Sunday, September 29, 2013

Boston Book Festival a treat

With fall, authors return from various rejuvenation activities — vacations, seminars, universities and summer writing retreats — and re-enter the broader book world fueled by experiences, cooler weather and new opportunities. So must we all. There are opportunities for book groups and other readers right around the corner these days.

Witness: Salmon Rushdie and Tomie dePaola are keynote speakers for the Oct. 17-19 Boston Book Festival. This is the fifth year for the mostly free Copley Square festival, and it has been expanded to three days, with new events added, including spontaneous outbreaks of dramatic scenes at various Boston hots pots in the week before the festival.

Rushdie will speak at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18, with children's author/illustrator dePaola speaking on Oct. 19. Rushdie — famously targeted for assassination by Muslim extremists for his novel, "The Satanic Verses" — is a novelist and essayist. Tickets for this event are available on the website, This event does have a cost, $10, which helps support the weekend.

DePaola created a favorite character in children's literature, Strega Nona. In fact, "Grandmother halloween costumes witch adult" herself may make an appearance at this free daytime event.

Be spontaneous; get there, look around, sit in on a few events. The burgeoning festival can't be beat, really, among literary events in New England. It includes author presentations and panels, programming for all ages, music and a Copley Square booth fair, writing workshops and competitions, music and poetry performances. There's a crowd, so arrive early to find a seat at the sites — Boston Public Library, Trinity and Old South churches, and in other buildings surrounding the square.

Featured guests include award winners, best-selling authors, renowned scholars, children's writers, and writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. In other words, something for every kind of reader. You can attend, wander from one event to another and simply listen. It's a great deal of fun. An award-winning story is available at public sites around Boston for discussion at one of the day's events, One City One Story.

This is a chance to observe dozens of writers and speakers, to name just a few: Steve Almond, Tom Ashbrook, Mike Barnicle, Lisa Borders, Christopher Castellani, Wes Craven (sharing pointers on terror writing), Callie Crossley, Kevin Cullen, Alan Dershowitz, Andre Dubus III, Chuck Klosterman, Lois Lowry, Dennis McFarland, Claire Messud and Tom Perrotta.

The Concord Festival

Spread across October and ending Nov. 2 is the Concord Festival of Authors. It includes sessions with almost 40 authors, some newcomers and others well-known, well-published fiction, nonfiction and poetry writers. In panel sessions and talks, they discuss writing and their own works in venues such as Verrill Farm (books about healthy cooking), Fowler Library, the Concord Museum and the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods.

Guests include Barbara Delinsky, Alice Hoffman, poet Charles Coe, Sue Halpern ("A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home"), B.B. Oak (the Thoreau mysteries), Kate Flora (the Thea Kozak mysteries) and Chris Castellani (Boston's Grub Street director and author of "All This Talk of Love" who is also participating in Worcester Public Library's "A Celebration of Authors" Oct. 10 in Worcester). That's a small sampling. Topics range from readings to book promotion, several book launches and new literary voices. Once upon a time, I hosted the "Breakfast with the Authors" segment, and it was a great deal of fun to share breakfast with readers and listen to authors. If you enjoy books, get a few club members together, and obtain the schedule at

Area book groups

New Earth Book Club meets at Shrewsbury Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30, to discuss "Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development" by George E. Vaillant. Find more info at

The C.S. Lewis Society of Massachusetts has slated two meetings in October at the Auburn Public Library. From 9 to 10:30 a.m. Oct. 5, there will be a set of thematic readings. On Oct. 19 — finishing Nov. 2 at the same time — the group considers "Five Children and It" by Edith Nesbit. For details, see

Roxane Anderson, a member says the 5-year-old group generally meets twice a month, with one meeting in May. "We have also started movie nights for the summer months and the book club break period December through January," she said. "In January, we plan to feature the works of three artists who have connected to the Society. The Society was founded to encourage Lewis fans in Central Massachusetts to meet together in informal settings to discuss Lewis' books and other literature of interest. We also strive to be a forum where Christians from a wide variety of denominations and non-Christians feel welcome and comfortable in discussing topics related to Christianity, science, the arts, and everyday life. C.S. Lewis and his works provide an interesting bond or glue for carrying out this enterprise."

In Dudley, the Pearl L. Crawford Memorial Library is off to a good start with its new book group. Karen Wall, library director, says the group will discuss "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" by Helen Simonson at 6 p.m. Oct. 3. Coming up for Nov. 7 is Jenna Blum's "Those Who Save Us."

Books, Brews & Banter — another group encouraging both male and female members with books selected for appeal to both genders — will discuss Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" on Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. in O'Connor's Restaurant.

Reading, Sharing & Laughing, which meets at Chaibo coffeehouse in Fitchburg, is reading Neil Gaiman's "The Ocean at the End of the Lane," a choice in keeping with the supernatural Halloween season.

Joan Killough-Miller of the Worcester area NOW book group says the Oct. 14 discussion will consider the classic "Summer," by Edith Wharton. The group meets at Barnes & Noble on Lincoln Street at 7 p.m., second Monday of the month. All are welcome.

The group's August meeting was enriched by members bringing maps to trace the action of B. A. Shapiro's novel "The Art Forger." Says Joan Killough-Miller: "Having a street map of Boston and the floor plan of the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, where much of the action takes place, brought the discussion to life. (One might also add MBTA maps to that discussion, since public transportation plays a role in the story.) The maps concept went over well, and we vowed to do it again. Some members were able to visit the museum with Shapiro's enticing description of the museum fresh in mind."

Ann Connery Frantz is a freelance writer and editor who blogs at (reeap is correct) on books and book clubs.

Source: Telegram

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