October 13, 2016 • BOOKS, CULTURE

DJ Reads: Southern Festival of Books

The Southern Festival of Books—a free three-day affair featuring over 200 authors from around the country in readings, panel discussions, and book signings—happens in Nashville this weekend. Here with what to look forward to this year is Serenity Gerbman, Director of Literature and Language Programs for Humanities Tennessee, the nonprofit host of the annual event, now in its 28th year.


The poster for this year’s Southern Festival of Books, which takes place in Nashville this weekend.

Aside from the location, what makes the Southern Festival of Books “Southern”?
We’re proud to welcome the best writers in the South, and have taken pleasure in watching the careers of many of them grow, from being part of debut novel panels to having solo presentations for hundreds of readers. However, the Festival also welcomes writers from all over the country. What makes it truly Southern, we hope, is the extremely open and welcoming atmosphere, and the hospitality we provide to authors and visitors.

When it comes to Southern literature and writing, what do you think is the unifying element? 
That’s a big question that scholars have argued and written books about! But I will note that Southern writing is strengthened by having books published by more diverse authors who call the South their home.

What’s new this year at the SFOB?
A beer garden! Thanks to Yazoo Brewing Company, we will have beer available for attendees while they enjoy fantastic music on the Music Stage and food from some of Nashville’s finest food trucks, including Bolton’s, Deg Thai, Jeni’s ice cream, Provence, Slow & Low Bar-B-Que, Hoss’ Loaded Burgers, and Yayo’s.

What moments are you (personally) most looking forward to?
I always take a moment to enjoy the sight of people on the broad steps leading up to War Memorial Auditorium, talking with friends or digging into new books they’ve just purchased at the Parnassus booth. I’m looking forward to a big crowd turning out for J.D. Vance, who has one of the biggest books in the country right now (Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis).

How about that Music Stage? In your view, how are music and literature intertwined in the South?
Well, obviously, songwriters are writers. Music and literature are intertwined in that it’s all about telling stories, just in different formats. In the South, we appreciate good storytelling in whatever way it comes to us. The Music Stage showcases the amazing range of talent in Nashville.

Three “must-visit” Nashville spots (restaurant, bar, park, etc.) on a break from the Festival?
Go see The Parthenon and eat Hog Heaven pulled chicken with white sauce while you’re right there. Walk the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge at night. And visit Robert’s Western World for Sunday morning gospel.


2015 Southern Festival of Books.