Book Bonanza

Insiders' guide to the biggest Texas Book Festival in history: 12 don't-miss authors

Insiders' guide to the biggest Texas Book Festival in history

Texas Book Festival
Experience book talks, signings, parties, music, food, and more at the 2015 Texas Book Festival. Photo courtesy of Texas Book Festival

This weekend, more than 300 authors will turn Austin into one of the largest literary celebrations in the U.S. for the 20th annual Texas Book Festival. With more than 40,000 people expected to attend, the free festival boasts a genre-bending mix of activities for book lovers of all stripes.

CultureMap offers you an insider’s take on can’t-miss authors and activities at the biggest Texas Book Festival in history.  

National authors
Chuck Palahniuk
October 17 at 1 pm
The first rule of the Texas Book Festival is … go see Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk. The second rule is … well, there is no second rule. Be sure to join Palahniuk along with special guest, best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch, for their show at the Paramount Theatre featuring “prizes, beach balls, and glowsticks.”

Sandra Cisneros
October 17 at 3 pm
One of the giants of Chicana literature, Cisneros is best known for the New York Times best-selling, coming-of-age-novel The House on Mango Street. A Chicago native and longtime San Antonio resident before moving to Mexico, her work has charted a unique path through cultural identity and economic inequality and has been translated into 20 languages.

Her latest work, A House of My Own: Stories From My Life, is a collection of moving short stories that paint an intimate picture of a living legend. She is the only author in this year’s lineup who was featured at the inaugural Texas Book Festival in 1996.

Nick Flynn
October 17 at 11:45 am
Best known for his award-winning memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City — which was adapted into the movie Being Flynn starring Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore — Flynn has written screenplays, poetry, and memoirs. Be sure to check out his latest work, My Feelings: Poems, which channels his energetic and daring style.

Texas authors
Attica Locke
October 17 at 11:30 am
A Houston native and writer and producer of the Fox television series Empire, Locke’s debut novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her latest book, Pleasantville, is the highly anticipated sequel.

Matthew Diffee
October 17 at 11:30 am
Don’t miss the man The Wall Street Journal calls “the de facto leader of a young generation of cartoonists,” Denton native, and cartoonist for The New Yorker, Diffee. His latest book, Hand Drawn Jokes for Smart Attractive People, offers up a comical mélange of cartoons and “illustrated one liners.”

Jared Chapman
October 17 at 11:30 am
Be sure to check out Northeast Texas children’s writer Chapman. With titles like Vegetables in Underwear and Pirate, Viking & Scientist, his stories offer quirky fun for the whole family. His latest work, Steve, Raised by Wolves, features a boy raised by wolves who is investigating the disappearance of his school’s pet.

Austin authors
Aaron Franklin
October 17 at 10 am
Stop by and listen to pitmaster and owner of Austin staple Franklin Barbecue as he talks about the restaurant’s history. Also check out his new book, Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, in which he reveals his secrets to what many have called the best barbecue in the world.

Mary Helen Specht
October 18 at 4:15 pm
Specht has been turning heads with her debut novel, Migratory Animals. It was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, and an Austin American-Statesman Selects. Specht teaches creative writing at St. Edwards University.

H.W. Brands
October 17 at 10 am
New York Times best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-nominated history writer Brands' work includes definitive biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and many more. His latest work, Reagan: The Life, chronicles the unlikely rise to power of President Ronald Reagan, using untapped sources.

For the foodies: Central Market Cooking Tent
Toni Tipton-Martin
October 17 at 10 am
An award-winning food journalist and author, Tipton-Martin showcases the history of African-American cuisine, pulling from a wide range of sources including rare 19th century texts in her book The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks. Tipton-Martin is also a personal friend of first lady Michelle Obama, and has taken part in events at the White House.

Cappy Lawton and Chris Waters
October 17 at 2:30 pm
Don’t miss the chance to master the art of the enchilada with these San Antonio natives. Lawton is a successful restaurateur who owns San Antonio restaurants La Fonda on Main, Cappy’s Restaurant, and Cappyccino’s. Waters is a musician who switched gears and is now the Chef’s Secret columnist for the San Antonio Express-News.

Raquel Pelzel
October 18 at 12:30 pm
Yay, toast! Don't miss this award-winning cookbook author and her book Toast: The Cookbook, which offers 50 mind-blowing, but simple recipes using toast.

The Texas Book Festival is much more than books. With live music, food trucks, kids’ activities, and late-night parties, there's something for everyone.

Gala Afterparty
October 16 at 9 pm
If you can’t get into the $500-per-person First Edition Literary Gala, you can still rub elbows with your favorite authors at the Gala Afterparty. With cocktails and a performance by funk-rock band Austin Heat, the after party is a great way to kick off the festival without cramping your finances. Tickets cost $75.

Lit Crawl Austin
October 17 at 7 pm
Alcohol, games, books, music, and your favorite authors sprouting up where you least expect them — what could be better? Don’t miss the fifth annual Lit Crawl Austin, a partnership between the Litquake Foundation, where venues ranging from bars, yoga studios, gelato shops, and the Texas State Cemetery will transform into a night of literature-infused madness.


The Texas Book Festival takes place October 17 and 18 at the State Capitol and surrounding area. Founded in 1995 by former first lady Laura Bush, Mary Margaret Farabee, and volunteers, the festival celebrates local authors and gives back to public libraries across the state. Since its inception, TBF has given more than $2.6 million to Texas libraries.