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Conversations with Authors

Live sessions with the writers and thinkers most committed to America’s independent bookstores

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Coming Up Next

Wednesday, September 23rd

7:00est/4:00pst

in conversation with Laura van den Berg

Sigrid Nunez’s new novel What Are You Going Througha surprising story about empathy and the unusual ways one person can help another through hardship – offers a moving and provocative portrait of the way we live now.

Sigrid is the author of the novels Salvation City, The Last of Her Kind, A Feather on the Breath of God, For Rouenna, and the National Book Award-winning The Friend, among others. She is also the author of Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag. She has been the recipient of several awards, including a Whiting Award, the Rome Prize in Literature, and a Berlin Prize Fellowship. Nunez lives in New York City.

Laura van den Berg is the author of the story collections What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us and The Isle of Youth, and the novels Find Me and The Third Hotel, which was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. She is the recipient of a Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Bard Fiction Prize, a PEN/O. Henry Prize, a MacDowell Colony fellowship, and is a two-time finalist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her third collection of stories, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, was published in July. Born and raised in Florida, Laura splits her time between the Boston area and Central Florida, with her husband and dog.

Anne Lamott
Isabel Allende

Welcome to Conversations with Authors!

For more than 40 years, Book Passage has been the welcoming home for readers. And now, we’re pleased to share a remarkable schedule of conversations with many of our favorite authors—many long-time friends of Book Passage—well beyond the Bay Area.

Please join us here each week together with great authors and thinkers to share ideas and celebrate our community. These live, free, intimate conversations explore what it means to be living through these times, and what it means to stay connected to the people and the ideas that bind us.

Register once, and you’re guaranteed a seat at every upcoming Conversations with Authors event. You’ll be invited to help shape each session in advance by prioritizing the issues we discuss, and you’ll have the chance to ask additional questions during each conversation. You can also view the free archive of any event you might have missed, any time you like.

Welcome to Conversations with Authors!

Join us live.

Register once, and join us for every upcoming conversation.

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Wednesday, September 23rd

7:00est/4:00pst

in conversation with Laura van den Berg

Sigrid Nunez’s new novel What Are You Going Througha surprising story about empathy and the unusual ways one person can help another through hardship – offers a moving and provocative portrait of the way we live now.

Sigrid is the author of the novels Salvation City, The Last of Her Kind, A Feather on the Breath of God, For Rouenna, and the National Book Award-winning The Friend, among others. She is also the author of Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag. She has been the recipient of several awards, including a Whiting Award, the Rome Prize in Literature, and a Berlin Prize Fellowship. Nunez lives in New York City.

Laura van den Berg is the author of the story collections What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us and The Isle of Youth, and the novels Find Me and The Third Hotel, which was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. She is the recipient of a Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Bard Fiction Prize, a PEN/O. Henry Prize, a MacDowell Colony fellowship, and is a two-time finalist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her third collection of stories, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, was published in July. Born and raised in Florida, Laura splits her time between the Boston area and Central Florida, with her husband and dog.

Saturday, September 26th

7:00est/4:00pst

in conversation with Chuck Wendig

Terry VirtsHow to Astronaut is an insider’s guide to an experience few will ever know firsthand – the highs, lows, humor, and wonder of experiences including survival training, space shuttle emergencies, bad bosses, putting on a spacesuit, time travel, and more.

Colonel Terry Virts is a pilot, astronaut, author and photographer. Terry earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the United States Air Force Academy in 1989, and a master of aeronautical science degree in aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He began his career as an Air Force officer and pilot he was stationed in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, South Korea, Germany, California, and Texas. He has logged over 5,300 flight hours in more than 40 different aircraft including combat time in the F-16 “Viper.” He has also served in multiple flying commands, Space Command, and Cyber Command.

In 2010 he made his first spaceflight as pilot of the Space Shuttle Endeavour on mission STS-130 ; delivering the now-famous Cupola, which provides astronauts with a 360° view of our planet and the universe. Virts attended Harvard Business School in the fall of 2011 and completed the General Management Programme, having been selected as NASA’s only candidate for that programme.

Selected by NASA in 2000, he was the pilot of STS-130 mission aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. In March 2015, Terry assumed command of the International Space Station, and spent over 200 days on it. He is one of the stars (and photographers) of the IMAX film, A Beautiful Planet, released in April 2016. He is also the author of View from Above. He is also one of only 4 astronauts ever to have piloted a space shuttle, flown on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, performed space walks and commanded the ISS.

Chuck Wendig is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Aftermath, as well as the Miriam Black thrillers, the Atlanta Burns books, and the Heartland YA series, alongside other works across comics, games, film, and more. A finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the cowriter of the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus, he is also known for his popular blog, terribleminds.com, and his books about writing. He lives in Pennsylvania with his family.

