There’s no better time to be a book nerd in Brooklyn than September, when the annual blockbuster Brooklyn Book Festival takes over town. With a week’s worth of offsite “Bookend” events and a full day of free panels, readings, discussions, as well as a bustling book fair, if anything there is too much to take in. Let us guide you through the busy, and sometimes bewildering, field of parties and panels. Secure your bookmarks and strap in: it’s BKBF time.

The Parties (September 12-17)

Monday, September 12

Brooklyn Book Festival Opening Night Party

The Bell House, 149 7th Street
7:00pm, free, 21+
If you go to one Bookends event, this is the one to choose: crowded, sweaty, jubilant, and thoroughly nerdy. Watch out for swinging tote bags on the dance floor.

Tuesday, September 13

Franklin Park Reading Series & Brooklyn Public Library Present: The 2016 Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize Finalists

Franklin Park Bar, 618 St Johns Place
8:00pm, free
Brooklyn’s premier literary institution (our public library system duh) and it’s best reading series (double duh, Franklin Park) present the finalists for BPL’s second annual Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize.

Wednesday, September 14

Cave Canem at the National Book Awards

Weeksville Heritage Center, 158 Buffalo Avenue
7:00pm, $10 suggested donation

It’s Cave Canem’s 20th anniversary and there’s no better way to celebrate than with its incredible roster of poets: Terrance Hayes, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Marilyn Nelson.

Thursday, September 15

Cuban Heavy Metal Sci-Fi: An Evening with Yoss

ISSUE Project Room, 22 Boerum Place
8:00pm, $15
Lead singer for the Havana-based metal band Tenaz and bestselling science fiction writer Yoss shows off both his talents at this event, with both literary conversation and a musical performance. Included in the ticket price is a copy of Yoss’s “intergalactic space opera” Super Extra Grande and a free drink.

Friday, September 16

What Is Political Writing?

n+1, 68 Jay Street #405, Brooklyn
7:00pm, free

Some of my favorite writers—Dayna Tortorici, Jia Tolentino, Doreen St. Félix—join Adam Shatz of the London Book Review to talk politics. You could not plan a more interesting Friday night.

Saturday, September 17

Literati Present: The Comedy Book Fair 2016

Union Hall, 702 Union Street, Brooklyn
2:30pm, $6 in advance, $8 at door

A midday event, it pays homage to the school book fairs of yore—but, you know, it’s funny this time. Comedians Colin O’Brien, Michael Wolf, Mark Vigeant, Jim Tews, Tim Platt, and Priya Patel are all pitching in for this “immersive comedy experience.”

Sunday, September 18

Get your butt to the Festival!

The Panels (September 18)

10 – 11 AM

The Legacy of Octavia Butler presented by Greenlight Bookstore

Borough Hall Courtroom, 209 Joralemon Street
Writers and artists Daniel José Older (Shadowshaper), Ben Winters (Underground Airlines), Ytasha L. Womack (Afrofuturism), and John Jennings (Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation) reflect on the legacy on one of science fiction’s—and literature’s—greatest authors.

11 AM – 12 PM

Best of Brooklyn: Jacqueline Woodson

St. Francis College Auditorium, 180 Remsen Street
Brooklyn literary superstar, Jacqueline Woodson, talks with New York Times critic A.O. Scott about her work (most recently Another Brooklyn) and the borough where she makes her home.

12 – 1 PM

New Works: A Poetry Reading

Main Stage, Columbus Park
Simply are some of the best poets working today, don’t miss them: Camille Rankine (Incorrect Merciful Impulses), Ocean Vuong (Night Sky with Exit Wounds), Monica Youn (Blackacre), and Rickey Laurentiis (Boy With Thorn).

1 – 2 PM

Youth in Revolt

North Stage, Cadman Plaza East
Tony Tulathimutte (who’s funny, smart debut, Private Citizens, aka the “great millennial novel,” has been lauded by the likes of Jonathan Franzen) is never not engaging, and here’s he’s talking “the youths” with Stephanie Danler (Sweetbitter) and Teddy Wayne (Loner). Kids these days???

