I’ve found a new favorite spot downtown –  the Café at the Bobby Hotel. At noon, you might enjoy a pretty salad or quiche with a girlfriend. Later in the day, you’ll want a sparkling Rosé and a cheese plate. There’s a stunning rooftop bar that I’ve only visited on a quiet afternoon, but I understand it’s quite a scene at night. All the while, the city buzzes around you – a Nashville kind of buzz. People are smiling, friendly. Sweating, maybe, in the heat. And there’s a palpable sense that our city has arrived.

with Dionne Lucas

Just like our city, the Southern Festival of Books has grown and flourished. I can’t tell you which authors to go see – there are too many great choices, and we’ve all got different tastes. But do yourself a favor and take a look at the Author List and Schedule! The Festival runs next weekend, October 11-13. 

Here are a few of the authors I’ve got my eye on:


“As a cash-strapped student at Columbia University, the author of this sardonic, moving memoir discovers that her violin playing, deemed extraordinary at home in Appalachia, is merely mediocre in New York. Nevertheless, she is hired to tour as a violinist, lulling “loud, sun-burnt ladies and their shy, baseball-capped husbands” with music that is “languid, insistent, and faintly menacing.” The catch: she’s playing along to CDs, turned up so high that no one hears her fumbles or notices her gradual disintegration. Grappling with the pressures of young womanhood, she finds that although classical music “gives a girl weight in a world that wants her to be weightless,” faking it is not enough.” (The New Yorker)

You can hear Jessica on Friday 10/11 at 1:00 (with Christy Lynch).


Author Jason DeParle is a two-time Pulitzer prize finalist. My friend Katy Varney made sure his latest book is on my radar. It’s described by The Washington Post as a “riveting multigenerational tale of one Filipino family dispersing across the globe, from Manila to Abu Dhabi to Galveston… DeParle’s examination of how the two daughters adapt to U.S. elementary schools, seeking to become more all-American than the Americans, even as their parents find solace in Texas’s Filipino immigrant networks, is a minor classic of the assimilation experience.”

Matthew Desmond, author of “Evicted,” says “intimate narratives entwine with sweeping, global accounts to produce one of the best books on immigration written in a generation.”

(With Dan Sharfstein, Vanderbilt Law and History professor,  on Saturday 10/12 at noon.)

Literary Fiction:

I’m reading “My Year of Rest and Relaxationright now. It is – dark. And clammy. And claustrophobic. And – provocative? And – really good? The jury’s out. I want to hear Moshfegh in conversation with Joelle Herr, owner of The Bookshop, on Friday 10/11.


I interned with this character a thousand years ago when we were both in law school. So I might go. He’s a lawyer now. (As am I, the recovering variety.) I think I might check in to hear what he has to say. And, you know, see if I would recognize him. On Saturday 10/12 at 10 am.


Who doesn’t love Anne Byrn? And who doesn’t love a kitchen hack? Saturday 10/12, 2:00.

If you’re a Harper Lee fanatic:

My couples book club read “Furious Hours” this summer. “A book for anyone who loves Mockingbird, small towns, writing, the South or true crime mysteries,” says book club historian Gary Shockley. Casey will chat with Margaret Renkl on Sunday 10/13 at noon (with Alma Faye Rivers).

If you liked “Swans of Fifth Avenue” (also by Melanie Benjamin):

The lovely Saralee Terry Woods (Bookman/Bookwoman) will interview Melanie on Saturday 10/12 at 3:00.

If you liked “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones:

Anissa will speak and visit at the Women’s National Book Association “Coffee with Authors” (moderated by Mary Laura Philpott, also featuring Alexi Zentner, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Karen Thompson Walker) on Saturday 10/12 from 9:30 to 11 am.

If you liked the movie “Arrival,” based on a Ted Chiang short story…

With The Porch co-founder Katie McDougall! Friday 10/11, 2:00.

If you’re interested in Japan or generally enjoy travel or foreign culture writing…

With Nashville Public Radio journalist (and host of the “Movers and Shakers” podcast) Emily Siner, Saturday 10/12, 11:30.

Mary Laura Philpott and Dani Shapiro will reflect on self-reflection…







Saturday 10/12, 12:30.

Ann Patchett and Margaret Renkl will interview each other…







I’m delighted to introduce them, Saturday 10/12, 2:00.

Tara Conklin and Karen Thompson Walker will dream…







Saturday 10/12, at 12:00. With Tricia Ping, publisher and editor of BookPage.

If you like Kathy Schultenover’s recommendations and/or World War II novels:

Sunday afternoon 10/13 at 2:00, with Lynn Alexander.

More about WWII. Moral Gravity…

Sunday afternoon 10/13 at 1:00, with Andrew Maraniss.

And finally, two just for fun…

With Miriam Mimms! Friday 10/11, 1:30 pm.

Review by Liz Garrigan in the Nashville Scene here
With Sean Kinch! Saturday 10/11, at noon.

Review by Ed Tarkington at Chapter16.org – “The Cold Can Teach Us Many Things”.

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I wish I could highlight every author speaking at the SFB. I’m sorry if I’ve missed your favorite. Please let me know who’s on your list!

And – I hope to see you at the Festival – xoxo

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