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Texas Book Festival: Read Your Heart Out With This Handy Guide

We know you’re here to hear one of our favorite jokes. “Why was the library so tall? It had a lot of stories.” Like libraries, one of the best festivals in Austin also has a lot of stories. No, we’re not talking about South by Southwest (SXSW). Sure, that event has lots of stories, but usually not of the good kind — especially if you’re asking the locals. No, we’re talking about the Texas book festival. A two-day event that’s packed with stories from some of the best authors across the nation.

Austin is home to one of the best — and free — book festivals in the country. Known as the Texas Book Festival, this event is held in late October or early November. If you’re a book lover, it’s a must-see and attending is easy peasy. There’s free admission, free parking, endless reading material, and it’s all right in the heart of downtown Austin. It really doesn’t get much better than that, does it? Learn more about what goes on at the festival and how you can partake right here.

What is the Texas Book Festival?

texas book festival: young Black boy reading a book

The Texas Book Festival (TBF) was first established in 1995 though the first in-person festival was held in 1996. It was created by Laura Bush — who was First Lady of the Lone Star State at the time — and Mary Margaret Farabee, the wife of former senator Ray Farabee. The festival was designed to increase literacy, promote the works of Texas authors, and aimed to benefit the public library system throughout the state.

Today, the festival still aims to celebrate the joys of reading though it’s shifted its focus from Texas writers to national authors. In fact, the book festival has drawn attention from authors of national best sellers as well as award-winning illustrators. Each year the festival hosts more than 200 authors and there are typically more than 40,000 attendees. The largest year to date was 2015, when more than 300 authors were featured. Past author attendees include Lemony Snicket and Margaret Atwood.

The Texas Book Festival takes place at the Austin Central Library and Symphony Square. During the pandemic, the event was held online and then in a hybrid format. The 2022 event is returning to an in-person arrangement in downtown Austin and the surrounding streets as normal.

Dive Into Good Reads at the Texas Book Festival

stack of books on a table

Planning a visit to the Texas Book Festival is easy. There is no admission fee so you don’t need to worry about buying tickets in advance. The festival will feature more than 250 authors and the full line-up will be announced in September. In October, the organizers will release the full schedule so you can decide which portions you want to attend. Keep an eye on the official website: to stay up-to-date. 

For 2022, the event will be held on November 5th and 6th. The event will run from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday and 11 am to 6 pm on Sunday. While there is no admission fee, there are author sessions where you may need to RSVP or reserve a place ahead of time. Parking is free at the State parking garages just northeast of the area.

Aside from author meet-and-greets, there are a lot of activities to keep you entertained at this literary festival. There are children’s book activities including story time, crafts, and costumes to keep young children entertained. There is also a Lit Crawl on Saturday that takes participants around to various book stands and sights. Don’t miss the Exhibitor Marketplace where you can discover works by small and independent press shops as well as community organizations.

During the book fest, you can also purchase works from all of the featured authors. The official seller at the event is BookPeople and you’ll find their stands on-site. If you leave the festival and realize you want to buy more books, you can find all the festival book offerings on their website as well.

Read Your Heart Out in Texas

woman thinking and writing

The Texas Book Festival is a great place for culture and literary aficionados to discover new reads and remember favorite authors. The literary fest takes place at the State Capitol, making it the perfect start for exploring all Austin has to offer. You’ll be right along the shores of the Colorado River and close to famous ATX attractions like the Boardwalk and Zilker Park.

Looking for other ways to satisfy your literary craving? Check out the nearby Texas Teen Book Festival — held close to both Dallas and Fort Worth. The San Antonio Book Festival is also worth a visit and just a short drive from Austin. Don’t forget to visit the local Texas library scene too. At most libraries, you’ll find local Texas literature as well as nationally recognized works and can find contact information for book clubs nearby.

Houston is a bit further, but offers one of our favorite book festivals. Called the BIPOC Book Fest, it has some of the same vibes as the early days of the Texas Book Festival. Rather than showcasing Texan authors, this festival focuses on promoting the works of the BIPOC community emphasizing the stories of various races, cultures, and communities. 

For more ways to enjoy the culture in Austin and Texas, continue browsing ATX Guides. Here, you’ll find advice on things to do like the best museums for culture buffs, top movie theaters in ATX, and the best live music venues in town.

Erika Marty
Erika Marty

Erika is an avid traveler who has been to more than 60 countries where she finds food, activities, and hidden locales for touring like a local. When she’s not writing, she enjoys mountain biking, hiking, and planning her next adventure.

Learn more about Erika