The 5th Boston Book Festival, which will take place Oct. 17-19, has announced a lineup ranging from the world famous (Salman Rushdie) to the popular (Bill Littlefield, Steve Almond) on a long list of authors representing children’s books, poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and scholarly works.
Most of the festival events are free and will include writing workshops, competitions, children’s activities, and live music.
“Boston hadn’t had one for some years,” said Deborah Porter, founder and executive director of the festival. (The Globe Book Festival ended in 2004 after more than 30 years.) “Lots of major cities have a public event celebrating books and Boston didn’t have one. It only seemed natural for Boston to have an event like this.”
Holding it in Copley Square, steps from the Green and Orange subway lines, only made sense, she said. “It’s anchored by the Boston Public Library, which seems like an appropriate place to have a book festival, all within walking distance.”
If past attendance is any indication, expect sizable crowds. Berklee College of Music students will play live music throughout the festival, both vocal and instrumental, ranging from bluegrass to jazz to folk, Porter said.
Landing Rushdie as the keynote speaker was a coup for Porter. The British-Indian novelist and essayist won the Booker Prize for his second novel, “Midnight’s Children” (1981), which was recently adapted into a play and film. He is perhaps most famous for his 1988 novel, “The Satanic Verses,” which sparked Muslim protests and death threats against him. Rushdie has lived in the United States for more than a decade now and his latest book, “Joseph Anton: A Memoir,” details his life after “The Satanic Verses,” which like two of his other novels was shortlisted for the Booker.
One change to this year’s festival will be the keynote speaker appearing Friday rather than Saturday. Another new twist will be a ticketed event, a live taping of the podcast show “You’re the Expert.”
The festival will have more than 40 adult activity sessions to choose from, including workshops and flash fiction open mike events, in which attendees can perform three-minute short stories for the audience.
The children’s keynote speaker will be Tomie dePaola, the famous picture book author and illustrator of “Strega Nona” and more than 200 children’s books. And there will be activities for kids, including scavenger hunts, workshops, and craft projects. Curious George might be seen wandering around too.
Other children’s book authors will include Wendy Mass (“A Mango-Shaped Space”) and Bob Shea (“New Socks” and “Big Plans”), whose stories, artwork, and characters have appeared on Nick Jr.
Another highlight of the festival lineup is movie writer, director, and producer Wes Craven (“Scream” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street”). When asked how Craven was in person, Porter said, “Very sweet.” Sitting at a table with him, she said, you wouldn’t have known he was a horror film writer.
Another surprising voice at the festival will be Craig Venter, the biologist known for his work on decoding the human genome.