The State’s Largest and Free Literary Event Will Feature 100 Authors

NASHVILLE, Tenn.— July 15, 2021— The Southern Festival of Books announced tonight the first of its lineup of authors for its 33rd annual event, happening in-person October 9-10 at downtown’s War Memorial Plaza. Online programming, as well as a few live events with community partners in Nashville, will be offered leading up to the event.

This year’s Festival will feature 100 authors, offering attendees the opportunity to connect – both virtually and in-person – with their favorite authors from a variety of genres spanning from nonfiction, poetry, mystery and more. Booklovers can attend live sessions as authors read from and discuss their works and answer audience questions.

Following suit from last year’s online Festival, this year’s online programming will allow festivalgoers to tune into virtual author sessions and connect with fellow attendees, while providing access to recordings of all festival sessions.

“Every year, we seek to put on an event for readers and writers across the country to celebrate their favorite works, discover new favorites and connect with fellow booklovers – and this year’s event is no exception,” said Tim Henderson, Executive Director of Humanities Tennessee. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with this Festival lineup and are grateful for the opportunity to offer our attendees the option to celebrate the written word through in-person and virtual experiences.”

Headlining authors announced to date and who will be attending in-person programming include:

  • FORMER TN GOVERNOR BILL HASLAM (Faithful Presence: The Promise and Peril of Faith in the Public Square): Bill Haslam served as the 49th Governor of Tennessee from 2011 to 2019 and previously served as the 67th mayor of Knoxville. His first book Faithful Presence: The Promise and Peril of Faith in the Public Square explores the role of faith in politics.


  • BRIAN BROOME (Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir): Poet and screenwriter Brian Broome is a K. Leroy Irvis Fellow and instructor in the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been a finalist in The Moth storytelling competition and won the grand prize in Carnegie Mellon University’s Martin Luther King Writing Awards. Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir recounts his early years growing up in Ohio as a dark-skinned Black boy coming to terms with his sexuality.


  • DANIEL DE VISE (King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King): Daniel de Visé is an author and journalist whose investigative reporting led to the release of wrongly convicted men from life terms in prison. His 23-year career includes terms at The Washington Post and Miami Herald. His fourth book King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King debuts in October and is the first full and authoritative biography of the musical and cultural legend. Daniel de Visé’s session will take place on Tuesday, October 5 at the National Museum of African American Music as part of live programming with community partners leading up to the in-person event happening that weekend. The session time will be announced in the coming weeks.


  • ROBERT JONES JR. (The Prophets): Robert Jones Jr. is the creator and curator of the social justice social media community Son of Baldwin, which has over 275,000 members across platforms. His writing has appeared in The New York TimesEssence and The Paris ReviewThe Prophets is his debut novel.


  • RICKIE LEE JONES (Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour): Two-time Grammy award winner Rickie Lee Jones debuts Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour, an intimate memoir covering her life and music career that spans five decades. Rickie Lee Jones will be in conversation with NPR music critic Ann Powers on Saturday, October 9 at the War Memorial Plaza. The session time will be announced in the coming weeks.


  • PAULA MCLAIN (When the Stars Go Dark: A Novel): Paula McLain is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Love and RuinCircling the SunThe Paris WifeA Ticket to Ride, the memoir Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses, and two collections of poetry. Her writing has appeared in The New York TimesGood HousekeepingO: The Oprah MagazineTown & CountryThe GuardianThe Huffington Post, and elsewhere. When the Stars Go Dark is her most recent work.


  • MARGARET RENKL (Graceland, At Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South): Margaret Renkl is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times and author of Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss. Her next book Graceland, At Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South will debut in September. Margaret Renkl will be in conversation with Ann Patchett on Saturday, October 9 at the War Memorial Plaza. The session time will be announced in the coming weeks.


  • JESS WALTER (The Cold Millions: A Novel): Jess Walter is the author of nine books, including #1 New York Times bestseller, Beautiful RuinsThe Zero, a finalist for the National Book Award; and Citizen Vince, winner of the Edgar Award. His most recent book The Cold Millions: A Novel is a national bestseller.


  • HELENE WECKER (The Hidden Palace: A Novel): Helene Wecker is the author of The Golem and the Jinni, which was awarded the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, the VCU Cabell Award for First Novel and the Harold U. Ribalow Prize and was nominated for a Nebula Award and a World Fantasy Award. Her work has also appeared in literary journals Joyland and CatamaranThe Hidden Palace: A Novel is her second book.


  • DON WINSLOW (City on Fire: A Novel): Don Winslow is a New York Times bestselling author and author of three New York Times Critics Choice “Best Books of the Year.” Winslow has written 21 novels including the bestselling trilogy: The Power of the DogThe Border, and The Cartel; the trilogy is set to become an FX television series. His work has attracted the attention of filmmakers and actors including Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio with Winslow’s Savages and The Death and Life of Bobby Z made into feature films. Winslow’s writing has also appeared in Vanity FairVultureHuffington PostEsquire and the LA Times Magazine. His latest novel City on Fire is the first installation of a three-part series about two dueling criminal empires in New England.


  • DAVID ZUCCHINO (Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy): David Zucchino is a Pulitzer Prize-winner and four-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for his coverage of Lebanon, Africa, inner-city Philadelphia and Iraq and a contributing writer for The New York Times. His most recent work Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction.

Authors who will be participating in the Festival’s virtual programming include:

  • BENJAMIN LABATUT (When We Cease to Understand the World): Benjamín Labatut is a Chilean author whose latest work When We Cease to Understand the World – his first book to be translated into English – is a fictional examination of the links between scientific discoveries and morality and was included on former President Barack Obama’s 2021 summer reading list. Labutat will join the Festival virtually from Chile, and the session time will be announced in the coming weeks.

  • JASON REYNOLDS (Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You)): Jason Reynolds is an author of novels and poetry for young adult and middle-grade audiences, including Ghost, a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature, and Look Both Ways, a Carnegie Medal winner. Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You is his most recent work.

  • STEPHAN PASTIS (Trubble Town #1): Stephan Pastis is a cartoonist and author of children’s books including It’s the End When I Say It’s the End, which was on The New York Times bestseller list for children’s middle grade books. Trubble Town #1 is his most recent work.


  • GAYLE FORMAN (Frankie and Bug): Gayle Forman is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist and her writing has appeared in The New York TimesElleThe Nation and TimeFrankie and Bug is her most recent work.

More details about the Festival’s sessions will be announced in the coming weeks, and access to the Festival is free and available to everyone.

The Festival’s War Memorial Plaza activities will also include live book signings, sales, live musical entertainment, a beer garden, and local food trucks.

The Southern Festival of Books is made possible by generous support from funders and partners including: the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, Metro Nashville: Office of Arts & Culture, Tennessee Arts Commission, Ingram Content Group, Vanderbilt University, Dollar General Literary Foundation, Parnassus Books, Nashville Scene, and Comcast.

For a regularly updated list of all authors, please visit To learn more about the Southern Festival of Books and to stay updated on Festival announcements, please follow us on Twitter (@SoFestofBooks), Facebook (@SoFestofBooks) and on Instagram (@sofestofbooks).


  1. There’s going to be a William Gay panel with a great lineup. OMG! I’m so excited about going to Nashville.

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