Reading between the lines at Edinburgh International Book Festival

By Dan James, Festivals Edinburgh Blogger in Residence, August 2018

Dan headshot 300x300When you think of a book festival, your mind likely wanders to a giant bookshop where people drink cups of tea and exchange tips on the next top read.

Reality check: Edinburgh International Book Festival is anything but that.



I mean, they have bookshops, three in fact, and they serve up a mean cuppa, but there is so much more going on in Charlotte Square Gardens, the beautiful and usually closed square where the Book Festival takes place, that it really deserves to be a part of your August Edinburgh visit. Let me tell you why...

Plus: Watch Dan's Book Festival video here

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Hear the words in the author's voice...

One of the best parts of the Book Festival for me is being able to put the author's words, and story, to the context of the book. Starting from first thing in the morning with Ten at Ten, a ten-minute reading by an author, through to the last ticketed event of the day there's ample chance to hear the voice that wrote your favourite book.

Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, there is something special I think about knowing the face and voice of the author. So often we pick up a book, lose ourself in it and are left wondering who wrote this, why did they write it and what is their story. The Book Festival provides the perfect platform to answer this.

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You'll find new reads...

Following on from my first point, you'll get to hear lots of authors who you may not have heard of before reading segments of their books and sharing their passion behind creating it. I've come away with plenty of new books over the past week from authors new to me, and that was all down from hearing them read and speak about their novels.

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Meet your favourite literary or celebrity heroes...

Books come in all shapes and forms so whether you want to get star-struck at your favourite fiction author or if you have meeting a certain celebrity on your bucket list, you absolutely should be scanning the Book Festival programme .

With so many autobiographies on the market these days, there is a chance you'll finally be able to meet one of your legends. Today I saw famous footballer Tony Adams talk about his new book before meeting him in the autograph tent. Before he jumped on the main stage, Ruby Wax and Chelsea Clinton were in the same seat. With most authors who are speaking also offering the chance to have your book signed, it's a great chance to mingle amongst the celebs.

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Join in the discussion...

Words are a powerful medium, and whether it's gut-wrenching fiction or heartbreaking reality on the pages, often these words conjure up emotions that need to be discussed.

At the panelled events you can hear from specialists in subjects, emerging voices, and global conversations are brought to the forefront from visiting authors who have travelled from abroad. The floor is usually opened up to questions, and the discussions and ideas that get bounced around are infectious. I've really come to realise the festivals in August are so much fun, but also full of thought-provoking moments.

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Soak up the entertainment in the Spiegeltent...

This year's Unbound programme which happens nightly at the Spiegeltent combines words with music, poetry, performance and discussion and these events are a real crossover of mediums. Whether it's an evening discussing gender or politics or simply a night of music, each slot on the programme brings something fresh to the table.

During one of the first Unbound events I was blown away by the talent of Electric Fields, a band from South Australia that combines their Aboriginal culture with addictive music, so much so, their EP has already found a place on my phone.

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Comics and graphic novels also have a home...

This year saw the Edinburgh Comic Festival make an appearance in the nearby Principle Hotel where comics of all kinds became the star of the event space. I attended a fascinating talk by Nicola Streeten on Graphic Novels and realised how great it is that the festival is so inclusive of all kinds of books and gets a platform to so many different creative talents.

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The gardens are a great place to get lost in the pages...

Charlotte Gardens are a beautiful space, and with the event tents spread around the square, the green grass in the centre becomes the perfect place to kick back with your new book, grab a drink and while away the hours between events and talks, especially on a sunny August day.

Fear not if the Scottish weather brings back the rain though as all the walkways, terraced seating and inside spaces are fully covered allowing you to still soak up the atmosphere without getting soaked.

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It's spilled out onto George Street again this year...

It's another huge year for the Book Festival as it has expanded to George Street once again, which means more venues and more books. With some dedicated children's areas and workshops and an additional theatre, the programme has never been more jam-packed with events and providing even more spots to get stuck into a new novel.

To sum up Edinburgh International Book Festival in one sentence: come for the books but stick around for everything else on offer. I'm positive you won't be disappointed.

Check out Dan's Edinburgh Adventures during August 2018, and follow along using #DansFestivalCity on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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