Book festivals are fleeting portals to a million fictional worlds. They pop up all over the globe – sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for a few weeks – and all of them let you explore the magic of books. Unlike libraries and bookstores, literature festivals have a certain urgency about them – you have to absorb all of the amazing things they have to offer (author interviews, panel discussions, workshops and book signings) before they disappear. Even when they reappear the following year, the experience is different – no two book festivals are the same, which is why you can explore them year after year and still see something new.
If you want to immerse yourself in the special atmosphere at these festivals, you will probably be able to find one near you. There are a lot of them around, but some are bigger or more famous than others.
Below you’ll find 10 international book festivals that are bound to fill your bookworm soul with happiness and your bag with books!
1. Edinburgh International Book Festival
August (12th -28th August in 2017)
During 17 days of August, Edinburgh is invaded by more than 210,000 bookworms from all corners of the earth. They come to meet around 1000 international authors in over 800 events, making this literature festival one of the biggest of its kind! There are so many great events here that you’ll be hard-pressed to attend all of your favourites!
2. The Library of Congress Bookfest
Washington DC, USA
September (2nd September in 2017)
The U.S. has a million different book festivals, from small intimate events to week-long affairs with thousands of visitors. One of these events is the Library of Congress Bookfest, which draws dedicated bookworms to the U.S. capital for one day of bookish awesomeness. It may not be the biggest literary event in the U.S., but you do get the opportunity to explore the workings of the largest library in the world! At the Library of Congress Pavilion, you can get a behind-the-scenes look at how the library shares its massive resources with people everywhere. You will also find the more usual book festival activities such as talks, panel discussions and book signings.
3. Cheltenham Literature Festival
October (6th – 15th October in 2017)
If you want to experience the bookish atmosphere at one of the oldest literary events in the world, you should swing by the Cheltenham Literary Festival. The event has transformed the English town into a literary lover’s dream every autumn since 1949. For ten days you can immerse yourself in a programme with around 500 debates, workshops and interviews whilst being surrounded by 600 of the world’s best writers, poets, actors, politicians and leading opinion formers.
4. International Literature Festival Berlin
October (6th – 16th October in 2017)
The bookworm version of the Octoberfest! Just before the world-famous beer bonanza starts in Munich, Berlin draws bookworms from all corners of the earth to a book festival where you can experience ‘literary diversity in the age of globalisation’. This is the place to go if you want to see South African novelists rub shoulders with the new generation of Albanian writers whilst South Korean and Russian poets discuss their work with American short story writers and their Arabic colleagues. Even though the event is smaller than some of the other international book festivals, it still gives you the opportunity to meet 150 authors in 180 events during the 11-day-long book bonanza.
5. International Festival of Authors
October (19th – 29th October in 2017)
If you happen to be in Toronto in October, you need to stop by the International Festival of Authors. The book festival is one of the largest literary forums in Canada – and a great place to be if you want to meet some of the world’s most talked-about authors in contemporary fiction. Whether you join the festival for a few hours or spend all of the 11 days there, you will be surrounded by author readings, interviews, book signings, talks and round table discussions – a.k.a. pure bookworm heaven!
6. The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival
January (24th January – 29th January in 2018)
If you are looking for the ‘greatest literary show on Earth’, you might want to visit the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival in India. This massive 5-day event draws more than 840,000 bookworms to the Diggi Palace in the famous Pink City, where they can meet more than 1800 speakers at 1200+ events! All of it is free, and you get to meet everything from Nobel Laureates and Man Booker Prize winners to debut writers.
7. Krimimessen Horsens
March (17th – 18th March in 2018)
Okay, so I snuck a Danish book festival in here, but hear me out before you decide to ignore this one because it’s located in a town you’ve never heard of. If you are a BIG fan of crime novels, then you need to check out Krimimessen in Horsens. The Crime Book Festival is located in an old decommissioned state penitentiary, which gives the event a pretty unique atmosphere! It’s the perfect place to fill your bag with dark and dangerous books whilst listening to authors discussing the best way to kill off a character. The two-day event tends to have a strong lineup of Nordic crime writers, but you will also find the odd non-Nordic writer at the festival.
8. Buenos Aires Book Fair
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Late April to mid-May (26th April – 14th May in 2018)
The Buenos Aires Book Fair is one massive celebration of all things literature! The 20-day-long festival has a truly impressive cultural programme with more than a thousand literary events, AND you can get a book signed by one of the more than 2200 authors at the festival! The event has been called “the most important annual literary event in the Spanish-speaking world”, and each year more than 1,2 million bookworms come to experience the bookish atmosphere at this massive festival.
9. Sydney Writers Festival
May (2018 dates TBA)
If you want to combine sun and books with a bustling harbourside atmosphere, Sydney Writers Festival might just be what you’re looking for. Each year the festival hosts more than 300 events with international writers during its week-long celebrations of the written word. Most of these events are located at Walsh Bay in heritage wharves on Sydney Harbour, but you can also attend bookish activities in other venues such as the Opera House, Sydney Town Hall and the Blue Mountains.
10. Hay Festival of Literature & the Arts
End of May to beginning of June (24th May – 3rd June in 2018)
In the tiny town of Hay-on-Wye, you will find one of Britain’s most prestigious literature festivals. The Hay Festival of Literature & the Arts has drawn bookworms from all over the world to the charming town for more than 30 years, and the 11-day-long festival features more than 500 events and welcomes a flood of international speakers every year. Besides the festival site itself, it’s also worth having a look at some of the many bookshops in Hay. The town has more than 15 shops, many of which sell second-hand and antique books.
Have you ever been to any book festivals? I would love to hear which one(s) you’ve been to and what you love about them!