I Went to the Boston Book Festival!

This weekend was tons of fun, and I got to have some very cool Bostonian and bookish experiences! I went up to Boston on Friday for a weekend with my friend Emmaline from college. She graduated before me, so aside from a couple of brief visits, we hadn’t seen each other in over a year.

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She met me at South Station and guided me to Downtown Crossing, where she left me to my own devices, needing to get back to work. I grabbed some lunch, then walked over to Boston Common. It was still fairly green and yellow considering it’s now mid-autumn, but still gorgeous! It was my first time visiting Boston in the fall (insert Veggie Tales joke).

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After a while, I headed to King’s Chapel, where a tour was about to start. What I didn’t realize until I got there was that it was a crypt tour! Our educator, Lauren, taught us all about the history of the crypt and the bell tower, and she also told us about the work she’s doing for her master’s degree. I would write about everything we learned, but I’d rather recommend visiting in person if you can. If not, their website is here!

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When Emmaline got out of work, we had a girls’ night in, and the next morning we went to the Boston Book Festival. Our first event of the day was “Sister Resisters: A Celebration of Feminism through Romance,” a panel talk by five romance authors. I’m not an avid reader of romance, but Emmaline is, and one of her favorite authors, Sarah MacLean, was on the panel. The discussion was intriguing even as a non-romance reader, and I only wish that we didn’t have to clear out of the reserved space after an hour.

The authors stayed back to chat and sign books, and I appreciated that compared to busy single-author book events, we were able to actually converse with authors without being rushed along. Sarah MacLean was super friendly to both of us, and she gave me a free signed copy of one of her books, making me promise to give the genre a shot. In both the panel discussion and our conversation with Sarah, what struck me was the warmth and close-knit feeling of writers in the romance genre.

After that, we checked out some booths and had lunch, and we tried to get into the “Myth, Fate, and Family” talk to no avail. Madeline Miller, author of Circe, was speaking, and the crowd she drew left no seats for us. That left us with ample time to get seats at an overlapping talk we wanted to see, the “Authoritarianism” panel. I’ve been following Amy Siskind, author of The List, since around the 2016 election, and it was fascinating getting to hear her expertise in person. Another of the panelists, Tim Snyder, also impressed me with his insights.

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After checking out a few more booths, we sat down to watch the live performances. We caught most of a set by the singer Malaya, and after that came a performance called the Shakespeare Time-Traveling Speakeasy. We knew it was some sort of Shakespeare hip-hop act, but we weren’t sure exactly what to expect. It turned out that these guys were incredibly knowledgeable Shakespeare scholars, skilled rappers, and fun dudes. They didn’t act out direct scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, but rather performed songs about his life, what London was like at the time, and scholarly controversies about him. They also made a case for why Henry V is cooler than Hamlet and did a rap battle between Iago and Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth won, of course.

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By the time that was over, it was getting to be evening. We ate dinner at a cafe and had another chill night in, then I took the train home the next morning. Overall, I had a blast, and it was especially nice to get to experience all of this with Emmaline. One more thing — the Boston Book Festival, aside from some keynote events that we didn’t attend, is completely free and non-ticketed. If you ever get a chance to go, I highly recommend it.

Have you ever been to a book festival? What was your experience like? Tell me about it in the comments!

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