This year’s Las Vegas Book Festival dabbles in politics, personal essays and cooking

From left: A.M. Homes, Marlon James and Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Illustration: All Photos Courtesy

We’re fortunate to live in a city that hosts two marquee annual literary events. There’s the three-year-old Believer Festival, produced by the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute, shaking us out of our winter doldrums each spring; and the City of Las Vegas/Nevada Humanities-produced Las Vegas Book Festival, now in its 18th year, to ease us into autumn. And while the events differ in tone—for example, Believer Fest’s panels are adult-themed, while the LVBF is family-friendly at its core—they have something important in common: They both endeavor to get Las Vegas reading, and asking questions about what they’ve read.

The 2019 LVBF seems to have redoubled its efforts towards that second pursuit. Among its offerings is a panel that’s sure to raise some animated discussion: “Assessing the Trump Presidency: Three Years In.” Its panelists: Rick Wilson, the Republican strategist who raised party hackles with his 2018 New York Times bestseller Everything Trump Touches Dies; Tim Alberta, chief political correspondent for Politico Magazine and author of this year’s bestselling American Carnage; Christina Bellantoni, a professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Journalism and a former assistant managing editor for politics for the Los Angeles Times: and Steve Sebelius, politics and government editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The audience for this panel should be attentive, at a minimum.

Favor something less potentially stressful? Sit in on “The Personal Essay in an Oversharing World,” featuring panelists Paul Crenshaw, J.D. Daniels and Rebecca Fishbein; with the help of New York Times writer Amanda Fortini, they intend to get a handle on the recent plague of “TMI Facebook posts” and other forms of “self-revealing first-person writing.” Or sit in on “Writing the Body: The Language of Sexuality and Intimacy in Story,” featuring Mostly Dead Things author Kristen Arnett and Ahmed Naji, who spent nearly a year in an Egyptian prison simply for describing intimacy in prose. Or join NPR’s Eric Deggans, BuzzFeed’s Niela Orr and Atlantic Monthly’s James Parker for a discussion of the current role of cultural criticism, or sit down with Mon Ami Gabi’s Vincent Pouessel to learn the “Secrets of a Chef.”

The author discussions look no less compelling. Scheduled to appear are Jarrett J. Krosoczka, creator of the Lunch Lady series of graphic novels (soon to be adapted to the screen by Amy Poehler); A.M. Homes, the acclaimed author of The Safety of Objects and May We Be Forgiven; and novelist Marlon James, winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings.

Add to these discussions of local-interest topics (including the Bundy Movement and mid-century Las Vegas), live music, poetry, creative workshops and, naturally, readings for the kids. Reading season is here, and once again, this Las Vegas festival is making it easy to hit the books.

LAS VEGAS BOOK FESTIVAL October 19, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., free. Historic Fifth Street School, lasvegasbookfestival.com.

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