Five Things to Do at the Texas Book Festival

Online and in-person picks, from Pinocchio to plagues to portals to Hell

Colson Whitehead brings his <i>Harlem Shuffle</i> on Monday
Colson Whitehead brings his Harlem Shuffle on Monday

Here comes the 26th annual Texas Book Festival, y'all – deep in the literary heart of Austin, where the advent of printed matter is still being celebrated more than 500 years after Gutenberg turned in his dance card. And, yes, the festival is mostly a virtual affair this year, as that damned pandemic's still hanging on. But there are in-person components, too – an array of children's programs at Symphony Square (1117 Red River) on Sat., Oct. 30, and a righteous handful of adult presentations at the Austin Central Library (710 W. Cesar Chavez) on Sun., Oct. 31 – and of course the vast virtual portion of this bookish hullabaloo is worth shouting about, too. And we've got recommendations for you – for both aspects – right here ...

Harlem Shuffle: Pulitzer Prize Winner Colson Whitehead in Conversation

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Nickel Boys and The Underground Railroad returns to the Texas Book Festival to discuss his new book – "part heist novel, part family saga ... a love letter to early 1960s Harlem." Well, of course we're recommending this one. Because Pulitzer? Because HBO series? Yeah, no, we're not even that caught up – but our minds are still reeling from having imbibed the weird brilliance of Whitehead's earlier The Intuitionist and Zone One. Online. Mon., Oct. 25, 12:45pm.

Pinocchio, Fever Dreams, and Babies Born With Gills: Fabulist and Absurdist Fiction Exploring Familial Anxiety

If the title of this one drew you in at all, you'll be excited to learn it's a discussion featuring Austin author Edward Carey (The Swallowed Man) and Ethan Rutherford (Farthest South & Other Stories). And if that's not compelling enough as Halloween shambles ever closer, note that the moderator for this talk is Deb Olin Unferth – whose own Barn 8 concerns two auditors for the U.S. egg industry who go rogue and plot to steal a million chickens in the middle of the night. Online. Mon., Oct. 25, 7pm.

The Plague Year: Pulitzer Prize Winner Lawrence Wright in Conversation

New York Times bestselling author Lawrence Wright discusses The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid – an exploration of the medical, economic, political, and social origins and implications of the COVID pandemic – with Texas Tribune co-founder Evan Smith. You want comprehensive, thoroughly researched coverage of this subject, fellow pandemic survivor? Wright will provide it, as he does for so many subjects. Online. Thu., Oct. 28, 10am.

Five Things to Do at the Texas Book Festival

Beer Made From Fog, Millennia-Old Egg Ovens, Dining in the Sky, and More: A Conversation With Gastro Obscura's Cecily Wong

Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer's Guide by Atlas Obscura's Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras is a detailed, gorgeously illustrated exploration of food "as a gateway to a greater understanding of history, science, art, and tradition." Author Wong, in conversation with Eater Austin's Nadia Chaudhury, will reveal ways in which people on all seven continents make food, eat, drink, and come together around the table. You think your habit of putting cold cranberry jelly in hot miso soup is strange, citizen? You think a party bowl of Chex Mix with sautéed crickets is the wildest thing imaginable? There's a whole big world of cuisine out there. Online. Sat., Oct. 30, 2:45pm.

The Devil's Treasure: A Conversation With Mary Gaitskill

Safe bet: If you've ever read Gaitskill's 1998 short story collection Bad Behavior, the stories are still in your mind. And if you've read any of those stories, you've probably also devoured what she's produced since then – the stories, the novels, the essays. Listen: Gaitskill's latest work presents excerpts of her previous novels – including 2005's Veronica and 2015's The Mare – all of it stitched together with authorial commentary, and all of it linked by the story of a girl named Ginger who discovers a portal to Hell in her own backyard. In person at Austin Central Library and online. Sun., Oct. 31, 4pm.

The Texas Book Festival runs Oct. 23-31. Register for online events at

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Five Things ..., Texas Book Festival 2021, Lawrence Wright, Coulson Whitehead, Edward Carey, Evan Rutherford, Mary Gatskill, Evan Smith, Nadia Chaudry

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