Spencertown Academy Arts Center’s 14th annual Festival of Books takes place over Labor Day weekend, August 30 through September 2. The Festival features a giant used book sale, two days of discussions with and readings by esteemed authors, and a children’s program. Featured authors include Ruth Reichl, Boris Fishman, Jenna Blum, Daphne Kalotay, David Yaffe, Steve Katz, Grace Taluson, and Crystal Hana Kim. Admission is free to all of the events, save for the Members Preview early book-buying opportunity detailed below.
Authors’ books will be available for purchase (at special event prices) and signing. Healthy, delicious snacks and beverages will also be for sale throughout the weekend, including the Academy’s signature “To-Die-For, No-Alarm Vegetarian Chili.”
The Festival, which began in 2006 as a book sale to raise funds for the Academy’s community arts programs, has grown into one of the biggest and most eagerly anticipated cultural events of the year. Academy Board members David Highfill and Jill Kalotay co-chair the Festival. “We are so excited about this year’s line-up of superb authors. Their literary styles and themes will appeal to variety of readers’ tastes. We have books about music, war, food, immigration, families, and more,” says Kalotay.
“The Academy is an all-volunteer organization and none of this would be possible without the generosity of our individual underwriters, book donors, and the nearly one hundred people who volunteer their time and talents to help make the Festival of Books a success,” adds Highfill, vice president and executive editor at William Morrow & Co., an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. “We are so grateful for their support.” Proceeds from the Festival book sale help support the Academy’s programs and preservation and maintenance of its historic building.
Festival Main Stage
Saturday, August 31
The Festival kicks off at 12:00 p.m. with “Remembering Woodstock,” a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the seminal music festival moderated by music industry veteran Gerald Seligman. Authors David Yaffe (Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell, Sarah Crichton Books, 2017) and Steve Katz (Blood, Sweat, and My Rock ‘n Roll Years: Is Steve Katz a Rock Star?, Lyons Press, 2015) will read from their books and discuss the influence of the festival musicians through the years, during and beyond the Woodstock summer. Yaffe’s other books include Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown (Yale University Press, 2011) and Fascinating Rhythm: Reading Jazz in American Writing (Princeton University Press, 2005). Katz was a founding member of The Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears. He became a record producer, working with rock renegade Lou Reed, among others.
At 1:30 p.m., author Grace Talusan, in conversation with playwright Liz Diggs, will explore the art and craft of memoir writing. She will discuss her debut book, The Body Papers (Restless Books, 2019), winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. Talusan’s unflinching memoir is about her life as an immigrant from the Philippines, racism, and childhood sexual abuse, as well as how she grappled with her family’s history of hereditary cancer. She gives voice to unspeakable experiences, and shines a light of hope into the darkness.
At 3:00 p.m., author Boris Fishman will talk about food and family. His memoir with recipes, Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (Harper, 2019) tells the story of his childhood immigration from the Soviet Union, exploring the meaning of food after generations of scarcity and how a dinner table in Brooklyn lured him back to his culture in the United States. His previous two novels, Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo (Harper, 2016) and A Replacement Life (Harper, 2014), were both New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Elaine Khosrova, author of Butter: A Rich History (Algonquin Books, 2016), will join him in conversation.
Festival Main Stage
Sunday, September 1
At 12:00 p.m., best-selling novelists Jenna Blum and Daphne Kalotay will discuss the legacy of war. Both authors’ recent books take place against the background of war and its long-term consequences. Blum’s The Lost Family (Harper, 2018) follows a family facing truth in the shadow of WWII. Kalotay’s Blues Hours (Triquarterly, 2019) is part love story, part adventure, illustrating the consequences of America’s interference in Afghanistan.
At 1:30 p.m., debut novelist Crystal Hana Kim will discuss her book, If You Leave Me (William Morrow, 2018), a tale of war, family, and forbidden love—the unforgettable saga of two ill-fated lovers in Korea and the heartbreaking choices they’re forced to make in the years surrounding the civil war that still haunts us today. Jessica Williams, executive editor at William Morrow/HarperCollins, will join Kim in conversation.
Sunday’s final program at 2:30 p.m. will feature trailblazing food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl in conversation with Dinitia Smith, former culture reporter for the New York Times. Reichl took the job (and the risk) of a lifetime when she entered the high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet in Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir (Random House, 2019).
The Festival of Books children’s program on Saturday, August 31 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. will feature “Froggy,” the lovable and enduringly popular character in a children’s book series by Jonathan London. The costumed character will be on hand to greet children and pose for photos with them. Children will hear funny stories about the silly amphibian, create a related craft, and browse in the Children’s Book Room, which will be open throughout the Festival.
Giant Used Book Sale
At the heart of the Festival is a giant book sale, one of the biggest in the region, featuring more than 10,000 gently used books, including fiction and non-fiction, hard and soft covers—all offered at very affordable prices. There’s a special Kids’ Corner for young readers and a media section full of DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, and vinyl LPs. A first-floor gallery features a handpicked selection of specialty books, limited editions, out-of-print books, and new books donated by leading national publishers.
Friends of the Academy donate books and a dedicated band of volunteers, led by Allan Davidson and Wayne Greene, spend countless hours throughout the summer carefully sorting and organizing the books in preparation for the sale.
The book sale is open to the public on Saturday, August 31 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Sunday, September 1 from 10:00 am to 4:00pm, and on Monday, September 2 (bargain day) from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Admission is free. Teachers with ID receive a 20% discount on their purchases (except in Special Books Room).
In addition, Spencertown Academy members will have first crack at the books during the Member’s Preview on Friday, August 30 from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Free for members, $10 for member’s guests, and memberships will be available at the door. Refreshments will be served during the evening hours.
Founded in 1972, Spencertown Academy Arts Center is a cultural center and community resource serving Columbia County, the Berkshires, and the Capital region. Housed in a landmark 1847 Greek Revival schoolhouse, the Academy is located at 790 State Route 203 in Spencertown, New York. For more information, please see www.spencertownacademy.org or call 518-392-3693.