Persistence paid off for Deborah Porter. “We’ve been trying to get Doris Kearns Goodwin to the festival for years,” says the founder of the Boston Book Festival, whose sixth annual installment brings more than 50 free events—including a history keynote from the Pulitzer-winning Goodwin—to Copley Square Oct. 23-25. The author of The Bully Pulpit is one of five keynote speakers, along with Thirty Girls novelist Susan Minot, 14-time Grammy winner and first-time memoirist Herbie Hancock, Pritzker-winning architect Norman Foster and kids’ keynote Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series (“Someone called the office yesterday to say they’re driving here from Ohio to see him,” Porter confides). And there’s a host of intriguing happenings beyond the headliners, from Writer Idol, where literary agents will pick apart the first page of hopefuls’ manuscripts, to a literary jam session with authors of musically themed novels and the indie-rockers of the Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library. To tide us over till the fest, we asked Porter about her reading list of late.


What’s on her bedside table right now: “I am reading Euphoria by Lily King, who is presenting this year. It’s based on the life of Margaret Mead—really enjoying it. I’ve also been reading Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia. He too will be appearing at the BBF. And I’ve been dipping into The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. It is fascinating, but oh so depressing.”

The last book that kept her awake: “Hmm. Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land. It had a great deal of meaning to me, and it was at times very difficult to read.”

What she’ll read next: “Jennifer Haigh, author of our One City One Story pick, ‘Sublimation,’ has recommended Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North as well as Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson. Looking forward to those. After the BBF.”

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