Must-see panels at the Festival of the Book


Chip Kidd took time off from designing book covers for his own book, Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design. Chip Kidd took time off from designing book covers for his own book, Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design.

Each March, visiting and local literati of all ages and reading preferences fill Charlottesville for the annual Virginia Festival of the Book. History buffs and romance readers mingle with self-published writers and award-winning authors including John GrishamLois Lowry, and John Lewis.

Attendees have lots of choices to make during the five-day festival (March 19-23). Elaborate transportation routes are planned to get from one venue to the next and it’s a struggle to find a window to eat between author panels. Inevitably, there are sessions that slip through the cracks or hold a conflicting time slot. There are also the can’t-miss moments.

Sometimes obvious, sometimes buried deep in the schedule, these are the hidden gems sought by festival goers. The 2014 panels offer two such opportunities with authors who are especially notable for being offbeat and off the beaten path.

You know Chip Kidd. Perhaps not by name, but if you’ve ever picked up a copy of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic ParkDavid Sedaris’ Naked, or Haruki Murakami’s IQ84, then you’ve held his work in your hands. You can get to know Kidd a bit better through a special StoryFest presentation on his recent book, Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design.

As a graphic designer known for his book covers, Kidd is quirky and engaging. A focus on typography and visual puns imbues his designs with a distinct personality that is easily identifiable on coffee tables, bookstore displays, and library shelves around the world. Words can’t do justice to the designs, but a stunning amount of his work is collected in Chip Kidd: Book One: Work: 1986-2006. Go take a look; I’ll be holding your place here when you get back.

Infinitely versatile, Kidd is also a writer. Much like his book covers, Kidd’s two novels (The Cheese Monkeys and The Learners) are witty and colorful explorations of graphic design. Autobiographical in parts, with main characters who are practicing graphic designers, the novels are accessible and fun to read.

Taking a break from fiction, Kidd’s recent authorial stint led to the publication of a graphic design guide for children. Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design features easy -to-understand explanations of the design process, samples from some of the modern design masters, and hands-on projects to try. The book’s Tumblr ( even has a way to submit designs (your own or your child’s; no one has to know) created during these projects. This book—and really all of Kidd’s work—is meant to draw attention to the art form of graphic design and bring awareness to the design that goes into every aspect of our daily lives. Whether it’s a book cover, a gum wrapper, or a printed festival schedule, you’ll never look at the world the same after an encounter with Chip Kidd.

Chip Kidd and Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design” will be held on March 22 at 4pm in the Monroe Room at the Omni Hotel. The event is free and open to the public.

Off the beaten path

There are guidebooks to help you find the best jazz club in New Orleans or the most authentic pizza in Naples, and then there are books for travelers seeking the furthest corners of the world. Bradt travel guides are the latter, meant for adventurers—and armchair adventurers—but certainly not for your average ski bunny or beach bum planning an upcoming vacation. For example, new releases include guides to Borneo, Sudan, Jordan, and Zimbabwe.

In an ideal world, my bag would have been packed before I even finished writing that sentence, and I’d be on a plane to Harare by now. But that would mean missing Hilary Bradt’s Festival of the Book presentation, where she’ll share tales of her own travel adventures as well as her similarly daring efforts in forming Bradt Travel Guides Ltd.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the publishing company prints travel memoirs as well as adventure guides, including the founder’s breathtaking story of crossing Ireland on horseback. The theme that runs through all Bradt books is that of sustainable travel. For example, a popular series is on slow travel (similar to the slow food movement). All of the titles, though, are packed from cover to cover with helpful information, informed tips, and a uniquely engaging degree of the individual writer’s personality. The publisher also offers a Bradtpackers newsletter for readers interested in having these tantalizing travel tales delivered directly to their inbox.

Though Bradt’s wanderlust was born out of a deep love for Laurence Olivier and a theater mishap, her first travel guide was written while floating down the Amazon River. She seemingly hasn’t stopped adventuring, writing, leading tours, and publishing since. Thus far, she’s written 14 books and helped create an international community of adventurers who share her curiosity. Bradt will be sharing in person at “Wild Adventures and Extreme Publishing with Hilary Bradt,” moderated by Jeanne Siler on March 21 at 10am at a free panel in the City Council Chambers.

Share your favorite authors with us in the comments section below.

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