Book fest boasts 17 days of literary treats

MJCCA brings in Dan Rather, Al Franken, Bush twins and more.

For two weeks in November, the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta occupies the sweet spot between major publishers’ fall release dates and the start of the gangbusters-for-books holiday shopping season.

But even in its 26th year, it’s not as easy as it sounds arranging 45 authors and almost as many genres into a schedule that guarantees festival-goers won’t have to choose between seeing a National Book Award finalist or “The Most Interesting Man in the World.”

“It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle,” said Dee Kline, co-chair of the 2017 festival, which kicks off on Nov. 4 with an “in conversation with” appearance by Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, author of “The Court and the World.”

This year’s festival runs the gamut from Dan Rather and presidential daughters Barbara and Jenna Bush to a woman who hires herself out as a professional bridesmaid and a songwriter whose many hits include the “Murder She Wrote” opening theme music.

“You might find your next book or your new favorite author here,” said festival director Pam Morton.

To help your search, here are seven things to know about the 26th annual Book Festival of the MJCCA:

1. It’s super-supersized this year. Since its first year, when just three authors appeared over four days, the festival has “grown exponentially,” Morton says. And how. This year’s festival was supposed to end with Dan Rather’s appearance on Nov. 19th, but then Sen. Al Franken became available on Nov. 20th and a 17th day was added to the schedule.

2. No double bookings. Some authors will be featured at the same session (for instance, on Nov. 10 Marie Benedict and Jane Healey will discuss their novels about fascinating real-life women). But unlike many other festivals and conventions, none of the sessions take place at the same time. Meaning: If you have enough free time and stamina, you can catch all 45 authors, with one notable exception.

3. Franken sells out. If you don’t already have tickets for the closing night session with the senator, former “Saturday Night Live”-er and bestselling author (“Giant of the Senate”), you’re out of luck. They quickly sold out. 

4. It’ll be “High Noon” at, well, high noon. Pulitzer Prize-winner Glenn Frankel will appear at noon Nov. 5 to discuss his book, “High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic.” It’s an exquisite bit of scheduling for an important session about a beloved film (it won four Oscars, including Best Actor for Glenn Ford) that was made while a real-life drama played out offscreen: Screenwriter Carl Foreman was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee to testify about his former membership in the Communist Party.

5. Maybe The Most Interesting One-Day Lineup in the World. Mark down Nov. 14 on your calendar. At noon, Nicole Krauss, a previous National Book Award finalist for “Great House,” appears at the MJCCA in Dunwoody to discuss her latest novel, “Forest Dark.” Then at 7:30 p.m., the action switches intown to the Rich Theater at the Woodruff Arts Center for a sure-to-be-lively event featuring Jen Glantz and Jonathan Goldsmith. She turned her experiences as a bridesmaid-for-hire into a book, and he’s the Bronx-raised actor and now author who found fame after decades as Dos Equis’s “Most Interesting Man in the World.”

6. Talk about a Twin, er, Triple Threat. As “first daughters” (and even earlier, “first granddaughters”), twin sisters Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush have spent their lives in the public eye, while revealing little about themselves. Until now. The highly accomplished duo — Hager is a correspondent for the “Today” show and Bush is the CEO and co-founder of Global Health Corps — will be at the MJCCA at 8 p.m. on Nov. 18 to discuss their brand new book, “Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life,” an inside look at growing up as the daughters of former President George W. Bush. An “in conversation with”-style session, it can’t help but be good: At the sisters’ request, festival organizers say, the conversation will be conducted by New York Times bestselling author and Atlanta resident Emily Giffin. There will be a photo opportunity for attendees.

7. Chew on this: Matzo and a Movie. If there’s a Matzo-making dynasty in the United States, it’s likely Streit’s, founded on New York’s Lower East Side in 1925. At noon on Nov. 15, the festival will present an author talk with Michele Streit Heilbrun, current co-owner of the company started by her great-grandfather and co-author of a new cookbook entitled (what else?) “Matzo.” Along with such recipes as Matzo Granola and Matzo Spanikopita, Heilbrun will discuss the past and future of her family and company. Before this session, the festival will screen the documentary, “Streit’s Matzo and the American Dream,” at 10 a.m. Note: You must purchase separate tickets for the documentary screening and the author talk.

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