survivors):
    Miranda is the New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls, The Perfect Stranger, The Last House Guest (a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick), The Girl from Widow Hills, Such a Quiet Place, and The Last to Vanish. She has also written several books for young adults.

  • ANN PATCHETT (Tom Lake):
    Patchett is the author of several novels, works of nonfiction, and children’s books. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including the PEN/Faulkner, the Women’s Prize in the U.K., and the Book Sense Book of the Year. Her novel The Dutch House was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work has been translated into more than 30 languages. Time Magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the owner of Parnassus Books.
  • MARGARET RENKL (The Comfort of Crows):
    Renkl is the author of Graceland, At Last and Late Migrations, which was a Read with Jenna / TODAY Show book club selection. She is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, where her essays appear weekly. Her work has also appeared in Guernica, Literary Hub, Proximity and River Teeth, among others.
  • ETAF RUM (Evil Eye):
    Rum was born in Brooklyn, New York, where she was raised by Palestinian immigrants. Her debut novel, A Woman Is No Man, was a New York Times bestseller and a Read with Jenna / Today Show Book Club selection. Her newest novel, Evil Eye, will be released on September 5.
  • LEE SMITH (Silver Alert):
    Smith began writing stories at the age of 9 and selling them for a nickel apiece. Since then, she has written 17 works of fiction, including Fair and Tender Ladies, Oral History, Guests on Earth and, most recently, Dimestore. She has received many awards, including the North Carolina Award for Literature and an Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her novel The Last Girls was a New York Times bestseller as well as winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award.

Local authors of note, in addition to those mentioned above, include longtime local journalists Bill Carey and Tim Ghianni, architect Kem Hinton, restaurateur Randy Rayburn, novelist and writing coach Rea Frey, historian Rachel Louise Martin, poet Mark Jarman, musician Kevin Griffin, and novelist Lauren Thoman.

For a full lineup of festival authors, visit Additional authors and other special announcements will be added to the list every Friday.

In addition to 75 sessions over two days, the festival also features 60 vendors and food trucks, as well as three performance stages. A music stage focuses on the incredible talent of the Nashville music community, and the performing arts stage offers theater, spoken word, and poetry throughout the weekend. The festival children’s stage and activity center features authors, musicians, performers, crafts, character costumes, and parties celebrating beloved children’s books.

The always popular Authors in the Round Dinner, co-chaired by Laura Smith and LoLita Toney, will be held on Friday, October 20, at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Authors in the Round, which allows guests to dine alongside 40 regionally and nationally known authors, is the festival’s signature fundraiser, ensuring that Humanities Tennessee can present the annual festival free of charge.







HT programs like the Southern Festival of Books are made possible, in part, thanks to funding from the Tennessee Arts Commission and revenue generated by the Specialty License Plate program. By simple selecting an arts plate when you renew your annual vehicle registration, you can help support the Southern Festival of Books and arts programs throughout Tennessee.

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