Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Booktopia 2019

Northshire Welcomes Booktopians!
Finally! It was over a month ago now (a busy month!), but here is my summary of the annual Booktopia event, held the first weekend in May each year at Northshire Bookstore in lovely Manchester, VT.

Ann and Michael, who started Booktopia, in 2015
A little history: Ann and Michael of the sadly now-retired Books on the Nightstand podcast (you can still listen to or download episodes at the link) began Booktopia almost a decade ago. It was always hosted at the amazing Northshire Bookstore, but at its height, they were coordinating 3 Booktopias each year, in different parts of the country. Listening to the podcast every week, I yearned to attend one of these incredible book-centered weekends, and in 2015, I invited my mother along (as a joint birthday gift for me and her), and we were blown away! We skipped it in 2016 when it fell on Mother's Day but attended again in 2017, 2018, and most recently, 2019. Ann and Michael ended their wonderful podcast a few years ago, and with it the 3 Booktopia events each year (can you believe they were too busy with full-time jobs, kids, the podcast, and hosting 3 major events a year??). Luckily, Northshire Bookstore decided to pick up the reins on their own and continue hosting the Vermont event.

My mom and I at Booktopia 2019
So, what is Booktopia? It's a wholly unique gathering of book lovers, booksellers, and authors. Unlike trade shows like BEA or the typical author events at bookstores, here the readers and authors spend the weekend together, sharing meals and conversation, and the author sessions are more like book groups, with in-depth discussions and Q&A's. If you love books and love to read, it's paradise! You can read more about our experiences at Booktopia 2015, Booktopia 2017, or Booktopia 2018, including photos and lists of the books and authors featured.

Booktopia 2019 was just as amazing! By now, we've gotten to know lots of other Booktopians, so we look forward to reconnecting with old friends (and meeting new ones) just as much as meeting the authors and hearing about great books. There are many of us who return every year (or most years). This year's list of featured books and authors included:

I read all but two of the books for Booktopia this year, and you can read my reviews at the links. As always, every book I read - chosen by the brilliant booksellers at Northbrook - was excellent.

Author Bianca Marais kicks off Booktopia 2019
So, the event began Friday morning with an introductory talk that was interesting and funny by Bianca Marais, who after her 2018 appearance at Booktopia now feels like an old friend. If you haven't yet read her first novel, Hum If You Don't Know the Words, you must! It is moving, powerful, funny - one of my favorites of this year. Her second novel, If You Want to Make God Laugh, will be released on July 16 - I've already pre-ordered it through Northshire!

Next the Northshire booksellers each took a turn recommending 4-6 of their favorite recent books, adding many new books to everyone's TBR list! The attendance fee for Booktopia includes a $50 gift card to the store, and those gift cards don't last long. Mine was spent before the event even began.

Me with Christopher Castellani, a Delaware native, after his session
All day Friday and Saturday are author sessions. You can choose which ones to attend. As I said, these are less like typical author talks/book signings and more like a book group discussion with the author present. Usually, many people have already read the book, so the author talks about his or her inspiration in writing it, the writing process, and answers questions from the group.

Our table Friday night - lots of old friends & a couple of new ones!
Friday night, there's always a big group dinner for everyone - readers, authors, and booksellers - where we play book trivia and do a Yankee book swap. For other meals, you are on your own, but Manchester is filled with wonderful restaurants, and smaller groups of Booktopians get together to share meals.

Readers with Stephen Mack Jones after the Yankee Book Swap
Saturday is more author sessions and then the big wrap-up in the evening, where each author gets 10 minutes to talk to the entire crowd - this portion of Booktopia is free and open to the public. Veteran Booktopians always laugh when every year, each author stands up there and says something to the effect of, "I had no idea what Booktopia was - this is such an amazing event! I've never been to anything like it." It is truly unique, and I think the authors love it as much as the readers who attend - after all, they are rock stars to this crowd of bookworms! Finally, all of the authors are available to sign their books.

Me with Sarah Blake (no, not sitting on her lap, just awkwardly crouching!)
On Sunday, exhausted but happy, we headed for home (an 8-hour combination drive and train ride for me!) after one last breakfast at Manchester's incredible Up for Breakfast restaurant. Mmmm...

It really is a unique and wonderful event. If you can manage the trip (people come from all over the country - and a few from other countries!), put it on your calendar for the first weekend in May 2020 - I'll see you there!


  1. I love Manchester, VT and have been there and Northshire many times. Last visit we stayed at the new Hampton Inn which was just opened a few weeks when we visit.

    Sounds like a fun event Sue.

    1. Isn't it a great bookstore?? I could spend days in there and never get bored :)

      You should come next year, Diane!

  2. This always sounds like such a wonderful event and it makes me happy that you and your mom go together. I definitely want to read Lives Laid Away.

    1. Wish you lived in the East so we could meet up there, Helen!

      Lives Laid Away was good - everything was!