I am about to tell you everything you need to know about the top international literary festivals.
These events bring together book lovers and authors from all over the world into one place to celebrate the one thing they all got in common: true love for books.
I feel that every bibliophile should attend some or all of these literary festivals at least once in their lifetime. After all, these are some of the the biggest literary congregations in the entire world.
These fests bring people of all backgrounds together. Basically, everyone who loves what reading represents: the stirring of ideas, the sparks of recognition, and the realization that we are all connected.
#1: Jaipur Literature Festival
Let’s start with probably one of the biggest ones on our list, the famous Jaipur Literature Festival – dubbed as ‘The Greatest Literary Show on Earth‘.
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 2019 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 Lit Fest is the King of literary festivals. It is a platform where authors and readers congregate and celebrate what they love for five days straight.
Upcoming Fest: 28 January to 1 February 2021
Place: Jaipur, India
#2: The Hay Festival of Literature and Arts
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.
Due to the Covid-19 situation, the 2020 Hay event was held digitally. You can check out the clippings of this year’s and past events on Hay’s official YouTube channel.
Upcoming Fest: 27 May to 6 June 2021
Place: Hay-on-Wye, Wales
#3: The Brooklyn Book Festival
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 2019 fest was attended by over 57,000 book-lovers.
Upcoming Fest: 28 September to 5 October 2020
Place: Brooklyn, New York
#4: Edinburgh International Book Festival
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: 2020 event was cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic.
Place: Edinburgh, Scotland
#5: The International Literature Festival Berlin
The International Literature Festival 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 240 are expected to attend this year – but its stature continues to grow.
Upcoming Fest: 9 September to 19 September 2020
Place: Berlin, Germany
#6: Vancouver Writers’ Festival
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.
It features 100 odd different sessions. Over 110 authors attended last year, though the number is expected to go up this year.
It was reported that the festival also began curating an annual Reading List of books. This curated collection provides a glimpse into the most buzz-worthy works of the year.
You can download the 2019 reading list from the below link.
Upcoming Fest: 19 October to 25 October 2020
Place: Vancouver, Canada
#7: Sydney Writers’ Festival
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: 26 April to 2 May 2021. 2020 event was cancelled due to Covid-19.
Place: Sydney, Australia
#8: Cheltenham Literature Festival
In case you were wondering which is the oldest running literature festival in the world? Well, 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.
Over 140,000 book-lovers and 600 of the world’s finest authors, poets and politicians attended the event in 2019.
Often described as literary lovers dream, Cheltenham literary festival is a must-attend for all the bibliophiles.
Upcoming Fest: 2 October to 11 October 2020
Place: Cheltenham, England
Is there any other fest that you think deserves a place on this list of literary festivals? Do share your thoughts in the comments box below.