Instead of curling up with a good book, get ready to sit nearby and hear from the authors themselves at the 21st annual Virginia Festival of the Book, which begins Wednesday and runs through March 22. Almost 400 authors and participants – including dozens of University of Virginia faculty, staff, students and alumni – will share their written work and insights about writing at 199 events in 77 venues on Grounds and in Charlottesville.
The festival brings well-known writers from a variety of genres, and U.Va.’s contributors are no exception: They’ll read and discuss their work in poetry, fiction, history, civil rights, religion, current topics such as climate change and leadership, and even football and mystery. Almost all of the events are free.
English professor Mark Edmundson, who published “Why Football Matters: My Education in the Game” last fall, will join former NFL player, college coach and ESPN analyst Bill Curry and Steve Almond, author of “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto,” as they discuss their love for football, why it matters and what’s gone wrong. The event, Football in the Red Zone: Perspectives from the Player, Coach and Fan (Wednesday, 8 p.m., Culbreth Theatre) is one of the few that has a ticket price. Tickets are $10 ( $5 for students), and available through the U.Va. Arts Box Office.
English professor emeritus Charles Wright, currently the U.S. poet laureate, and alumna Mary Szybist, winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry, will read poems on Friday at 6 p.m. in Culbreth. Tickets are free, and also available at the Arts Box Office.
A couple of events where reserving free tickets is also suggested feature Stephen Cushman, poet and English professor, reading from his latest book of poetry, “The Red List,” with Virginia Poet Laureate J. Ron Smith (Wednesday, 4 p.m., auditorium of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library); and philosopher Matthew Crawford, a senior fellow at U.Va.’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and author of the recently published “The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction,” talking with media studies professor and chair Siva Vaidhyanathan about the challenge of focusing one’s thinking in the age of distraction (Wednesday, 6 p.m., also in the Special Collections auditorium). Those interested in attending can register with co-sponsor, U.Va. Lifetime Learning.
Crawford gained national attention with his previous book, “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work,” and writes about weighty subjects in a readable style, reviewers have said. A cultural historian, Vaidhyanathan is the author of “The Googlization of Everything” and frequently writes on media and cultural issues for periodicals such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Times Magazine, The Nation and Salon.com.
For those who want to learn about the art of writing – and rewriting – award-winning author John Casey, a professor in U.Va.’s Creative Writing Program whose essay collection “Beyond the First Draft: The Art of Fiction” came out last fall, will share insights in a discussion with fellow writer Jeb Livingood, the program’s assistant director, on Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the Special Collections auditorium.
Cushman, who also recently published “Belligerent Muse: Five Northern Writers and How They Share Our Understanding of the Civil War,” and Russian studies lecturer Andrew Kaufman, whose latest book is “Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times,” will share historic perspectives on literature they think is still worth reading (March 20, 10 a.m., Special Collections auditorium).
History professor Phyllis Leffler will give perspectives on recent American history from black leaders, featured in the book she co-authored with history professor emeritus Julian Bond, “Black Leaders on Leadership: Conversations with Julian Bond” (March 21, 4 p.m., Jefferson School African American Heritage Center).
On the lighter side, readers who love crime thrillers can hear Kenneth G. Elzinga, Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics, who writes under the pen name Marshall Jevons, and authors A.X. Ahmad, Wiley Cash and Mary Miley (March 21, 4 p.m., James Monroe Room at the Omni Hotel) as part of the festival’s series, “Crime Wave.”
Other U.Va. participants, whose events can be found on the festival website, include: E. Franklin Dukes, Corinne Field, Brandon Garrett, Edward D. Hess, Ravi Howard, Ken Hughes, Patricia Jennings, Charles Marsh, Allison Pugh and Daniel Willingham.
The Festival of the Book is the largest community-based book event in the Mid-Atlantic region and has attracted audiences of more than 20,000 for each of the past 11 years. Produced by U.Va.’s Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the festival is a program of the Virginia Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book.