Shop Thoughts: Get Lit the Last Weekend of April


The best weekend of the year is coming up and if it somehow slipped your mind, I’m here to remind you of all the wonderful things happening the last weekend of April. 

The 17th Annual Newburyport Literary Festival returns April 29 - May 1 as a fully online extravaganza, with dozens and dozens of events across genres and topics, available for you to enjoy from the comfort of your homes — all free and open to the public.  Even better: Saturday, April 30, is also Independent Bookstore Day, a national event that takes place with parties across hundreds of independent bookstores in every state, including right here in Beverly Farms.

Yes, this may cause some consternation.  Do you sit in with the luminous Ann Hood, the superstar Elizabeth Strout, or the brilliant Azar Nafisi on Saturday, or is that time you want to be at the Book Shop picking up exclusive merchandise before it sells out?  (The special Blackwing pencils went fast last year and I expect will again this year.  We’ll also have Indie Bookstore Day tote bags, a special edition of Don Winslow’s newest book, City on Fire, and more.)  I apologize in advance for the anguish you’ll feel.  FOMO is real.  But I suspect you’ll pull through and be the better for it.

The festival opens Friday night with Kim Johnson, whose young-adult novel This is My America explores the nexus of racism and our flawed criminal justice system.  In it, a young woman writes letters to try to save her father, who sits on Death Row.  Then her brother is arrested, accused of murder.  Our hero must figure out what really happened in order to save him from an incarceration he doesn’t deserve.  A powerful read from an incredibly talented author.

Saturday and Sunday events run concurrently, so unfortunately you can’t attend them all.  There are events for poetry, non-fiction, and fiction lovers.  Many authors are local — including Christopher Clarey, who recently penned a biography of Roger Federer, The Master; Lily King talking about her newest short story collection, Five Tuesdays in Winter; Alena Dillon on a panel about motherhood memoirs, highlighting her book My Body is a Big Fat Temple; and Ghlee Woodworth, who will give viewers a boisterous walk through some of the history of Newburyport featured in her book Clipper Heritage Trail Vol. II.

The virtual format also allows the festival to host authors from around the world.  One of my favorite reads from 2021 was the novel Once There Were Wolves, so I’m thrilled that Charlotte McConaghy will be participating from her home in Australia in an event on Saturday night that’s about climate change in fiction.  She’ll be in conversation with Rebecca Scherm, author of the new book The House Between Earth and the Moon, and moderator Julia Carrick Dalton, author of Waiting for the Night Song.

And, if you want to catch yours truly at the festival, I’ll be participating in two events.  First on Saturday, after a screening of Morgan Engel’s 20-minute documentary, The Bookstour, about his cross-country road trip discovering what makes independent bookstores so special, I’ll participate in a panel discussion with Morgan and a couple of my fellow indie booksellers.  Then on Sunday afternoon, I’ll be moderating a panel called “I’m Sorry for Your Loss: Writing About Grief,” with Jenna Blum, author of Woodrow on the Bench; Meredith Hall, author of Beneficence; and Steven Rowley, author of The Guncle.  I promise we’ll laugh more than we’ll cry.

Scour the festival schedule at, map your path, and then come on down to the Book Shop to see what discounts or giveaways you can score for Indie Bookstore Day–we also might have a surprise or two up our sleeves.

Hannah Harlow is owner of The Book Shop, an independent bookstore in Beverly Farms.  Harlow writes biweekly recommendations for us.  See more of what she recommends reading at

meredith hall, ghlee woodworth, roger federer, rebecca scherm, elizabeth strout, kim johnson, christopher clarey, hannah harlow, newburyport, ann hood, alena dillon, azar nafisi, steven rowley, lily king, charlotte mcconaghy, julia carrick dalton, don winslow, jenna blum