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November 28, 2023

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Southern Festival of Books Announces 2023 Lineup

More than 150 authors to appear for panels, book signings, readings and discussions; Inaugural Student Day on October 20 to feature Carl Hiaasen.

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 Р22, 2023. 

The time-honored annual event will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 21, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on 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.‚ÄĮ Featured festival books will be available for purchase and can be signed by authors throughout the weekend.¬†

New this year: Student Day

For the first time in the festival‚Äôs history,‚ÄĮFriday, 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‚Äô 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
  • 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, Mararet Renkl, Etaf Rum and Lee Smith, among others. 

‚ÄúThe 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,‚ÄĚ said Humanities Tennessee Executive Director Tim¬†Henderson. ‚ÄúWe 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.‚ÄĚ

2023 Southern Festival of Books Highlights:

  • CARL¬†HIAASEN(Wrecker):¬†Hiaasen is the author of many bestselling 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¬†‚ÄĒ¬†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‚Äôs¬†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‚Äôs¬†The Last¬†Emperox.¬†Material from his blog,¬†‚ÄúWhatever,‚Ä̬†has earned him two¬†additional¬†Hugo Awards. Scalzi also serves as critic-at-large for¬†the¬†Los Angeles Times.¬†
  • JEFFERSON COWIE(Freedom‚Äôs 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‚Äô¬†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‚Äôs 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¬†bestseller. 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‚ÄôConnell‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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.
  • GARYGULMAN(Misfit: Growing Up Awkward in the ‚Äô80s):¬†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‚Äôs¬†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 Timesbestselling 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‚Äôs books. She has been the recipient of¬†numerous¬†awards including the PEN/Faulkner, the Women‚Äôs Prize in the U.K., and the Book Sense Book of the Year. Her novel¬†The Dutch¬†Housewas 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 sofestofbooks.org. Additional authors and other special announcements will be added to the list every Friday.

About the Author

Michael Aldrich

Michael Aldrich is Nashville Parent's Managing Editor and a Middle Tennessee arts writer. He and his wife, Alison, are the proud parents of 4-year-old Ezra and baby Norah.