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Your Essential Texas Book Festival Reading List

Dive into Literary Director Hannah Gabel’s curated reading list ahead of the November book bonanza

(Photo courtesy of Texas Book Festival)

Bookworms, this is your time. The Texas Book Festival (TBF) returns to Austin on November 11 and 12 with a lineup of more than 300 genre-spanning authors, about 40% of whom are Texas residents. 

Make your way downtown to catch free conversations and book signings with authors such as Steve Inskeep, Angie Kim, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Ann Patchett, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Jacqueline Woodson, and hundreds of authors. Superfans can attend one of three ticketed events with acclaimed authors Stacey Abrams, Michael Cunningham, and Roxane Gay; your ticket gains you session admission, a copy of each author’s book, and access to the book signing line to get that autograph.

(Photo courtesy of Texas Book Festival)

RELATED: Texas Book Festival Includes 300+ Authors & Exciting Literary Programming

TBF is family-friendly, with plenty of programming for children as well as teen and young adult readers. As for adults, if you like your literature a bit more interactive, you can attend one of several Lit Crawl events happening on the East Side on November 11, including noir readings at Vintage Bookstore & Wine Bar, a Literary Death Match at Ginbar, and a Banned Books Bash at Saddle Up. Plus, you can catch some cooking demonstrations at the Central Market Cooking Tent with cookbook authors like Kenny Gilbert, author of Southern Cooking, Global Flavors. Of course, BookPeople will be on hand with copies for purchase of all of the fest’s featured titles.

Young readers have their books signed by Divya Srinivasan. (Photo courtesy of Texas Book Festival)

Your Curated Reading List

We spoke with Hannah Gabel, literary director of TBF, to get her reading recommendations ahead of the book bonanza. All of the below authors are featured in TBF’s free programming, and Gabel “read, loved, and wholeheartedly recommends” each one.

For the reader who enjoys dystopian fiction infused with social commentary:

Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

This groundbreaking novel, shortlisted for the 2023 National Book Award for Fiction, exposes the criminality of the real-life prison industrial complex through a dystopian len as incarcerated individuals become “high-action sports” heroes who fight to the death in the hopes of winning their freedom (while the world eagerly watches). 

For the reader who loves romance (or a lighthearted and funny beach read): 

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

A 2023 Reese’s Book Club selection, this witty and fun story offers a behind-the-scenes look at an SNL-esque TV show as a female writer forms an unlikely bond with a celebrity guest—one that forces her to reconsider all her previous assumptions about romance. 

For the reader in search of an enlightening memoir:

The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight by Andrew Leland

In this sweeping exploration of blindness and disability, the author provides a first-hand account of his gradual vision loss and how his degenerative eye condition, which has left him suspended between sightedness and blindness, has impacted his family, sense of self, and community.

For the reader who relishes an addictive character-driven mystery:

Symphony of Secrets by Brendan Slocumb

In this melodic mystery novel, a Black musical scholar is asked to restore a newly-recovered symphony by one of the world’s most revered white composers of the 1900s and, in the process, uncovers long-buried secrets that expose the celebrated composer as a fraud.

For the escapism reader who enjoys science fiction with a side of humor:

Starter Villain by John Scalzi

When a down-on-his-luck teacher inherits his estranged uncle’s supervillain empire, hilarity ensues as the protagonist becomes acquainted with genetically engineered spy cats, unionized (and foul-mouthed) dolphins, and the many, many enemies of his late uncle.

For the nonfiction reader interested in the nuances of the Latinx identity:

Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino” by Héctor Tobar

This beautifully written and informative memoir draws on the life experiences of the author and the stories of those he encounters in his effort to document the historical and present experiences of individuals who identify as Latino/a/x/e and/or Hispanic in the United States.

For the reader looking for an entertaining-yet-educational children’s book:

Butt or Face? by Kari Lavelle

This unconventional and hilariously engaging picture book is sure to make even the oldest readers giggle as it features a series of animal photographs and facts while challenging the reader to a guessing game— one that’s perfectly captured by the book’s title.

For the reader who adores wartime historical fiction starring fearless women:

Good Night, Irene by Luis Alberto Urrea

Fans of The Nightingale (by Kristin Hannah) will devour this heart-wrenching drama inspired by the real-life experiences of the author’s mother, who served in the Red Cross during WW2 alongside an elite group of women tasked with providing American soldiers with coffee and donuts behind enemy lines.

(Photo courtesy of Texas Book Festival)

The Texas Book Festival takes place at various times and locations in Austin on November 11 and 12. For more information, head to the full festival schedule.