Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

June is a big month in this literary town. Austin’s African American Book Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary on the 25th. Swing by the Carver Museum and Library (1161 and 1165 Angelina St, 78702) between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. to take part in the program, which promotes literature by and about African Americans. The festival features young adult author Sharon Flake and also provides a platform for new, emerging and self-published authors to pitch and sell their work.

I produced a short video to celebrate the festival’s big milestone and explain why it’s worthy of our community’s support. “Our festival is important because it brings readers and writers together,” founder Rosalind Oliphant says. “It creates a space for conversation, for dialogue, for creativity, and hopefully in those discussions we’re expanding our thinking, our creativity, and our activism.” Click below to learn about the origin and impact of the small and mighty event.

Featured author Flake’s titles include “The Skin I’m In,” “Bang!” and “Pinned”.  Previous festival headliners include Pulitzer Prize winners Leonard Pitts and Annette Gordon Reed, best-selling authors Terry McMillan and MK Asante, and historians Arnold Rampersad and Peniel Joseph.  Ample parking is available at Carver Museum, Carver Library and Kealing Middle School. I hope to see you there!


I’m excited that Austinites will have a chance to hear directly from Sebastian Junger (“Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging”) at BookPeople on June 13th. Junger was among the most memorable presenters I heard speak at BookExpo America in Chicago last month. He spoke powerfully about the ways books–not movies, not music–are the only thing that can get us to radically re-understand society and change it for the better.

Junger describes books as profound, almost sacred antidotes to the ignorance and divisiveness plaguing the nation, and politics in particular, today.  His latest book, “Tribe,” also explores the way modern society undermines a sense of loyalty, belonging and humanity. “We’ve come to a crisis of self-definition,” he said. “We literally don’t know who we are or who we want to be.” Books can help.

Sebastian Junger BEA 2016 copy


BookPeople also hosts Ryan Holiday (“The Ego Is the Enemy”) on June 17.

“The Ego is the Enemy” is an ode to humility and other quiet virtues that too often are trampled by arrogance and ambition. In keeping with the book’s exhortation against excess self-importance, Holiday doesn’t tout himself as an expert or rely on personal stories to prove his points. Rather he presents himself as an enthusiastic student diligently looking to history and philosophy for examples and ideas to encourage his better impulses.

And what can readers take away from all this? “It’s always nice to be made to feel special or empowered or inspired,” Holiday writes. “But that’s not the aim of this book.  Instead, I have tried to arrange these pages so that you might end in the same place I did when I finished writing it: that is, you will think less of yourself. I hope you will be less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness, and as a result you will be liberated to accomplish the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve.” I can’t wait to hear him discuss this important book live.


Click below for a full calendar of Austin literary events, including author signings, literary festivals, storytimes, book clubs and even galas benefitting bookish nonprofits.

Austin Literary Calendar

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