2 – 3 PM

Social Media and the Future of Criticism

St. Francis College Auditorium, 180 Remsen Street
Heavy-hitters Margo Jefferson (Negroland), Hua Hsu (A Floating Chinaman), and A.O. Scott (Better Living Through Criticism) consider what criticism means today, a discussion lead by the New York Times’s critic-at-large, the equally incredible Wesley Morris.

3 – 4 PM

Something Strange in the Neighborhood

Brooklyn Historical Society Library, 128 Pierrepont Street
Well-Read Black Girl founder Glory Edim leads Hellen Phillips (Some Possible Solutions), Kaitlyn Greenidge (We Love You, Charlie Freeman), and J. Robert Lennon (See You in Paradise) in conversation about the sometimes surreal secrets a community can keep.

4 – 5 PM

Now and Then and Now

Congregation Mt. Sinai, 250 Cadman Plaza West
Australian Helen Garner (Everywhere I Look), Nigerian Okey Ndibe (Never Look an American in the Eye), and American Rob Spillman (All Tomorrow’s Parties) talk im- and emigration and lives lived (and written) globally.

5 – 6 PM

Not So Generic: Diversity in Science Fiction presented by the Center for Fiction

Borough Hall Courtroom, 209 Joralemon Street
Whiting Award-winning Alice Sola Kim, our foremost chronicler of teen witches, guides three science fiction writers, Catherynne Valente (Radiance), Seth Dickinson (The Traitor Baru Cormorant), and 2015 Nebula Award-winner Alyssa Wong, in a discussion of gender, sexuality, and representation in the genre.


Image courtesy of Chip Kidd


  1. The writer, who is a member of the Brooklyn Book Festival’s fiction committee, doesn’t list the excellent panels organized by the Onassis Cultural Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music:

    Phaedra Interpreted

    Borough Hall Courtroom, 209 Joralemon St
    September 18, 2016
    Security Without Backdoors: The Future of Digital Privacy

    Brooklyn Law School Moot Courtroom, 250 Joralemon St
    Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016

    Sinatra, Dylan, and the Era-Defining Artist

    Borough Hall Courtroom, 209 Joralemon St
    September 18, 2016
    (which features Pete Hamill)

    The Art of Survival in Imaginary Worlds

    North Stage, Cadman Plaza East
    September 18, 2016
    (which features notable SF writers N. K. Jemisin, Sarah Beth Durst, and Robert Jackson Bennett)

    and finally,

    Microbes, Viruses and Destiny

    Brooklyn Law School Moot Courtroom, 250 Joralemon St
    September 18, 2016
    Add to Calendar

    Microbes, Viruses and Destiny. In a micro to macro discussion, Carl Zimmer (Planet of Viruses) and Ed Yong (I Contain Multitudes:The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life), converse about life, death, and destiny from the perspective of the scientific front lines of study about the microbial partners that both harm and protect us from viruses that we rightfully or wrongfully fear. Zimmer and Yong are just the popular science writers to wonk this down into insightful information for us to understand. Moderated by Sonia Shah (Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond).

    (Carl Zimmer is one of the greatest science journalists of our time, having received earlier this year, the Stephen Jay Gould Prize from the Society for the Study of Evolution. Yong and Shah are notable science journalists in their own right.)

      • My apologies for indicating that you are. I stand corrected. I can’t say I admire the BKBF committees for these reasons.:

        The Brooklyn Book Festival has become the most politicized, most partisan and biased “major” literary festival in the country, unlike other, more notable, festivals in Washington, DC (National Book Festival), Los Angeles (Los Angeles Times Festival of Books), Tucson (Tucson Festival of Books) and Boston (Boston Book Festival) and New York City (The New Yorker Festival, World Science Festival). Virtually all of these festivals have offered a greater diversity of genres, a strong annual commitment to STEM programming, and unbiased, nonpartisan programming that has stayed clear of contentious issues such as those raised by “Black Lives Matter”.

        For years the Brooklyn Book Festival has been committing serious breaches of the public trust in having very biased, quite partisan, programming that virtually no other literary festival in the country has offered. Here, as a reminder are some highlights:

        2012 festival has noted Harvard University evolutionary biologist Dr. E. O. Wilson heckled and booed by a hostile audience for his politically incorrect observations about human politico-social group behavior. I still remember him saying that socialism was one of the worst evils mankind ever committed upon itself, comparing it with slavery. The moderator didn’t step in when the audience heckled and booed him. This is nearly four months after the World Science Festival honored him for his notable contributions to science, which includes being the “father” of conservation biology and still being one of the world’s foremost advocates for conserving Earth’s biodiversity.

