By Adina Applebaum

The Edinburgh International Book Festival (via Wikipedia)

Meet book festivals, the music festival’s better behaved older sibling. Though you may have never heard of or attended one yourself, these literary fairs are one of the best ways to discover great new writers, chat up fellow readers and go starry-eyed over your favorite authors. They aren’t just about books, though; these festivals often also feature incredible food, local music and interesting workshops to assist would-be writers in honing their skills — and all without having to worry that your view will be blocked by someone’s XXL flower crown.

Sound good? Keep reading for more reasons why book festivals beat music festivals flat:

(via Flickr)

No Crowd Surfing

Does anyone — whether they’re in the crowd or precariously balanced on the hands of sweaty concert-goers — actually like crowd surfing? Sure, that time in eighth grade when I got to tell my friends that I touched the lead singer of Phoenix’s face got me the equivalent of an hour’s worth of street cred, but during the actual concert, my body was squashed, prodded and basically stomped on. (Let’s not even get started on crowd surfing fails.) Unlike music festival attendees, book fair visitors prefer keeping their hands to themselves; even the most thrilling of readings is unlikely to start a mosh pit.

Iggy Pop in questionably appropriate attire for the 2009 Miami Book Fair International (via Flickr)

Iggy Pop and Al Gore in the Same Place

No, this isn’t a weird reality television show; both men were guests at the 2009 Miami Book Fair International (along with Joyce Carol Oates, Ralph Nader and others). And sure, you can find Iggy at a music festival, but you won’t see Al Gore entertaining the crowd after him. Another unlikely duo you can catch in the same place when you attend a book festival: Adelle Waldman and Mobb Deep member Prodigy. Yeah.

Lee Bennett Hopkins at a 1990 Miami Book Fair workshop for children (via Wikimedia)


While music festivals might help you learn how to hide drugs in your underwear (to be fair, not a useless skill), they aren’t going to teach you how to make music. Many book festivals, on the other hand, run workshops and seminars for aspiring authors.

Well-behaved Ken Kesey fangirls at the 1984 Miami Book Fair (via Florida Memory)

Better Fans

There’s no guarantee that a fellow guest at a Dave Eggers reading isn’t going to pee on you, but if avoiding public urination is a goal of yours, you’re probably better off sharing a room with Eggers devotees than with a field full of Eminem fans.

(via Flickr)

All Your Favorite Authors in One Place

There are many, many music festivals, which is great because it means the likelihood of finding one close to home is far higher, but a consequence is that all your favorite bands can’t be in the same place at once. Book festivals, although less frequent, bring together a high percentage literary world’s heavyweights, so you can go straight from losing yourself in a Tom Wolfe reading to planning your wedding to Junot Diaz as he speaks.

Neil Gaiman at the 2013 Edinburgh International Book Festival (via Edinburgh International Book Festival)

Book Signings

If the thought of getting the signature of your all-time favorite artist makes you swoon, you’ll have better luck approaching your favorite writer after a book-fair-sponsored speech than chasing down Lady Gaga following her encore.

C’mon, would Hunter S. Thompson be at the 1988 Miami Book Fair if there wasn’t any liquor? (via Wikipedia)

There’s Still Booze

Both types of festivals have drinks — at book festivals, though, you’re far less likely to encounter the type of drunken fans who spill their beers down your back. And while, okay, you probably won’t find anyone high on ecstasy at the Mitch Albom reading, it seems safe to say that not everyone who comes to hear Tao Lin speak will be totally sober.

We don’t mean to hate on music festivals; after all, books and bands make a pretty winning team. Weekend-long concerts definitely have their perks, but if you thought book fairs were only for the 60-and-older crowd, think again.

Do you have a book festival story (good or bad)? Or anything to add to this list? Tell us below in the comments!

Adina Applebaum is Michigan native studying English and creative writing at Barnard College. Her crowning achievements in life are memorizing all the lyrics on The Slim Shady LP and eating an entire gallon of chocolate-covered raisins during orientation week of college.

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