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9th annual Bay Area Book Festival celebrated in Downtown Berkeley

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MAY 11, 2023

Over the weekend, the ninth annual Bay Area Book Festival, or BABF, was celebrated in Downtown Berkeley at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park and along Shattuck Avenue.

The festival featured nearly 300 authors and 15 stages with different performances, panels and talks. Both days consisted of indoor programs, but Sunday also hosted a large outdoor festival with speakers, a Family Fun Zone, food vendors and exhibitors.

As Northern California’s largest weekend literary event, BABF brought people together from around the world, including acclaimed and emerging authors, writers’ organizations, literary resources, libraries, bookstores and more.

“This is the second year I’ve done the Bay Area Book Festival,” said Bridgette Dutta Portman, author of the Coseema trilogy. “I had a great time last year so I came back. I enjoy meeting people, fellow authors and potential readers, and I think as a small-press author it’s totally worth it.”

The festival included an “avenue of authors” where patrons could learn about new books, talk to authors and get books signed. Half Price Books had a large booth giving away hundreds of free books.

The outdoor festival also had a Youth Reader Stage and Storytime Circle for children to enjoy. Many of the programs were family focused, with activities such as a Where’s Waldo search competition held in the Berkeley Public Library.

“The first year was lots and lots of volunteers scrapping for everything and it just grew from there to 300 volunteers, 300 authors from over 20 countries and 103 shows in two days,” said BABF Chief Operations Officer Scott Gelfand.

On one side of the festival, food trucks offered meals from around the world, including dim sum, Italian ice, Korean corn dogs and gyros.

Near the Downtown Berkeley Bart Station, the Downtown Berkeley Association hosted a slam poetry and music stage Sunday featuring a drag queen story time and many other performers throughout the day.

“This has been an awesome experience for my very first book fair,” said author Maria Castellucci Moore. “It’s been a fantastic turnout. We’re very lucky to have today and a lot of interest and I’m so lucky to be here.”

Earlier this year, BABF hosted a monthlong prologue with events around the Bay Area. These included writing workshops, open mics and nature walks, according to the BABF website.

In addition to the festival, BABF hosts two year-round events: Women Lit and Bay Area Book Festival #UNBOUND. Women Lit features several female-identifying authors and #UNBOUND is an online program that focuses on current events and issues through literature.

According to Gelfand, several UC Berkeley students work with BABF as interns.

“We’re bringing literature and literacy to all ages in the Bay Area and around the world,” Gelfand said. “We have worldwide programs and year-round programs. This is just the main festival. The city of Berkeley and Cal support us in a great way.”

Contact Laurel Spear at 


MAY 11, 2023