        2014 festival has The Nation’s Naomi Klein – a self-admitted science illiterate – in a one-on-one interview with an editor from – surprise, surprise – The Nation – discussing her book “This Changes Everything; Capitalism vs. The Climate” which every other major literary festival, scientific organization, science museum and science advocacy organization, such as the National Center for Science Education ( and the World Science Festival (, ignoring it, recognizing that it isn’t a credible work of science journalism.

        2014 festival also has two programs – one a bookend event – critical of school choice and the rationale for having New York City’s specialized high schools, especially its STEM “jewels” Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech – which drew ample protests and criticism from alumni – including yours truly – and parents of current students, culminating in a New York Post Op-Ed piece defending these schools and their SHSAT entrance exam written by a notable alumna, Queens congresswoman Grace Meng and published the day after the 2014 festival (…/high-school-admissions-test-has-served…/), which the festival has never acknowledged or apologized for. It gave the green light to those on the City Council to sponsor ill-advised diversity legislation which culminated in a free-for-all circus that was the New York City Council Education subcommittee hearing in which racist comments hurled at Asians were frequently uttered and one former principal of Bronx Science publicly humiliated by the chair of that committee. Had the Brooklyn Book Festival not hosted those two panels that were stacked solely with critics, I doubt what happened in the New York City Council would have happened.

        2015 festival has a program in defense of prisoners rights and one critical of police conduct with regards to civil rights, in which panelist Darryl Pinckney all but accuses the police of a century-old history of genocide against blacks.

        2016 festival has at least two panels mocking conservatives. There will also be two programs where Darryl Pinckney will have the opportunity again of accusing the police of a century-old history of genocide against blacks.
        Again, no other major literary festival has such a sordid history of biased, quite partisan, programming.

        • Those reading this post should contact the Brooklyn Book Festival and demand from them why it refuses to offer programming as unbiased and nonpartisan as major literary festivals in Washington, DC (National Book Festival), Los Angeles (Los Angeles Times Festival of Books), Tucson (Tucson Festival of Books, including its Science City), and Boston Book Festival. They should also ask why the festival waited four years to have science writers as distinguished as Yong, Zimmer and Shah, or why, in stark contrast with the American Museum of Natural History or the World Science Festival, the festival has mediocre STEM programming for adults and children this year, with the sole notable exception behing the panel with Yong, Zimmer and Shah. I recommend skipping Children’s Day and attending instead, the World Science Festival’s City of Science, which will be held in Queens a week after this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival and in Brooklyn, a few weeks later for a genuinely fun-filled event surely to please the entire family: They should also demand that the Brooklyn Book Festival publicly apologizes to Congresswoman Grace Meng and everyone else who condemned those two 2014 “education” panels, and offer a public apology for inviting Naomi Klein instead of credible scientists and science journalists.

          Hopefully this will be the Brooklyn Book Festival’s final festival. It needs to be replaced by a New York City literary festival that offers a greater diversity of genres, nonpartisan and unbiased programming and a strong commitment to STEM programming for adults and children. I call on the festival’s supporters – both individual and corporate – to cease their support, effective immediately.

  2. Why go if you hate it so much? Why waste your time — even at the excellent panels you cite that seem to undermine your contention that there is nothing of value to be seen or heard? You are a pitiable creature. I attended three panels on Sunday, all of which were scholarly, challenging, and in each case with people espousing a variety of viewpoints both political and critical. Your critique, like your false identification of the writer of this piece as a member of the Literary Council, is simply ill informed.
    And for the record, I am not a member of the literary Council either.

  3. I had such a great time at the Festival this year! I was away last year, so this was the first time i experienced the separate days for children and adults, and it was a great relief. My kids loved readings, workshops and the little park on their day. I left them at home on Sunday and found new authors, old friends, stimulating conversation and great food aimed squarely at literate adults. Thank you so much to the organizers for their heroic effort to bring so many wonderful people from so many diverse backgrounds to my home!


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