Things to See and Do at the Bay Area Book Festival

Sometimes being a literary enthusiast outside of New York City or Los Angeles is kind of a bummer. It seems like there’s an endless stream of enormous, bookish events in those cities and sometimes it makes me feel pouty and jealous. Fortunately for me (and the 7 million other people in the Bay Area), the third Bay Area Book Festival is just around the corner, June 3-4). This is the first year I’m able to attend and daaaaaaamn, they have a good lineup! They’ve got headliners like Roxane Gay and Lindy West (in the same place! In my town!) but I want to highlight a few less heavily publicized items on the schedule that sound excellent as well. For a full schedule, head over to

Initially, I wanted to make this list so that nothing overlapped and a person could theoretically go to ALL of the events on this list but there are too many good things happening and, well, if I have to make these kinds of tough decisions, so do you. 

I’ve spent the better part of my life kicking around Berkeley, so I’ve got a few recommendations for things to see and do around the festival as well. If you’re thinking about attending, here are a few things you should know about.

Saturday, June 3rd

Emerging Voices: Young Authors Writing Competition 2017 Winners

10:30 AM – 11:30 AM

I taught a creative writing workshop for high school students for six years. Every week,  I was blown away by how talented by students were. Like, I really think that adulthood sucks some of the creativity out of people. Don’t believe me? Hear the winners of the Young Authors Writing competition read their responses to this year’s prompt, “Change: The world, and the people in it, are in a constant state of flux; nothing truly ever remains the same.” Berkeley Public Library – Community Meeting Room

Paul Hawken’s Drawdown: Real Solutions for Climate Change

1:30 PM – 2:45 PM

Paul Hawken

I have pretty much been of the belief that we’re just screwed when it comes to climate change, so I am very interested to hear anything other than a doomsday theory. “‘Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming’ shows a realistic path forward that can roll back global warming within thirty years. Activist and renowned entrepreneur Paul Hawken gathered researchers from around the world to identify, investigate, and model the 100 most substantive existing solutions to climate change. Come learn how humanity has the means at hand to address this potentially devastating threat to our civilization.” Alta Stage at Freight & Salvage

Masha Gessen on Truth, Lies, and Totalitarianism in Russia and the U.S.

Masha Gessen

5:00 PM – 6:15 PM

I told you this wasn’t going to be easy, guys, and there are some big decisions to make. Lindy West is *amazing* but so is Masha Gessen!

“At this event, Russian-American and celebrated journalist Masha Gessen (‘The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia’) and Orville Schell (former professor and Dean at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and author of ‘Wealth and Power’) will discuss protest, free speech, and human rights from powers that now pose the greatest challenges to the liberal democracies of the world.” Alta Stage at Freight & Salvage

Sunday, June 4th

When Reality Meets Science Fiction with Cory Doctorow, Meg Elison, Zachary Mason, moderated by Annalee Newitz

Cory Doctorow

10:00 AM – 11:15 AM

“What happens when reality feels like science fiction? Like George Orwell’s ‘1984,’ near-future narratives exploit current technology, politics, and fears to explore what life could be like in 10 years, one year, or even an hour. The panelists will consider how to predict the tantalizing possibility of what might be.” With all the dystopian changes in the world, this event is sure to be enlightening. Or frightening. David Brower Center – Goldman Theater

Race and Resistance in the Trump Era: Fighting Words and Wisdom from The Nation and Black Lives Matter

Alicia Garza

1:30 PM – 2:45 PM

“Join some of The Nation’s finest current contributors for a fierce, free-ranging discussion of how to advance racial justice in today’s America. Panelists include Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter; Walter Mosley, the essayist; and novelist; Steve Phillips, author of ‘Brown Is the New White’; Joan Walsh, The Nation’s national political correspondent; and moderator Mark Hertsgaard, author and investigative editor for The Nation. (Open seating; no tickets needed!)” San Francisco Chronicle Stage in the Park

Gentrification, Evictions, and the State of Our Cities with Paul Madonna, Peter Moskowitz, moderated by Narda Zacchino

3:15 PM – 4:30 PM

“Gentrification has become a buzzword, but this profound social and economic shift involves far more than trendy boutiques, hipsters, and fancy lattes. Journalists Peter Moskowitz (‘How to Kill a City’) and Paul Madonna (‘All Over Coffee’) uncover the massive, systemic forces behind gentrification evictions, how this phenomenon changes our cities for the worse, and how we can fight back.” David Brower Center – Tamalpais Room

Books and Games and More Books

The Friends of the Berkeley Library Bookstore

As a former public librarian, I can attest to not only the importance of library bookstores but the eclectic wonder of their collections. Also, much of the funding for youth programs comes from these bookstore sales, so you can feel awesome about your extremely reasonably priced purchases. They have two locations, 2433 Channing Way and at the Central Library Branch and at 2090 Kittredge Street, Berkeley CA 94704

Moe’s Books

Moe’s is one of the greatest bookstores around and a Berkeley institution. Plus, it’s on Telegraph Avenue, which has a bevy of shops, restaurants, and excellent people-watching.

Half-Price Books

This huuuuge store is a joy for bargain hunters.

Games of Berkeley is a neat store if you’re into that kind of thing (and who isn’t?) and once you’ve picked up some games, you can bring them to Albatross…(see below)

Food and Drink 

Albatross: As a sober person, I don’t spend a lot of time in bars. But Albatross is a bar I will gladly visit because GAMES. Board games are supplied and encouraged at Albatross, so if that’s your jam, head on over to 1822 San Pablo Ave.

Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen: Cajun food to add a little flavor to your Book Festival experience. 

Cancun Taqueria: delicious Mexican food. Need I say more?

Comal Restaurant: (doesn’t open until 5 pm, but the patio is lovely and the food is great).

Eureka Restaurant: Salads, burgers, and tacos with a little California flavor.

Gather: If you’re looking for the flavor of Northern California, Gather has you covered with locally sourced…everything and an array of wines (and mocktails!) to pair with your meal.

The Hotsy Totsy Club in Albany boasts “free shuffleboard, free wifi, and a free 45 rpm jukebox filled with donated records spanning from 1952 – 1979.”

Jupiter: Come for the beers, stay for the food. Tasty beers (or so I’m told), nice salads, and wood oven pizza.

The North Shattuck Area: (and the hub of many Bay Area Book Festival events) is home to more delicious places to eat than I can list. Fortunately, someone has taken care of that for me and listed a bunch of eateries here.

Royal Rangoon: Friendly staff and lots of vegetarian options make this restaurant a hit with the locals.

The Starry Plough Pub: An Irish pub with live music and a relaxed vibe.

Vic’s Chaat & Market: delicious Indian “street food.”


If you’re looking for more solitude than socializing, Tilden Park may be the place for you. It’s full of redwoods, creeks, and amazing nature reserves. From a carousel ride and a picnic to a swim at Lake Anza and a stroll through the Botanic Garden, Tilden has the variety to delight everyone.

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