In a year that feels far from reality, sometimes the best thing to do is to read and discuss a book or two. The Easton Book Festival is currently providing an opportunity for just that.
The second ever Easton Book Festival is being held this year from October 16 to November 15. With readings, seminars and panel discussions, all free of charge, the festival provides virtual activities for both children and adults.
In 2019, the in-person festival’s attendance totaled around 3,000 people according to festival director Andy Laties. Programs took place in 28 venues over one weekend in October, and a number of authors made visits to local schools for readings as part of the festival.
This year, the festival looks a little different, with a variety of virtual experiences spread out over the course of a month. Events include literary panel discussions, one-on-one interviews with authors, children’s readings, poetry open-mic programs and writing workshops. For those who are unable to attend during the live streaming, all events are recorded and posted on the Easton Book Festival website.
Laties, who opened the Book and Puppet Company near Center Square in 2017 with his wife, Rebecca Migdal, decided to start the Easton Book Festival because he thought it would be a “viable addition” to Easton’s festival calendar. Laties founded the festival as a nonprofit and began recruiting a board of directors and a number of festival volunteers from among customers at his store.
“Our mission is to inform, educate, enrich and inspire people of all backgrounds in our community through cultural and literary programs and to otherwise foster intellectual discourse and civic engagement,” Laties wrote in an email to The Lafayette.
According to English professor Christopher Phillips, co-vice president of the Easton Book Festival, one of the main goals of the festival is to celebrate the importance of books in the Easton community.
“For a long time, Easton has been very committed to its local libraries, that’s been a major part of the area,” Phillips said. “We’ve had long running bookstores like The Quadrant that have been around, and just the fact that the new college store is actually going to include more space for selling trade books rather than textbooks means that book culture has a lot of great homes in the area.”
“And so the festival is partly about celebrating that, bringing that together, capitalizing that, and bringing authors to the area to highlight all the different things that Easton readers can learn together and think about together,” he added.
Another objective of the festival, according to Phillips, is to showcase local authors and highlight their work. He noted that the festival’s audience expanded due to its virtual setting this year.
“Before, it was very regional,” Phillips said. “You pull people to Easton the way that the farmer’s market pulls people to Easton. This was much much bigger than that, where we’re talking to people in New York or the West Coast about the program, really starting to realize we can reach a lot of people with this…This definitely gives us a new scope for how we can show what we can do in Easton, but also to have our location be in conversation with a lot of other places all at the same time.”
As for the future of the festival, Laties wrote that he would like the festival to eventually return to an in-person program held in museums, libraries, coffee shops, bookstores and outdoors. However, the festival may still incorporate virtual programming in the future.
“We want to bring people in this community together,” Laties wrote. “This is a divided community—a book festival provides opportunities for people to get to know one another.”
Further information on this year’s festival events can be found on their website.