The top 10 things to know about the Virginia Festival of the Book

Charlottesville in March is many things, but perhaps the fan favorite is the annual Virginia Festival of the Book.

We sat down with the organizers to learn more about this year’s festival. Learn all you need to know here:

In its 30th year, the Virginia Festival of the Book happens March 20-24. Centered on and around the Downtown Mall, visitors can enjoy in-person events across Charlottesville, or even around the state! Here’s everything you need to know about the 2024 festival. And for a complete listing of events, please visit:

1. When was the Festival of the Book founded?

We are celebrating our 30th anniversary this year! The first edition of the festival was held from March 30 to April 1, 1995. 

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. Are most events this year free? 

That’s right. Most of our 70+ events are free. Our headlining and featured events at the Paramount, our Wordy Thirty event, and a few other programs are ticketed.  

All about the thirtieth Virginia Festival of the Book

4. Who are some of the famous authors who spoke at the Festival in the past?

The list is long, but a few come to mind. John Grisham, as well as David Baldacci—he and his wife Michelle are our 2024 Festival’s premiere sponsorshave visited the festival seven times. This year, we’re very proud to welcome Roxane Gay, Ada Limón, and Jeannette Walls, and other featured authors: Senator Danica Roem, Percival Everett, and Adriana Trigiani to name a few. 

5. How many authors have participated in past festivals?

We’ve got around 130 authors joining us in 2024. This will bring the Festival author total to nearly 5,300 at the close of this year’s program. 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 is the Festival’s attendance?

In its heyday, the Festival drew around 25,000 book enthusiasts to Charlottesville. Like many annual events, we took a hit during the height of the pandemic, but we’re building back. Most visitors are local, but about a quarter of the visitors come from out of town.

Festival of the Book Assets (1)

7. Does the Festival only take place in Charlottesville?

The main Festival happens in Charlottesville from March 20-24, but for our second year, we are hosting Preview events all over the state: starting in Crozet, as well as Charles City County, Lynchburg, Nelson County, Northern Virginia, Richmond, Staunton, and all the way Southwest in Buchanan County. Our hope is to bring the Festival to different corners of the state, and for folks in all these corners to come visit us in Charlottesville. 

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

Not yet! The Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany, where it is known as the Frankfurter Buchmesse, attracts a quarter of a million visitors each year. It might take us another thirty years to draw that kind of crowd, but we’re working on it. 

9. What’s special about the 30th anniversary? 

Our Wordy Thirty Party is an anniversary celebration for the ages. Think of a dance party for authors, book nerds, and all their friends, and that’s what you’ve got. We’ll have a D.J. food, drinks, and two different VIP lounges, one featuring our headlining authors. A lot of people think the bookish set sit and read all day, and we do; but all that pent up energy’s got to go somewhere. 

10. A Festival First for 2024 is its first ever…

Festival Friday (phew, say that three times fast). Imagine First Fridays, but during a different time of the month, and with a bookish bent. We’ve got bookstores and other venues along the downtown mall hosting readings by local authors; our Book Arts Studio members doing demos and offering hands-on activities; hot cocoa and snacks in our Festival headquarters, and other fun things happening. 



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 and see our Guide to Local Bookstores here.

Festival of the Book Assets