Shop Thoughts: The Best Literary Weekend of the Year


After the mad dash of the holidays, January feels like a hibernation.  The bookstore is open, of course, and people are reading, but the pace slows significantly.  Browsers use the gift cards they received in December, publishers release a slow stream of New Year, New You books and mysteries, and we all agree to keep to ourselves for a few weeks and regroup.

February and March feel like one long school vacation as public, then private, then universities take winter breaks.  Everyone who comes into the bookstore seems to be traveling somewhere.  Many paperbacks depart our shelves for journeys near and far.

Before we know it, it’s April, and the literary year begins anew.  Stacks of new releases pile up each week.  A series of holidays bring people into the store: Easter, followed by Mother’s Day, followed by Father’s Day, followed by graduations, followed by summer reading.

The last weekend in April kicks off the season in earnest here on the North Shore.  Saturday, April 29 is Independent Bookstore Day, a national celebration of indie bookstores.

April 29 is also the first full day of the Newburyport Literary Festival, which will be hosting in-person events for the first time since 2019.

The North Shore is blessed with a number of independent bookstores, making Independent Bookstore Day the perfect opportunity to take yourself on a bookstore tour and take advantage of the exclusive items for sale, raffles, author appearances, and other ways indie bookstores will be celebrating—stores that include Manchester By the Book in Manchester, The Book Shop of Beverly Farms and Copper Dog Books in Beverly, The Bookstore of Gloucester and Dogtown Books in Gloucester, Susie’s Stories in Rockport, Wicked Good Books in Salem, and Jabberwocky Books in Newburyport.

Meanwhile, to complicate your calendar, throughout the weekend of April 29-30, the Newburyport Literary Festival will be hosting both in-person events on Saturday and online events on Sunday.

Here are some of the Saturday highlights:

  • In the new anthology, Reaching Inside: 50 Acclaimed Authors on 100 Unforgettable Short Stories, Andre Dubus III has compiled a collection of authors writing about short stories that made a lasting impact on their lives and careers. Joining Andre on a panel to dig into these stories are contributors Ann Hood, Peter Orner, and Richard Russo. 
  • Jenny Jackson, Ipswich native and author of the new New York Times bestseller Pineapple Street, will be appearing on a panel with Namrata Patel (The Candid Life of Meena Dave) and Amy Poeppel (The Sweet Spot) about home and how houses can act like characters in their books.
  • Two standout Massachusetts thriller writers, William Landay (author of Defending Jacob and the new book All That is Mine I Carry with Me) and William Martin (author of such classics as Cape Cod and Back Bay and the new book December ‘41) will discuss their new works.   
  • What’s the Maine Idea? Find out when J. Courtney Sullivan leads a discussion on how the Vacation State has inspired a number of authors, including Meg Mitchell Moore (Vacationland), Gigi Georges (Downeast), and Adam White (Midcoast).

On Sunday, while you’re resting from all that book celebrating you did the day before, catch these events (and more) on Zoom:

  • Rebecca Makkai discusses her new smash hit, I Have Some Questions for You, a novel that investigates collective memory when its main character seeks to solve a decades-old campus murder mystery.
  • Do you love listening to audiobooks? Then don’t miss Imogen Church interviewing a panel of star narrators that includes Julia Whelan, JD Jackson, and Edoardo Ballerini. Your ears will thank you.
  • Finally, I’m personally looking forward to moderating a panel on the coming-of-age novel with authors Jessica Anya Blau (Mary Jane), Allegra Goodman (SAM), and Kai Harris (What the Fireflies Knew).

Check for the full schedule of events, mark your calendars, and let the literary season begin!

allegra goodman, kai harris, jessica anya blau, films, video games, william martin, manchester, author, imogen church, creative works, bandai namco games, hannah harlow, richard russo, jenny jackson, mary jane, dave, easter, meg mitchell moore, j. courtney sullivan, maine, susie, rebecca makkai