Boston Book Festival Celebrates 10 Years, Expands to Roxbury

Book lovers braved the rain and made their annual pilgrimage to the 10th Boston Book Festival on Saturday morning. The festival kicked off with a “morning dance party” led by Radha Agrawal, founder of Daybreaker, a company that hosts early morning raves and yoga sessions, and featured music by Yanina Johnson, a student at the Berklee College of Music.

By midafternoon the sky cleared, and bookworms flooded to Copley Square Park. A line of white tents stretched across the perimeter of the park, where 69 exhibitors held activities and sold books to those in attendance. To sustain hungry festival goers, food trucks from the likes of Zinneken’s Waffles, Chameleon Cold Brew, and Bon Me lined the street.

The street fair featured exhibitors ranging from independent publishers and literary magazines to performance companies and art organizations, and each vendor made its presentation interactive and unique.

826 Boston, a nonprofit youth writing and publishing organization, had a robot-building station and notebooks inspired by Mad Libs for children and their families to fill out. At the front of its booth, it sold copies of books of short stories and poems, written and published by its students. 826 publishes one of these books every year, and each has a specific theme. The theme for this year’s book is mystery.

Across the street from the park there was a wedding at Trinity Church, and the bride and groom stepped out to take pictures in the festival.

In addition to the street fair, events and lectures were held in locations scattered throughout the city all day long. A total of 275 authors were featured at the festival this year, and visitors packed nearby churches and the Boston Public Library to hear authors ranging from Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux, to Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow and An American Marriage.



But the festival extended far beyond Copley Square, stretching all the way to East Boston, and for the first time this year, Roxbury, Mass. The goal behind this was to increase the accessibility of the festival to all Boston neighborhoods.

“We livestreamed a session from Copley and had some authors go to the locations who gave presentations,” said Piehl. “We also showcased local authors in East Boston, and partnered with a lot of really wonderful cultural organization in Roxbury’s Dudley Square neighborhood,” explained Piehl.

“Every year we capture information from attendees,” said Norah Piehl, deputy director of the festival. “Things like what kind of sessions they enjoyed but also where they came from, whether from outside of Massachusetts or inside the city.We noticed that a couple of Boston neighborhoods were not very well represented among our attendee pool.”

An estimated 25 to 30,000 people showed up in Copley, and several hundred visited the festival in East Boston and Roxbury. But as far as how the festival can grow, Piehl said the focus now is to continue to strengthen relationships with the Roxbury and East Boston communities.

“It’s definitely a lot of work to pull off these three different festivals in three different neighborhoods in the same day, but it enabled us to do really cool things,” she said. “It allows our authors to get more exposure to people across the city, which I think is really important.”

“It’s very gratifying to see the active reading going on at the festival each year,” said Piehl. “Reading is such a solitary pursuit, but on this day becomes a communal activity, and a celebration of particular authors, genres, and also the whole idea of reading in general. And to see people coming together around that is very gratifying.”

Featured Image by Isabel Fenoglio / Heights Editor