Only a few years ago, there was a strong vibe around that digital transformation might have dealt a lethal blow to traditional publishing. Some even predicted the end of paper books. However, like so many other off-the-mark doomed predictions of the past, this one also evaporated sooner than anybody could notice.
The biggest testimony to the resurgence of books as we know them is the large swathe of literary festivals mushrooming up in every corner of the world.
These events bring together book lovers and authors from all over the world into one place to celebrate the one thing we’ve all got in common: Our true love for books.
While some are still in their nascent phase, some of these festivals are the biggest literary congregations in the whole wide world.
I am about to tell you everything you need to know about 8 top literary festivals that I feel every bibliophile should attend at least once in their lifetime.
These festivals bring people of all backgrounds together—writers, children, adults, staff and hundreds of volunteers—all of whom love to read. They also love what reading represents: the stirring of ideas, the sparks of recognition, and the realization that we are all connected.
Let’s start with probably one of the biggest ones on our list, the famous Jaipur Literature Festival. Since its inception in 2006, Jaipur Lit Fest has taken giant leaps to quickly become one of the most recognized festivals in the WORLD.
It takes place every year in the pink city of Jaipur in India and lasts for five days. These five days not only keep the book lovers entertained but also raise awareness about multiple important topics that are relevant in today’s society.
Over 400,000 people attended the 2018 fest and it saw the presence of luminaries from all over the world as they participated in over 200 sessions spread out over 5 days.
There is no doubt that the Jaipur Literary Festival is now a top literary festival in the world. It is a platform where authors and readers congregate and celebrate what they love for five days straight.
Upcoming Fest: 24th-28th January 2019
Place: Jaipur, India
The former US President Bill Clinton once described Hay Fest as, “The Woodstock of the mind.”
The famous Hay Festival is perhaps one of the world’s oldest and top literary festivals. It is celebrated in not one, or two, but multiple countries and cities. It always starts off in Wales and then continues on a tour around the world.
Colombia, Peru, Spain and Mexico are just one of the few countries in which the festival is held all throughout the year, and although dates might vary every year, the event always includes several places around the globe.
Three decades old now, the Hay Festival brings together Nobel Prize-winners and novelists, scientists and politicians, historians and musicians on the same platform where all parties learn about literature and overall, have a great time.
Over the years, the festival has expanded beyond just books and is now about film and culture as well! Close to 300,000 bibliophiles attended the festival last year.
Upcoming Fest: 23 May–2 June 2019
Place: Hay-on-Wye, Wales
There are several book fairs and festivals held in the US every year, but none so distinct as the Brooklyn Book Festival.
Held in Brooklyn, New York, this event is known for two main things: First, it gives upcoming writes a platform to make their work known to the public, and two, it is the biggest literary event in the U.S.
Since its start in 2006, every year in September, the fest gathers not only the upcoming authors but the famous ones as well, allowing book lovers to listen to and interact with them.
The festival includes book readings, panel discussions, stand-up shows and author signings. The 2017 fest was attended by over 45,000 book-lovers.
Upcoming Fest: 10th-17th September 2018
Place: Brooklyn, New York
If you happen to be in Europe during August, then you should totally visit one of the biggest book events not only in all Europe but in the world, the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF).
The event had humble origins as it began in a tent in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh in 1983. Over the years, the event has grown in both scope and importance with over 250,000 recorded footfalls in 2016.
“We are the largest public celebration of the written word in the world” – EIBF
Much like the other festivals, this one also takes place during a course of several days, each one packed with different activities for you to enjoy, and you do have to buy tickets to get in.
Generally, the event is a nonstop riot of ideas, entertainment and unforgettable conversations involving writers and readers from all corners of the world. Close to 1000 authors from all over the world attended the last year’s event.
Upcoming Fest: 11th-17th August 2018
Place: Edinburgh, Scotland
This particular book festival is slightly different from the others.
Yes, you can find international authors and yes, it’s centred on bringing writers and readers together, but its primary focus is centred on two main literary categories: Poetry and contemporary literature.
Although the festival is focused around lesser-known writers, it’s still one of the most famous book fairs in the world, and you can find some big names as well in their lineup every year, which of course, just brings more people to attend every year.
The ilb (internationales literaturfestival berlin) compared to Jaipur Lit Fest and EIBF sees a smaller congregation of authors – around 150 are expected to attend this year – but its stature continues to grow.
Upcoming Fest: 5th-15th September 2018
Place: Berlin, Germany
The Vancouver Writers Fest is now three decades old and every year it brings top authors to indulge in dozens of readings, special interviews and panel discussions.
The Festival is a celebration of story, told by authors, poets, spoken word performers, and graphic novelists. According to some, it’s a must-attend for bibliophiles who love their crime and thriller fiction.
The Festival features 100 odd different sessions. Over 110 authors attended last year, though the number is expected to go up this year.
The number of event days also change as it gains better traction. Last year, the event lasted for 7 days, this time around it will go on for 8 days.
Upcoming Fest: 15th-22nd October 2018
Place: Vancouver, Canada
The Sydney Writers’ Festival is one of the many book fairs held in the beautiful country of Australia. It is considered Australia’s biggest celebration of writing and ideas.
The festival always gets famous authors and plenty of visitors every year – over 100,000 attended the recently held event – and offers a great variety of books, events and panels all over the course of several days.
You can’t ask for more as there are over 300 different events during the Fest to choose from.
If you happen to be in Australia during May, you really need to look out for this festival!
Upcoming Fest: May 2019 (days unannounced)
Place: Sydney, Australia
The oldest running literature festival in the world. Yes, here it is, Cheltenham Lit Fest.
With its origins in the post WWII era, this Fest has truly come a long way. With over 500 sessions and hundreds of thousands of book-lovers and top writers in attendance, Cheltenham pays homage to ideas and wisdom.
Often described as ‘literary lovers dream’, Cheltenham is a must-attend for all the bibliophiles.
Upcoming Fest: 5th-14th October 2018
Place: Cheltenham, England