Last year, Alex Brubaker, manager at Midtown Scholar, promised that the Harrisburg Book Festival would be back in 2019, bigger and better than ever.
With last year’s Grammy-nominated artist, an Oprah book club pick and countless other bestselling authors, I didn’t think that was possible. But then it happened.
The book festival returns in early October, featuring more than 20 authors ranging from emerging to award-winning. Over four days, authors will hold readings, panels, interviews and more, all free and open to the public.
“We’re really excited for this year’s festival,” Brubaker said. “It was really important for us this year to make everything free and open to the public. As the festival evolves, we’re able to clarify our mission and realize what’s important to us and to make the festival as inclusive as possible.”
This year’s lineup includes Wayétu Moore, author of “She Would Be King,” Eric Foner of “The Second Founding,” Andrew Shaffer of “Hope Never Dies: An Obama Biden Mystery,” and critically acclaimed author Stephen Chbosky of “Perks of Being a Wall Flower.”
Chbosky will read from his first novel in 20 years called “Imaginary Friend.” The book follows Kate Reese and her son Christopher. After fleeing an abusive relationship, the two settle into Mill Grove, Pa. All is well until Christopher vanishes. He returns six days later with no physical injuries but something inside him has changed.
Along with a reading from his new book, Chbosky will read a new letter from Charlie from the 20th-anniversary edition of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
Even though Chbosky is a Pennsylvania native, this will be his first time visiting the state capital.
“I can’t wait to meet fellow authors and fans of literature,” he said. “After 20 years away from publishing, it feels like I’m coming home.”
This year’s keynote speaker is Isha Sesay, international journalist and author of “Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family and the Lost School Girls of Boko Haram.” In her book, Sesay writes about the 276 girls from Chibok, Nigeria, who were abducted from their dorms by the militant group Boko Haram. The kidnapping sparked national outrage and the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. For a decade, Sesay reported on the kidnapping for CNN and even made contact with three girls who made it home.
“When you think about a dream keynote speaker, she was really at the top of our list,” Brubaker said. “She’s got a really impactful story to share. As haunting as it is, it has a strong message of hope behind it.”
There will also be a collection of familiar faces at this year’s festival. The festival’s 2017 keynote speaker, Ibram X. Kendi, author of “Stamped from the Beginning” and “How to Be an Antiracist,” is closing out the festival. R.O Kwon, Liz Moore and Madeline Miller are also returning.
“It’s always a pleasure [coming back to Midtown Scholar]—a beautiful setting, filled with passionate readers and exciting, well-chosen books,” said Miller, author of “Songs of Achilles” and “Circe.” “What could be better?”
The Midtown Scholar annual tent sale will also be a part of this year’s festival. On the corner of 3rd and Verbeke streets will be a tent full of thousands of discounted books.
“If the 200,000 books in store are not enough for you, I’m sure you’ll find something outside at the tent sale,” Brubaker said.
According to Brubaker, the Scholar worked hard to make sure the festival included a wide range of authors for every literature lover.
“There’s something for everyone,” he said. “These are celebrated authors coming from around the world. It’s a really diverse, good group of authors. If you want to meet an all-star lineup of authors at no cost, come to the festival.”
The 2019 Harrisburg Book Festival takes place Oct. 3 to Oct. 6 at Midtown Scholar Bookstore, 1302 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit hbgbookfest.com.
The 2019 Harrisburg Book Festival features numerous book- and literary-themed events, including appearances by the following writers, authors and illustrators:
- Isha Sesay, international journalist (keynote speaker)
- Stephen Chbosky, author, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
- Eric Foner, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian
- Vashti Harrison, bestselling children’s author/illustrator
- Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning historian
- Madeline Miller, bestselling author, “Circe”
- Tea Obreht, bestselling author, “The Tiger’s Wife”
- Joanne Ramos, award-winning debut novelist
- Liz Moore, award-winning novelist
- Nisha Vora, vegan cookbook author
- Andrew Shaffer, bestselling humorist
- O. Kwon, award-winning debut novelist
- Wayetu Moore, award-winning debut novelist
- Jonathan Stutzman, local children’s author
- Heather Fox, local children’s illustrator
- Imani Perry, award-winning professor