Last weekend I went to Printer’s Row Lit Festival in Chicago, which prides itself in being the biggest outdoor lit fest in the Midwest. This was my 3rd year attending, and I decided to just shop around rather than go to any author events. R.L. Stine was the winner of the YA award this year, but he spoke on Saturday and I went on Sunday because the weather was way too hot on Saturday…
They typically get a few big names to speak and hold all sorts of interesting panels and activities throughout the fest with smaller authors, too (you can read my round-ups of previous years here and here, when I attended more of the programming). This year they also had Buzz Aldrin and Ethan Hawke (who is apparently writing a graphic novel). The thing I love most about Printer’s Row Festival – so named because it is located in the neighborhood of Chicago that used to have a lot of publishing houses back in the day – is that it really promotes local authors, independent booksellers, and independent presses. Even the Starbucks in the neighborhood has appropriate decor:
It actually ended up being a chilly morning – the previous day had been in the 90s (*Chicago*), and I was not appropriately dressed – so the first purchase I made was a bookish sweatshirt. (Okay, yeah, my mom bought it for me because she’s the best mommy in the world and I was cold.)
Then we hit the booths for some serious book shopping. I have one rule for attending this event: never buy a book I could easily pick up at a Barnes and Noble. I like to support the independents and also look for vintage books, because there are a lot of those at this fest, too. Here is what I ended up with:
2 vintage books from The Looking Glass bookshop’s booth: Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines by John Burke, which was originally titled That Magnificent Air Race and changed when the movie was released the same year, in 1965 (fun facts!). I adore this booth and really need to visit their actual store some time. You also gotta love finding the Penguin Classics, especially a decent title with Poe (I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the hunt for them and it’s been largely unsuccessful).
Off the Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs, and Girls on Getaways just screamed at me; some of you know how I love that literary tourism! I also snagged a copy of Neo-Solo: 131 Neo-Futurist Solo Plays from Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. This is a theater company who has a troupe in Chicago, and the short plays published within the book are from their famous show, which I saw last year.
A tradition I started for myself at Printer’s Row is to buy a book about or set in Chicago. The above book, A Bitter Pill to Swallow, is a YA book set in Chicago by an independent author, Tiffany Gholar, who was there and signed my book. Again, a cool part of the fest is talking with indie authors who are promoting their stuff. Isn’t it pretty?
Featherproof Books, an indie press in Chicago, had a special buy-one-get-one free, which I couldn’t resist. The book on the left, The Universe in Miniature in Miniature is a collection of short stories, and the one on the right, See You in the Morning, was recommended highly by the people at the booth; it’s apparently about a transgender teen in a small town. Featherproof books are described as “strange and beautiful fiction and nonfiction and post-,trans-, and inter-genre tragicomedy.” The bookmark says, “This bookmark belongs to ________ (your fuckin’ name here).” What’s not to love? OH, and btw, I paid either 10 dollars or 5 dollars for all the books I bought! (Reasons why I love this fest #95732.)
Finally, we took a visit to the beautiful Harold Washington Library (main branch of the Chicago Public Library), which is like a block away. If you’re ever in Chicago, this is a must-see for book lovers. Make sure you go to the 9th floor winter garden and read up there! I’m delighted to be back in the Chicagoland area where there are so many great bookish things. Day well spent.