January 30, 2023

Texas Book Festival: A few panels not to miss


This year’s all-digital Texas Book Festival spans nine days, Nov. 6-15, with panels and author talks sprinkled throughout each day.

Sign-up for the free events at

Will it be easier to attend more panels? It might be. Here are few we like:

Zealots and Abolitionists: A Conversation with H. W. Brands and Steve Inskeep, 2:30 p.m. Nov. 6
The authors of two new  Civil War-era biographies, H. W. Brands (“The Zealot and the Emancipator”) and Steve Inskeep (“Imperfect Union”) share deeply researched portraits of two historical duos — President Abraham Lincoln and radical abolitionist John Brown, and influential political couple John and Jessie Frémont.

Michener Center for Writers Presents: New Books from MCW Fellows: Leah Hampton, Ben Philippe, Maria Reva, and Travis Tate, 10 a.m. Nov. 7
Maria Reva is literary, brilliant an amazing, published by Doubleday here, and Knopf & Virago in Canada & UK. Leah Hampton’s short stories have a throwback short fiction vibe, human-scaled, adult, and tinged with no nonsense Southern smarts.

Sacred Monsters: Wrestling with the Legacies of Complicated Artists, 4 p.m. Nov. 8
Nobody today is writing more trenchant essays than Alex Ross about the relationship between celebrity and culture in classical music and Wagner, and his “Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music” is the perfect connection to Mendelsohn’s expansive expatriate narrative entities of Auerbach, Fénelon, and Sebald. Two smart guys making the history of the arts immediate and relevant.

Memorial Drive: Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey in conversation, 12 noon, Nov. 11
U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey — who in 2007 won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for “Native Guard”discusses her new memoir, “Memorial Drive,” a remembrance of her mother’s life, a reckoning with intense grief over her murder, and an examination of the racist and sexist power structures that corrode the United States from within.

Wild: Work, Play, and Family in the Animal Kingdom, 2 p.m. Nov. 11 
Here’s one for the burgeoning “My Octopus Teacher” crowd. Jennifer Ackerman’s “Genius of Birds} was hugely popular and her latest “The Bird Way” will undoubtedly be too. Carl Safina’s “Becoming Wild” finds animal societies as complex, harsh, and beautiful as the ones we call our own.

Cyberterrorists, Post-Apocalyptic Landscapes, and Were-Pomeranians: New in Speculative Fiction, 2:30 p.m. Nov. 12
Join speculative-fiction all-stars Cory Doctorow (“Attack Surface”), TJ Klune (“The House in the Cerulean Sea”), and Jonathan Lethem (“The Arrest”) as they read from and discuss their latest works.

Life of a Klansman: Edward Ball in Conversation with Walter Isaacson, 4 p.m. Nov. 12
Edward Ball’s earlier “Slaves in the Family” opened discussion 25 years ago with untold family stories confirmed by, and this timely connection in his “Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy” is an opportunity to conflate current events with personal narrative.

Texas Observer Short Story Contest Reading (A Lit Crawl Event), 8:30 p.m. Nov. 14
Texas Observer unveils the winners of its 2020 Short Story Contest, judged by Houston phenom Bryan Washington. A set of readings from contest finalists, including Sydney Bartlett, Nellie Downer, Rudy Ruiz, Steve “Dutch” Simmons, and Julian Toscano.

Writers’ League of Texas Presents: Texas Debut Novelists, 10 a.m. Nov. 15
Bryan Washington’s debut novel “Memorial” was one of the most anticipated novels this fall, another distinction for the Houston-based author. He’s joined by Texas novelists Richard Z. Santos and James Wade.


Editor's picks