Sunday, September 27th

7:00est/4:00pst

in conversation with Peggy Orenstein

Michael Ian Black‘s A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son, is both poignant look at boyhood in the form of a heartfelt letter from the comedian to his teenage son before he leaves for college, and a radical plea for rethinking masculinity and teaching young men to give and receive love.

Michael is an actor, comedian, and writer who started his career with the sketch comedy show The State, on MTV, and has created and starred in many other television shows. Movie appearances include Wet Hot American Summer, The Baxter, and Sextuplets.

Michael is the author of several books for children, including the award-winning I’m Bored, I’m Sad, and I’m Worried, and the parody A Child’s First Book of Trump. His books for adults include the memoirs You’re Not Doing It Right and Navel Gazing, and the essay collection My Custom Van. Michael also co-authored with Meghan McCain America, You Sexy Bitch.

As a stand-up comedian, Michael regularly tours the country, and he has released several comedy albums. His podcasts include Mike & Tom Eat Snacks, with Tom Cavanagh; Topics, with Michael Showalter; How to Be Amazing; and Obscure. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children.

Peggy Orenstein is the author of the New York Times best-sellers Boys & Sex, Girls & SexCinderella Ate My Daughter and Waiting for Daisy as well as Don’t Call Me Princess, Flux, and the classic SchoolGirls.

A contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and AFAR, Peggy has also written for such publications as The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, New York, The Atlantic and The New Yorker, and has contributed commentaries to NPR’s All Things Considered . She has been featured on, among other programs, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, The Today Show, Morning Joe, NPR’s Fresh Air and The PBS News Hour. Her TED Talk, “What Young Women Believe About Their Own Sexual Pleasure,” has been viewed over five million times.

Wednesday, September 30th

7:00est/4:00pst

in conversation with Andrew Sean Greer

Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager’s new book, The Writer’s Library: The Authors You Love on the Books That Changed Their Lives is an inspiring collection of interviews with America’s most notable and influential writers, conversations about the books that shaped them and inspired them to leave their own literary mark.

Nancy regularly speaks about the importance and pleasure of reading at libraries, literacy organizations, and community groups around the world. She can be found on NPR’s Morning Edition and KWGS-FM in Tulsa, Oklahoma talking about her favorite books. Her monthly television show on the Seattle Channel, Book Lust with Nancy Pearl, features interviews with authors, poets, and other literary figures. Among her many honors are the 2011 Librarian of the Year Award from Library Journal and the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. Nancy is the creator of the internationally recognized program If All of Seattle Read the Same Book, and was the inspiration for the Archee McPhee “Librarian Action Figure.” Nancy is a best-selling author, librarian, and literary critic, but first and foremost, she is a reader and has spent her life promoting reading as one of the most beneficial and joyful experiences anyone can have.

Jeff is a Seattle-based journalist and playwright. Book-It Repertory Theatre produced his adaptation of Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson in 2013. The following year, the company’s five-hour stage version of his adaptation of Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay won Theatre Puget Sound’s Gregory Award for Outstanding Production. He lives on Queen Anne Hill, in a Craftsman house built in 1913, with his partner Megan and his pug Edgar.

Andrew Sean Greer is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of six works of fiction, including the bestsellers The Confessions of Max Tivoli and Less. He has taught at a number of universities, including the Iowa Writers Workshop, been a TODAY show pick, a New York Public Library Cullman Center Fellow, a judge for the National Book Award, and a winner of the California Book Award and the New York Public Library Young Lions Award. Andrew is the recipient of a NEA grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He lives in San Francisco.

Saturday, October 3rd

7:00est/4:00pst

in conversation with Michael Krasny

P. J. O’Rourke‘s latest, A Cry from the Far Middle, asks his fellow Americans to take it down a notch, offering a new collection of essays about our nation’s propensity for anger and perplexity.

P.J has written twenty books on subjects as diverse as politics and cars and etiquette and economics. Parliament of Whores and Give War a Chance both reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. He is also H. L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute, a regular panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me, and editor-in-chief of the web magazine American Consequences. His latest book, A Cry from the Far Middle: Dispatches from a Divided Land will be published in September. He lives in rural New England, as far away from the things he writes about as he can get.

Michael Krasny has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life, Spiritual Envy, and Let There Be Laughter, as well as the twenty-four lecture series Short Story Masterpieces.

Sunday, October 4th

7:00est/4:00pst

Bobbie Ann Mason‘s new release, Dear Ann, is beautifully crafted and profoundly moving novel which follows a woman as she looks back over her life and her first love.

Her first short stories were published in The New Yorker, during the 1980s renaissance of the short story, when writers such as Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, and Tobias Wolff came to prominence. Her first book of fiction, Shiloh & Other Stories, won the PEN/Hemingway Award and was nominated for the American Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. She received an Arts and Letters Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The title story, “Shiloh,” about a disabled trucker whose wife is not used to having him at home, has been widely anthologized in college textbooks. The couple’s trip to the Civil War battleground of Shiloh began for Mason a recurring preoccupation with the theme of war.

