Two types of events crank up when the air gets crisp and the autumn leaves begin to fall: football and festivals. And as any literature lover knows, the region’s fall book fests rank as some of the very best, with slates chock-full of readings, book signings, workshops, and day-long festivities with some of the top authors from the South and beyond. So whether you’re a diehard fan hoping to meet your favorite writer or an early shopper simply hoping to scoop up a few signed copies as holiday gifts, add these five Southern book festivals to your travel plans.
For the first time since the pandemic, the Fall for the Book literary festival will open its doors back up to the public on the grounds of George Mason University and celebrate its twenty-fourth year of showcasing authors from around the world. This year’s headliners span from bestselling novelist Emily St. John Mandel (of the acclaimed Station Eleven) to big-time graphic and comic book writer Alan Moore (of Watchmen fame). If you can’t make it in person, you can join in on the festivities virtually as well.
With more than two hundred writers and approximately twenty-five thousand visitors, the Southern Festival of Books is both one of the oldest literary festivals in the country and one of the most popular. Located at the Nashville Public Library & War Memorial Plaza, the two-day event celebrates hundreds of literary heavyweights, with headliners including G&G contributing editor Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist Cynthia Tucker, and civil rights icon and former U.N. ambassador Andrew Young.
Beaufort, South Carolina
Hosted by the Pat Conroy Literary Center, this two-day festival honors the late Lowcountry novelist Pat Conroy, and features a small but mighty lineup of world-renowned writers, including the 2022 and 2021 winners of the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction: Nathan Harris (The Sweetness of Water) and De’Shawn Charles Winslow (In West Mills). To get some tips and tricks on fiction, nonfiction, journaling, and memoir wordsmithery, sign up for the workshops, led by distinguished authors who know a thing or two about the craft.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Tiger football usually gets all the attention during the fall months in Baton Rouge, but any bookworm will tell you that the Louisiana Book Festival comes in a close second. The day-long event features more than a hundred and fifty writers with a lineup that includes the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Jericho Brown (The Tradition) and the bestselling author of Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean. Visitors can also listen to live music and partake in a step-by-step cooking demonstration.
Charleston, South Carolina
Take advantage of the cooler fall Holy City climes and dip into the Charleston Literary Festival, events for which are scattered throughout historic downtown landmarks. This year’s attendees include nationally and internationally acclaimed authors such as Geraldine Brooks (Horse) and magazine legend (and royal watcher) Tina Brown (The Palace Papers). By focusing on the conversations that spark from readings and writings, the festival creates an interactive experience for authors and guests alike.