Member News

What’s On a Festival Director’s Bookshelf?

What’s On a Festival Director’s Bookshelf?

Over the past few weeks we’ve been asking the Association’s member festival directors about the books and authors that they think we need to know about. Scroll down to hear what they had to say and click on each of their names to read their full Q&A pieces.

Anne O’ Brien (Auckland Writers’ Festival):

  • Catherine Chidgey, Remote Sympathy, award-winning author’s latest novel set in Germany, an examination of wilful obliviousness
  • Witi Ihimaera, Navigating the Stars, senior Māori writer and author of Whale Rider with a retelling of traditional Māori myths for the twenty-first century.
  • Ruby Mae Hinepunui Solly, Tōku Pāpā, rising star in the arts world as a composer, musician, poet, curator and thinker, and author of this debut collection.

Cherilyn Parsons (Bay Area Book Festival):

  • Danielle Evans, The Office of Historical Corrections: a searing, spot-on collection featuring a novella and stories on race and American history that’s receiving a ton of well-deserved accolades.
  • Melissa Febos, Abandon Me and new book, Girlhood. Febos’s writing is so emotionally raw and direct that it’s almost violent; it cuts through your own fears and self-delusions so that you too stand naked and raw, feeling understood and liberated.
  • Jane Hirshfield, Ledger. Jane is a Bay Area, Buddhist-influenced poet whose spare, precise, often wry and humorous poems capture the heart of the human experience with gentle and astonishing perfection, leaving the reader in a fresh relationship with the world.

Ulrich Schreiber (Berlin International Literature Festival):

  • July Zeh
  • Daniel Kehlmann
  • Maxim Biller
  • Christian Kracht

… Any book by them.

Ahlam Bolooki (Emirates Airline Festival of Literature):

  • Shahad Al Rawi and Buthaina Al Essa are two of the most fierce contemporary female authors in the Arab world, and I adore their work.
  • Omar Ghobash’s Letters to a Young Muslim is full of wisdom and thoughtful reflections on faith, culture and society, and this book is an important read for anyone who wants to explore our shared humanity across cultures and nations.

Roland Gulliver (Toronto International Festival of Authors):

I am terrible at choosing favourites so I offer instead a quick trilogy to understand Canada a little better with two anthologies, and Margaret Atwood (of course!).

  • Survival: a Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature by Margaret Atwood. Published in 1972, one of the first books to capture the birth of a new national literary phenomenon, CanLit.
  • Black Writers Matter: an anthology of African-Canadian writing edited by Whitney French. This collection of Black Canadian narratives drawing across the diaspora was essential reading in 2020 exploring the dynamic of representation and racism in Canada.
  • Indigenous Toronto: Stories that Carry This Place Edited by Denise Bolduc, Mnawaate Gordon-Corbiere, Rebeka Tabobondung, and Brian Wright-McLeod. Just published this April, this unique anthology gives voice to the past and contemporary Indigenous experiences that define Toronto as a significant cultural hub known as a Meeting Place long before European settlers arrived.

Tracy Cunningham (Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival):

Some obvious names associated with our area would be Tennessee Williams, Ernest Gaines, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Kate Chopin, but here are some current writers for whom New Orleans is a muse:

  • Maurice Carlos Ruffin is fantastic! His debut novel, We Cast a Shadow, is an incredible personal journey of a father set in a future not so hard to imagine after the past few years in the U.S. Plus he has a book of short fiction coming out.
  • Katy Simpson Smith is a story-spinner whose latest book, The Everlasting, is a lush journey through Italy in modern times, the 16th Century, the 9th Century, and the 2nd Century, all tied expertly together through themes of love, good and evil, and faith.
  • Other Southern cities like to claim him, but Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jericho Brown was born in Louisiana, earned his MFA in creative writing at the University of New Orleans, and has been a Fest favorite for years. His most recent book is The Tradition.

Nicola Tuxworth (The Times and the Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival):

  • Craig Brown (One Two Three Four): A fabulous, award-winning new biography of the group that changed pop music forever
  • Sathnam Sanghera (Empireland) An important new work about the shadow cast by Britain’s colonial history
  • Jeffrey Boakye (Black, Listed): An ingeniously structured book that opened my eyes in so many ways to the reality of the black experience in modern Britain – challenging, painful but warm and funny too, just brilliant

Mauro Munhoz (Flip – Paraty International Literary Festival):

  • Gustavo Pacheco is a Brazilian diplomat and anthropologist who launched in 2017 his first short story Alguns Humanos (direct translation: Some Humans). I believe that thanks to his special ability to mix different worlds in his texts he will enjoy a prolific career as a writer.
  • Ailton Krenak is a Brazilian Indigenous leader, environmentalist and poet. One of his most recent books Ideas to Postpone the End of the World is a must-read for everyone who cares about the future of the world.
  • Mário de Andrade was a Brazilian writer, musician, ethnographer and also held an executive career. 100% intellectual, he sought bridges between popular and academic culture in Brazil, always concerned by forging a multicultural identity for Brazil, a country with a relatively short independent history.

Janet DeNeefe (Ubud Writers & Readers Festival):

  • Eka Kurniawan, author of Beauty is a Wound is hailed as Indonesia’s “next Pramoedya’ and is the country’s most exciting new voice in contemporary literature. His book reads like a classic Indonesian drama that combines satire, history, tragedy, romance and loads of humour. Although I guess you have to be Indonesian or a long-term resident to understand the jokes!
  • Norman Erikson Pasaribu is the author of Sergius Seeks Bacchus, and is considered one of Indonesia’s freshest voices who writes about issues of identity and culture. His writing is charming.
  • Intan Paramaditha is an Indonesian fiction writer and academic based in Sydney, whose debut novel, The Wandering, about travel and displacement, was long-listed for the Stella Prize.

Marina Salandy-Brown (NGC Bocas LitFest):

  • Lauren Francis Sharma: The Book Of the Little Axe is her second novel and a masterful family epic. She lives in the USA.
  • Canisia Lubrin: An exceptionally gifted poet destined for stardom, The Dyzgraphxst (McClelland and Stewart, 2020) presents seven inquiries into selfhood through the perennial figure of Jejune. It follows her masterpiece breakout collection, Voodoo Hypothesis (2017).
  • Monique Roffey: Her 7th book, The Mermaid of Black Conch won the 2021 Costa Award (Peepal; Tree Press, 2020).