A literary winter: Your guide to Philly author events and book clubs

'Another Brooklyn' author Jacqueline Woodson signs at the Free Library. (Image via the Free Library.)

One novel that should be on everyone's list right now is Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, the National Book Award nominee chosen as the 2018 adult One Book, One Philadelphia (OBOP) title. Another Brooklyn discussions will happen at venues throughout the city, including Germantown’s Johnson House Historic Site (February 2 at 6 pm), and North Philly's  Oak Lane Library  (February 5 at 6:30pm).

Among my top picks for the 2018 OBOP community events is the free kickoff on Wednesday, January 17, at 7:30pm at the Free Library’s central branch, featuring Woodson and a performance from former Philadelphia Poet Laureate Yolanda Wisher with members of her band, the Afroeaters. You can also hear from Woodson and WHYY’s Marty Moss-Coane the following night, at a public taping of Radio Times at the Logan Branch Library at 7pm. 

Author events

On February 14 at 6:30pm, Kelly Writers House will host a reading from modern literary luminary Paul Auster, as well as a 10am brunch with the author the following day. (Registration is required; visit Kelly Writers House online.)  

There’s more than OBOP happening at the Free Library’s central branch. Top upcoming author events include Siri Hustvedt on January 31 at 7:30pm (free). Discussing her three-part essay collection, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind, Hustvedt joins bestselling Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, author of Three Daughters of Eve. Other notables include Cornel West on February 10 at 7:30pm ($15; tickets on sale January 12), and Dave Eggers on February 12 at 7:30pm ($33; tickets on sale January 12).

The 26th annual African-American Children’s Book Fair happens at the Community College of Philadelphia on Saturday, February 3, from 1 to 4pm. Attending authors include Philadelphia's Christine Kendall signing Riding Chance, her novel about a 13-year-old working in the Fairmount Park horse program.

Other events with local authors include Ned Bachus signing Open Admissions, his memoir of teaching at Community College of Philadelphia, on January 10 at 7pm at Mt. Airy’s Big Blue Marble Bookstore. Also at Big Blue Marble, Carmen Maria Machado reads from her collection of short stories, Her Body and Other Parties, on February 9 at 7pm.

In the suburbs, former Philadelphia Inquirer editor Kevin Ferris talks about his Vets and Pets: Wounded Warriors and the Animals That Help Them Heal at Exton’s Wellington Square Books on January 25 at 6pm. A launch party for Catherine Gilbert Murdoch's children's novel The Book of Boy takes place at Wayne’s Main Point Books on February 6 at 6:30pm.

Drop-in book discussions

Do you wish you belonged to a book club, but can't make the monthly commitment? Many bookstores and libraries host book discussions of the drop-in variety, so you can choose meetups based on your reading list and availability and RSVP month to month.

Upcoming titles include Angie Thomas’s The Hate You Give, at Big Blue Marble’s Woke & Well-Read book club on January 16 and 17; Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See at Wellington Square’s Adult Fiction book club on January 17 and 18; Kent Haruf’s Our Souls at Night at Ridley Township Public Library on January 24; Toni Morrison’s Sula at West Oak Lane Library’s Chat-n-Chew book club on January 30; and P.D. James’s Death of an Expert Witness on January 21 at Northeast Regional Library.  

For something different, you can attend Open Book's Brunch with a Book to talk about recent fiction and eat Mexican food at El Poquito restaurant in Chestnut Hill — all for $55. On January 28 at 11:30am, it’s the 2017 National Book Award-winning Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. Next month’s pick is the Man Booker Prize-winning Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, on February 24 at 11:30am.

In January and February, if the weather is bad, it's always a good idea to call ahead. If an event is cancelled, remember, cozy at home is one of the best places to be for winter reading.

At right: The cover of Philly author Christine Kendall's YA novel, Riding Chance. (Image via christinerkendall.com.)

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Want previews of our latest stories about arts and culture in Philadelphia? Sign up for our newsletter.