Logo of the Virginia Festival of the Book

Everything you need to know about the Virginia Festival of the Book

After being canceled last year due to the pandemic, the Virginia Festival of the Book is back this year for its 27th edition, and takes place from March 13 to 26 as a two-week series of virtual events on Zoom and Facebook Live. Everything you need to know about the 2021 festival is right here, including a complete listing of events, and how to participate virtually https://vabook.org/schedule/

Here are 11 facts, or everything you need to know, about the festival to make you booksmart:

1. When was the Festival of the Book founded?


2. Who were some of the authors who participated that first year?

Rita May Brown, Emily Couric, Rita Dove, Joyce Carol Oates, and Charles Wright were all part of the inaugural lineup.

3. Has the Festival ever been completely virtual?

No. Although some events in the past have been live-streamed, this is the first time all events will be virtual. Because of that, instead of the normal five days, the Festival this year is stretched over two weeks.

4. This year, all events are free.

For the first time, all events to this year’s Festival are free. Organizers hope to reach a large audience by taking away any possible barriers. Registration is encouraged, but not mandatory.

5. Who are some of the famous authors from past Festivals?

The list is long, but a few come to mind. David Baldacci has been at the festival seven times, with his last appearance being 2014. John Grisham will make his 7th appearance this year. In 27 years, close to 5,000 authors have participated in the festival. Check this out: all of the Festival’s past speakers are listed here, so find out if, and when your favorite author was part of the program. 

6. What’s the largest audience ever attracted at the Festival?

In 2017, 3,093 people came to the John Paul Jones Arena to see actor Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle). 

7. How many people attend the Festival?

Annually, around 25,000 book enthusiasts come to Charlottesville. Most visitors are local, but about a third to a quarter of the visitors come from out of town.

8. What was the longest line in the history of the Festival

In 2016 a line extended two city blocks for author Bryan Stevenson.

9. Is the Virginia Festival of the Book the largest book event in the world?

Not quite. The festival in Charlottesville is considered the largest book event in the Mid-Atlantic region, but is small compared to what is considered to be the largest book event in the world, Frankfurter Buchmesse or The Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany, which attracts a quarter of a million visitors each year.

10. This year, you really don’t have to miss a thing.

The program is constructed in such a way that events don’t overlap. It means you won’t have to pick and choose, as is usually the case. On top of that, all events are recorded for later viewing, so you can enjoy them at your own pace, in your own time.

11.You can still ask your favorite author your burning question.

Although virtual, there is still the opportunity for attendees to ask questions directly of their favorite authors. Q&A’s are conducted via Zoom. Don’t expect shouting matches, as everyone is trying to ask a question. Questions will be typed in, via the Q&A function in Zoom.


Charlottesville really is Bookstoreville, and reading is good for your heart, and good for your head! Check out our blog on Charlottesville’s best bookstores.