Celebrating a love for literacy at 41st annual Kentucky Book Festival

By Nikki Edds

This past Saturday, Joseph-Beth Booksellers hosted the 41st annual Kentucky Book Festival, a program of Kentucky Humanities.


Over 150 authors attended to meet-and-greet and sign books, with over 60% either from Kentucky or writing about Kentucky, according to Director Sara Woods. The lineup featured award-winning authors such as Barbara Kingsolver, Jon Meacham and Kentucky Poet Laureate Crystal Wilkinson.


Doors to the festival opened at 9:30 a.m. and had a full itinerary before wrapping up around 5 p.m.


“We have authors from all over, books for all interests whether you like bourbon, basketball or history, we've got a book here for you,” Woods said in an interview with Ally Blake for WKYT.


There were three maps to guide attendees around the festival. Map 1 detailed the Lexington Green Literary Landing, where book-as-ticket programs with Jon Meacham & David Blight and Barbara Kingsolver & Jan Isenhour were scheduled to take place. The book-as-ticket programs required guests to purchase the featured author's latest book as their ticket to the event.

Image from barbarakingsolver.net

Barbara Kingsolver's latest book, “Demon Copperhead” reimagines Charles Dickens’s “David Copperfield” in modern-day rural Appalachia. The young protagonist tackles foster care, child labor, poverty, addiction and more.


In a book review for The New York Times, Molly Young described Kingsolver’s writing as “...unblushingly political and works on a sprawling scale… Episode by episode she persuasively conveys the mind of a teenage boy… it's hard to think of another living novelist who could take a stab at Dickens and rise above the level of catastrophe.”


Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham’s latest biography “And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle” was also featured as part of the book-as-ticket program.


Image from penguinrandomhouse.com

Meacham is the author of numerous New York Times bestsellers including “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels,” “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,” “Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation (with Tim McGraw),” and more.


In a review of “And There Was Light” for The Washington Post, John Fabian Witt wrote, “Meacham’s new Lincoln is not just a text; it is an event. The book aims to recraft a usable mythology of Lincoln for political leaders in the 21st century, when dissension and loose talk of civil war have returned. It is thoroughly researched and highly readable, written with all the artful craftsmanship of a veteran writer and editor.”


Map 2 on the festival directory detailed the Main Stage, sponsored by the University of Kentucky, and the Writer’s Room, sponsored by the Spalding University Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing and the McClure Family Fund.


The Main Stage featured conversations between some of Kentucky’s most notable authors, including, but not limited to, Wendell Berry in conversation with Crystal Wilkinson, Silas House in conversation with David Arnold and Geraldine Brooks in conversation with Frank X Walker.


Writer’s Room events included Writing for Kids: “Where Do the Ideas Come From?”, Writing as Homage to Ancestry, Publishing Workshop: Where, How, & What to Submit and more. Each event facilitated engaging discourse between knowledgeable and prolific authors on their given topic.


The final map on the directory, Map 3, detailed all the kids' activities.


The majority of the kids' activities took place outside by the Children's Authors Tent. The Children’s Authors Tent was outside to emphasize its “party atmosphere,” according to Woods.



“We are doing a lot of kids' activities this year that we weren't able to do during Covid like storytimes and face painting,” Woods said in an interview with Everyday Kentucky on WKYT.


Additional kids' activities included a costume contest, pumpkin decorating and an illustration workshop.


The Kentucky Book Festival is set to return next fall with events that continue to connect authors and book-lovers alike as they engage in meaningful conversations, empower readers, and fuel the love of reading and writing in Kentucky.