There are a number of big Miami events that for whatever reason I hadn’t been to before or fully experienced in my time here. It could have been due to just bad timing, being a little turned off by the craziness (here’s looking at you Art Basel), but sometimes it was just due to weak excuses or laziness. One of those events was the Miami Book Fair, but luckily my lack of attendance was rectified this year.
I can’t remember every year, but there’s really no excuse for why I hadn’t visited the Book Fair before. Even if some years were bad timing, I doubt that was true of all the years. And there are so many big reasons to visit! First off, it’s one of the largest book fairs in the country (and a model for other book fairs across the U.S.). Secondly, I often lament the fact that there isn’t a major bookstore north of Books and Books in the Gables/Barnes and Noble in Sunset Place since the Barnes and Noble in Aventura closed (besides Books and Books’ outposts on Lincoln Road and at Bal Harbour). So this would solve an issue of easily accessing physical books for purchase. Lastly, I’m not sure if I can convey how much I loved books as a kid (and still do). The best way I can think of is that if the kid version of me had known about the Miami Book Fair, he probably would have reacted a little bit like this (except without the crazy eyes). I LOVED books (and again still do)!
This year several things came together that would make my non-attendance this year downright shameful, pathetic (long list of similar adjectives). #1 was that I now live oh about a whole 30 feet from one of the Book Fair’s entrances. In fact the Book Fair gave residents of my building free tickets (another contributor to a must attendance), because it blocked the main route to our garage. #2 was that my own aunt was speaking at the Book Fair. Little sidenote and plug- my aunt, Joan Biskupic, is a reporter on the Supreme Court and has wrote biographies or books about several Justices. Her recent book is “Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice”. Obviously I am a little biased, but I loved this book and found Justice Sotomayor’s personal story and the intersection of race and politics in her ascent to the Supreme Court to be fascinating. If you’re interested check out my aunt’s website at joanbiskupic.com. Back to my main point- I had no remotely justifiable excuse not to visit this year’s Book Fair.
I would group the main to-dos of the Book Fair into two categories- tents belonging to publishers and book sellers to buy books and then author speeches and panels. There then are also activities for kids (like face painting and plays) and food vendors. This year there also was a place called the Swamp, which had music performances.
My aunt participated in a panel on the intersection of race (specifically with Latino/Hispanics) and politics with a professor from Stanford- Gary Segura (unfortunately the other scheduled panelist missed it). There were a few questions from the moderator, but then it was opened up to a lot of questions from the audience. I really enjoyed hearing both panelists speak and the topics discussed. Similar panels or speeches by authors occur throughout the weekend. In fact in a given hour (from 10 AM into the evening) there can be anywhere from about 6 to 15 different author events going on across the fair. Some of the big authors require tickets (most looked to cost $15), while others you can just drop in. I only attended my aunt’s speech on Saturday night, but next year I will not make the mistake of wasting so many opportunities to hear authors speak.
Sunday afternoon I walked around the street fair. The street fair has many tents or booths for the large publishing houses or large bookstores (like Books and Books). There then also are tents for smaller or more “indie” publishers. There then are a number of tents for bookstores or sellers with a lot of used books, which is a lot of fun to look through for good deals (like a treasure hunt). The “themes” that I picked up for the sellers, besides the major or general publishing houses, were around health, religion/spirituality, history, and then Spanish/Latin booksellers. There also is Writer’s Row, where individual authors are at their own booth at a given time to meet their fans and sell/sign books.
I think it’s pretty obvious to state that books are awesome. And thus a huge fair of tons of books and a diverse collection of books is also very awesome. So the Miami Book Fair International should be on people’s must-do lists in November. I for one am very much looking forward to next year and attending more of the speeches/panels and also being more prepared to buy a lot more books! Pics below of different booths at the fair and a few of the family friendly activities they have set up.
Miami Book Fair International- at Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus
*Admission to the street fair on Saturday and Sunday (with access to the free author speeches/panels) is $8 (general), $5 (13-18 and over 62), and FREE (12 and under).