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34th Annual Southern Festival of Books to Celebrate the Written Word This Fall

Article by Jennifer Bennhoff

Photography by Provided

Originally published in Franklin Lifestyle

After two years of virtual programming, Humanities Tennessee is thrilled to announce that its beloved Southern Festival of Books is returning in person to downtown Nashville this October 14 – 16.

The Festival began in 1989 as a literary program at the Tennessee Homecoming celebration. It was so popular that Humanities Tennessee, a nonprofit dedicated to the discussion of ideas, stories, history, art and culture, made it an annual event. “The festival is for everyone to enjoy,” says director Serenity Gerbman. “People come from all over the world to discover new authors and participate in the Q & A's.”

About 25,000 people are expected to visit this year to browse, discover and discuss the ideas laid out in their favorite genres, including mystery novels, memoirs, poetry collections, biographies and works of literary fiction.

“At Vanderbilt’s Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities,” says Gerbman, “discussion centers around the theme of mending and transforming, how we live and work together in a diverse world. With the festival, we work with this theme by encouraging visitors to engage in the civic lives of their communities. Sharing perspectives on written works, with their authors, is a great way to do that.”

Among the 200+ authors slated to sign and discuss their books are Rick Bragg, Joshua Cohen, Diane Kruger, Andrew Young, Julie Otsuka and Tayari Jones. Grammy-nominated country music artist Margo Price will perform onstage and discuss her literary debut, “Maybe We’ll Make It: A Memoir.”

Guests wishing to dine with Pulitzer-winning and Oprah-selected authors are invited to attend the Authors in the Round dinner at the War Memorial Auditorium on October 14. The dinner raises funds to support the festival and Humanities Tennessee. Tickets are available at

To plan your visit, download the Southern Festival of Books app and view the roster of authors, music artists and panel discussions, or pick up a program at the event. Indoor events will be located in the Nashville Public Library’s main branch and outdoor activities, including food trucks and a performance stage, will take place in the adjoining War Memorial Plaza. Admission is free to festival events.

“One thing we love about this festival is how people from different backgrounds come together and learn from one another,” says Gerbman. “The effect is like a pebble in a pond. As people learn new ideas and come to understand our differences, they take those thoughts back to their homes and share what they’ve learned. The impact lasts much longer than the three-day festival itself!”

  • The iconic mouse from author Laura Numeroff's and illustrator Felicia Bond's children's book, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," greeted guests at the 2018 Souther
  • Author Wayetu Moore discussed her bold and magical debut novel, "She Would Be King," with a visitor to the 2018 Southern Festival of Books.