Boston Book Festival

Yesterday was the second annual Boston Book Festival. I was very excited for it as it has been on my calendar since they announced the save the date in the beginning of 2010. I’m not sure if it was all of this time building up to it or if it was because last year’s festival seemed to be the perfect size, but I was definitely a bit disappointed.* As I said I attended in 2009 and it was the perfect size. The workshops were housed in rooms where there were just enough seats with no need for overflow and there was enough time for there to be plenty of audience and panel interaction. On the other hand the exhibitors were brilliant! They increased the number of booksellers and I loved seeing nonprofits from around the (Eastern? part of) the state. A lot of the exhibitors were more interested in talking to and approaching the older attendees (40ish+), but if I asked a question they were helpful to answer. I found quite a few new used bookstores to either check out online or to visit at some point including:

  • Symposium Books – AMAZING. They had a deal where you could fill a small plastic bag for $20, a large plastic bag for $40 or a canvas tote for $50. I wasn’t going to do this, but then I found quite a few books on my big list of books to read so I did the small bag. If I would’ve paid for these books new I would’ve spent $112.80, if I paid the discount price I would’ve paid $33.00, so either way you look at it I saved a good amount of money! Two are Pulitzer Prize winning books (Robinson and Toole) and three were on my list (Robinson, both Miller) and I had to buy Boston Noir, how could I not?
  • Raven Used Books – Although I didn’t buy anything from them, I’d already spent $20 which was more than I’d planned on spending, they had a very good selection (including some Foucault!) and I will definitely check them out! They are a ‘scholarly’ used book store, so more textbook/research type books which are always nice!

And of course Brattle Book Shop and Brookline Booksmith were there, both of which I regularly visit!

Now on to the three workshops I attended. I was worried that this year the workshops and the festival overall would be geared more towards writers rather than bibliophiles. But the three I attended seemed to be a good mix between the two.

Workshop I: The Ancients: History and Myth

– Overall I enjoyed this workshop, but I thought Sir Peter Stothard was kind of an ass. He came across as male chauvinist and really seemed to discount the other two panelists views as they were women. This may just be my interpretation, but I found it slightly annoying. I thoroughly loved Stacy Schiff and even bought a copy of Saint-Exupéry: A Biography and had it autographed. I wanted to buy a copy of Cleopatra, but it was so expensive as it’s only in hardback right now, but I’ve added it to my list of books to read I don’t remember much about Caroline Alexander, she came across as knowledgeable and intelligent, but I didn’t feel the passion that Schiff brought to the presentation.

Workshop II: History, Mystery and Art

– I enjoyed all of the panelists from this panel and the host was brilliant. Of the three panelists I enjoyed Erica Hirshler the most as her story was interesting and showed her professional lifetime involvement with John Singer Sargent’s “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit,” and the research on the art, the subjects and the painter was thorough. Da Zheng’s discussion was less lively, to me, but made me just sa curious ab out Chiang Yee and the books that he wrote. So I’ll definitely check it out as well. Elyssa East’s presentation was intriguing, however was the least exciting to me, but I will definitely read the book as the mystery of a ghost town that’s no longer a town is definitely intriguing.

Workshop III: Internet or Not

– The least appropriate title of the three workshops I attended. It should’ve been something like ‘Technology and the Mind” or “Mutually Exclusive?: Deep Thinking and Technology.” Each of the authors brought a unique perspective and overall I enjoyed Eric Haseltine the most. He wasn’t arguing against the other two who wanted to unplug and remove themselves from the internet periodically, but saying that with the internet we can reach goals and heights we have not yet reached as a culture.

Books I bought:

Books I’ve added to my list (not including the above):

  • The Big Switch – Nicholas Carr
  • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains – Nicholas Carr
  • Mary and O’Neill – Justin Cronin
  • The Passage – Justin Cronin
  • The Summer Guest – Justin Cronin
  • Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town – Elyssa East
  • Long Fuse, Big Bang: Achieving Success Through Daily Victories – Eric Haseltine
  • Sargent’s Daughters: The Biography of a Painting – Erica Hirshler
  • The Invention of Air – Steven Johnson
  • Everything Bad is Good for You – Steven Johnson
  • Hamlet’s Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age – William Powers
  • Cleopatra – Stacy Schiff
  • Saint-Exupéry: A Biography – Stacy Schiff

*Overall I enjoyed the festival and whoever was Tweeting on their behalf was brilliantly helpful!


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