The Wisconsin Book Festival has grown so much from its inception in 2002, it’s really become year-round with a four-day celebration in the fall.

This year, that book blowout will be held Nov. 2-5, based out of Madison’s Central Library. Events will also be held in six other venues.

Because of the festival’s tremendous growth, particularly in the past two or three years, organizers are able to bring in not just important Wisconsin authors, but big national names.

This fall, the festival is recognizing its milestone 15th anniversary with a special logo, and it’s been holding a series of marquee events throughout the year.

Conor Moran, who took over as festival director in 2013, said he’s pleased to bring back authors who have appeared at the festival before, most notably Margaret George, who took part in an event in March.

George, who has written biographical novels about Henry VIII, Mary Queen of Scots, Cleopatra, Mary Magdalene, Helen of Troy, and Elizabeth I, published “The Confessions of Young Nero,” in March. All six of her novels have been New York Times bestsellers, and the Cleopatra novel was made into a popular TV miniseries.

She spoke at the first festival, but hadn’t come since. “It was really great to bring her back for the 15th anniversary,” Moran said.

A number of authors that Moran and his predecessors have tried to attract over the years have finally attended the festival or will this fall. Those have included Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Safran Foer. Nicole Krauss is coming in October and Alexander McCall Smith in November.

“It’s night and day in terms of what we started with and what we’re able to do now,” Moran said.

In terms of the four-day celebration inside the festival, he’s particularly excited about Angela J. Davis’ talking about “Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment,” at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Angela J. Davis is not to be confused with Angela Y. Davis, the black power figure, author and academic known internationally for combating oppression.

Also an activist, Angela J. Davis is a law professor at American University and a former director of the D.C. Public Defender Service. Her new book puts together 11 essays from scholars and criminal justice practitioners offering policy suggestions.

“That will be huge, I think,” Moran said. “It’s such a part of the Madison conversation and the national conversation. I think it will be a really moving event.”

Another can’t-miss session, he said, is Gail Simmons at 7 p.m. on Oct. 27. Simmons is a Canadian food writer, cookbook author and “Top Chef” judge, who will talk about her cookbook, “Bringing It Home.”

Last year, the Book Festival saw 15,500 people at more than 100 events, with 10,000 of those coming over the four-day celebration.


Wisconsin State Journal food writer Samara Kalk Derby brings you the latest news on the Madison area's eclectic restaurant scene.