The Bay Area Book Festival was founded on principles of social justice. In light of current
events, we are proud to claim solidarity with everyone speaking up and doing the work to
dismantle a longstanding legacy of racial inequality.

Actions may speak louder than words, but words also have the power to change our hearts and
minds and inform our actions. Books can give us the ability to confront the truth and bear
witness—to our own lives, and to others.  Our June picks address our strange and volatile times
to help invigorate, inform, and transport us:




Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride

Irish literary superstar McBride burst onto the international scene with her debut novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which took six months to write and nine years to publish. Once it finally made its way into the world, it became a sensation, winning the Women’s Prize for Fiction and leading Anne Enright to designate McBride as “that old-fashioned thing, a genius.” Strange Hotel, McBride’s third novel, is just as convention-defying, delving deep into the singular consciousness of a woman who lives inside her own head, haunted indelibly by the past and seeking refuge in thought at the expense of emotion. A feat of profound psychological suspense and insight, Strange Hotel is the perfect novel for these decidedly strange and distanced times.

Catch McBride in a riveting Bay Area Book Festival #UNBOUND conversation with Brooke Warner of She Writes Press. 


WE KEEP US SAFE: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities by Zach Norris

At a time when the meaning of “community” and collective accountability is a matter of urgent import, and when the role of law enforcement in our cities is under deserved scrutiny, We Keep us Safe offers a compassionate, hopeful re-imagining of what “public safety” really entails. Called “an enormously important contribution in the efforts to advance human rights in this country” by bestselling Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson, this is a blueprint for the kind of community we need to create and sustain, now more than ever.

Catch Norris, the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, with Conor Dougherty, Joe Wilson, and San Francisco Chronicle journalist Heather Knight in an #UNBOUND conversation about homelessness and the housing crisis, “No Place to Shelter: What COVID-19 Reveals About Inequality,” on June 25th at 7 PM.


Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry by Nikky Finney

National Book Award winner Finney’s latest collection is subtitled “Poems and Artifacts,” and it’s easy to see why: with its cast of ancestors, witness-stand testimonies, and relics from 400 years of black American life, this book gives new meaning to the term “docu-poetry.”  In a starred review, Publishers Weekly says that “Finney’s skillful, sweeping epic ambitiously connects personal and public history.” This is a gorgeous, sweeping masterwork from one of contemporary poetry’s most original and visceral voices.

In these tumultuous times, we’re finding comfort and inspiration in revisiting this cathartic #UNBOUND conversation between Finney and Pulitzer Prize winner Jericho Brown, in which they talk about the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, the role of identity in poetry, and the profound mission these remarkable poets share: the ability to bear witness through art. 



Here Comes Ocean by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Paola Zakimi – Ages 5-8

Award-winning children’s book author Meg Fleming whisked us away on an adventure of shell-collecting, shoreline-exploring, and sand-castle-building. The delightfully exuberant rhymes and the sun-drenched, animal-filled illustrations of this picture book were exactly what we needed at the Bay Area Book Festival to bring us a sense of discovery, rejuvenation, and playfulness to beat the sameness of day-to-day. This book is as invigorating as a sea breeze.

Check out our recent conversation with the author and illustrator and pick up some Spanish along the way from Argentinian illustrator Paola Zakimi.


Winter in Wartime by Jan Terlouw, translated by Laura Watkinson; ages 10-15
On the Horizon by Lois Lowry, illustrated by Kenard Pak; ages 10-15

Two books we read in tandem. Because they are important. Bestselling authors Lois Lowry and Jan Terlouw write about war, heroism and humanity that transcends geography, nationality and time. With On the Horizon, two-time Newberry Award medalist Lowry draws from her own childhood memories of Hawaii and Japan in an honest and empathetic account of lives lost and forever altered by the twin tragedies of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. Jan Terlouw’s Winter in Wartime has been in print for almost fifty years, for good reason: this beloved novel, based on Terlouw’s own boyhood in wartime Holland, is a young-adult classic with the suspenseful pacing of a thriller. Heroism, not war, takes center stage in these books: the everyday heroism of young people in extraordinary times. We need these voices, young and old to remind us of universal humanity.

On Saturday, July 11, will be featuring Lois Lowry and Jan Terlouw in conversation with seventh-graders Tej Wong and Quinn Boyd-Roberts in the episode ‘Heroism in the Face of Tragedy.’ Check out our upcoming schedule for details.


The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall; ages 14 and up

 We were swept away across the high seas in Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s fantasy debut. Tokuda-Hall doesn’t shy away from connecting fantasy to history. In a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic, protagonist pirate Florian, born Flora, and Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, high-born imperial daughter, cross lines of class and identity to fall in love, cross paths with haunting mythical creatures and double agents along the way to their shared fate.

Want to know more about this riveting debut? Check out ‘Beyond Our World: Shifting Identities and Steady Hearts’ our recent conversation with Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Rebecca Hannover, and Jennifer Leon.