Maybe it's because we're home to the University of Texas, but Austin is one book-loving town. An independent bookstore is one of our local landmarks, and we pack downtown every fall when the Texas Book Festival takes over the area around the Capitol. Besides innumerable avid readers, we're home to noted authors including Lawrence Wright ("Going Clear"), Sarah Bird ("Above the East China Sea"), Ernest Cline ("Ready Player One"), and Chris Tomlinson ("Tomlinson Hill"), among others. Our most famous literary residents of the past were O. Henry (a.k.a. William Sydney Porter), known for short stories like "The Gift of the Magi," and James A. Michener, the author of epic best-sellers such as "Hawaii" and "Texas." Michener spent the last 15 years of his life here and endowed the MFA program in writing at UT, ensuring exciting new works will always come out of Austin. Consider yourself a bibliophile? Check out the following festivals and bookstores the next time you’re in town.
Founded in 1970, this is one of the nation's leading independent bookstores. It's a popular stop for touring authors, from Stephen King to Garrison Keillor. Other events, such as book clubs and kids' story times, round out the calendar. Or you could just spend hours blissfully browsing the two floors of books, magazines, cards and gifts.
Texas Book Festival
Setting (in and around the Texas Capitol), timing (autumn with its mild weather) and characters (big-name authors, plus thousands of book lovers) all come together to make the free Texas Book Festival one of the best times to be in Austin. Former U.S. and Texas first lady Laura Bush is the founder.
Texas Teen Book Festival
This free event celebrating young adult literature has grown fast since its start in 2009. Authors such as James Dashner (the "Maze Runner" series) and Gayle Forman ("If I Stay") speak and sign books for YA fans of all ages. I'm a social media volunteer, so I'll see you there!
Harry Ransom Center
At the University of Texas' Ransom Center, you can view a Gutenberg Bible and enjoy literary events such as lectures and Poetry on the Plaza. The vast holdings include papers from authors including Walt Whitman, Jack Kerouac and David Foster Wallace. Holdings are featured in rotating exhibits, or curators can help you with access.
Dragon's Lair Comics and Fantasy
Besides an extensive selection of comic books and graphic novels, Dragon's Lair offers board and card games, as well as game guides. It's also a community hub for gamers, with leagues for games including Warhammer and Dungeons & Dragons and plenty of space to play. Staff members are knowledgeable and helpful — including the store cats.