Humanities Tennessee announced the preliminary roster of authors in the upcoming Southern Festival of Books.

The two-day festival will take place Oct. 9-10 at War Memorial Plaza and the Downtown Public Library, with virtual events leading up to the big weekend. Dig this year’s festival artwork by Yanuary Navarro. We can’t wait to snag the festival merch. 

Especially exciting: Robert Jones Jr.’s novel The Prophets is a love story about two enslaved men in Antebellum Mississippi. Jones’s star has been rising — his blog Son of Baldwin is excellent — and his much-anticipated debut novel has been 13 years in the making. Veteran journalist David Zucchino will visit Nashville to discuss Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy, which won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction.

There’s plenty in the music realm, including Daniel de Visé, author of King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King. Rickie Lee Jones’ memoir Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour was published in April, and she’ll be in conversation with the legendary music journalist Ann Powers

Some of the best book recommendations come from President Barack Obama’s reading lists. In virtual programming, the festival will include Chilean author Benjamín Labatut, whose novel When We Cease to Understand the World made the former president’s summer books list. On the kids side of things, Jason Reynolds will be presenting Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You virtually. Reynolds wrote the novel Ghost, which was adapted to the stage and produced at Nashville Children’s Theatre in 2019

And of course, no SFOB would be complete without local literary darling Ann Patchett and former Nashville Scene contributor Margaret Renkl. Renkl’s been hard at work on her second book, a collection of essays titled Graceland, At Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South. We love to see it. 

Former Gov. Bill Haslam is also slated to appear: Expect to hear the former gov discuss his book Faithful Presence: The Promise and Peril of Faith in the Public Square

Find the full preliminary list of author’s at, and keep your eye on the site for many more reveals — word from Humanities Tennessee is that we can expect 100 authors.

A version of this first appeared in our partner publication the Nashville Scene. That version can be found here.

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