Her first novel, In Country is taught widely in classes and was made into a Norman Jewison film starring Bruce Willis and Emily Lloyd. It is about a teenager whose father died in Vietnam before she was born. She is coming of age, now desperate to know more about her father. The Girl in the Blue Beret, ventures into World War II and the ways it is remembered. Her memoir, Clear Springs, about an American farm family throughout the twentieth century, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her book of linked stories, Nancy Culpepper, is inspired by this family, and she says that while the circumstances are different, this is the work of fiction most closely identified with her own life and sensibility.

Tuesday, October 6th

7:00est/4:00pst

in conversation with Sam Ricks

Annie Barrows’ new release, Iggy is Better Than Ever, is the second book in the her wonderful children’s book series that demonstrates how causing a little bit of trouble can sometimes be a whole lot of fun.

Annie wrote several non-fiction books on topics ranging from fortune-telling to opera before turning her attention to children’s books. In 2006, the first book in her children’s series, Ivy + Bean was published. This title, an ALA Notable Book for 2007, was followed by nine others. The Ivy + Bean series appears with some regularity on the New York Times best-seller list and a number of other national best-seller lists. The Ivy + Bean books have been translated into fourteen languages; in 2013 Ivy + Bean: The Musical premiered in the San Francisco Bay Area. A novel for older children, The Magic Half, was published by BloomsburyUSA in 2008. Its sequel, Magic in the Mix, came out in 2014.

In addition to her children’s books, Annie is the co-author, with her aunt Mary Ann Shaffer, of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was published by The Dial Press in 2008. A New York Times best-seller, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has been published in thirty-seven countries and thirty-two languages.

She lives in Northern California with her husband and two daughters.

Sam Ricks is the illustrator of the Iggy Series. He has illustrated more than 20 books for kids, including the Geisel Award-winning Mo series. He lives with his family in Utah.

Wednesday, October 7th

7:00est/4:00pst

in conversation with Don George

Eric Weiner’s Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons From Dead Philosophers combines his twin passions for philosophy and global travel in a pilgrimage that uncovers surprising life lessons from philosophers around the world, from Marcus Aurelius to Arthur Schopenhauer, Confucius to Montaigne.

Eric is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, and speaker. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Geography of Bliss and The Geography of Genius, as well as the critically acclaimed Man Seeks God. Eric is a former foreign correspondent for NPR, and reporter for The New York Times. He is a regular contributor to The Washington Post, BBC Travel, and AFAR, among other publications. He lives in the Washington, D.C. area

Don George is an editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler magazine, as well as host of the National Geographic Live series of conversations with notable authors. In four decades as a travel writer and editor, Don has visited more than 90 countries on five continents. He has traveled throughout—and written extensively about—Europe and Asia. He has also lived in France, Greece, and Japan, working as a translator in Paris, a teacher in Athens, and a television talk show host in Tokyo. Don is the author of The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George, and has received dozens of writing awards, including the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year Award.

Saturday, October 10th

7:00est/4:00pst

in conversation with Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Rumaan Alam’s latest release, the National Book Award-nominated Leave the World Behind, is a magnetic novel about two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together on a long weekend gone terribly wrong.

Rumaan Alam is the author of the novels Rich and Pretty, That Kind of Mother, and Leave the World Behind. His writing has appeared in The New York TimesNew York MagazineThe New YorkerThe New York Review of Books, Bookforum, and the New Republic, where he is a contributing editor. He studied writing at Oberlin College and lives in New York with his family.

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is the author of the instant New York Times bestseller The Nest. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children. Her second novel Good Company will be published in May 2021.

Wednesday, October 14th

7:00est/4:00pst

in conversation with Isabel Allende

Elizabeth Lesser’s newest book Cassandra Speaks: When Women are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes reveals how humanity has outgrown its origin tales and hero myths, and empowers women to trust their instincts, find their voice, and tell new guiding stories.

Elizabeth is a bestselling author and the cofounder of Omega Institute, the renowned conference and retreat center located in Rhinebeck, New York. Elizabeth’s first book, The Seeker’s Guide, chronicles her years at Omega and distills lessons learned into a potent guide for growth and healing. Her New York Times bestselling book, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, has sold more than 300,000 copies and has been translated into 20 languages. Her Marrow: Love, Loss and What Matters Most is a memoir about Elizabeth and her younger sister, Maggie, and the process they went through when Elizabeth was the donor for Maggie’s bone marrow transplant.

Today, besides writing and her work at Omega Institute, she lends her time to social and environmental causes, and is an avid walker, cook, gardener, friend, mother, grandmother, and homebody. She and her husband live in New York’s Hudson River Valley.

Isabel Allende—novelist, feminist, and philanthropist—is one of the most widely-read authors in the world, having sold more than 74 million books. In addition to her work as a writer, Allende devotes much of her time to human rights causes. In 1996, following the death of her daughter Paula, she established a charitable foundation in her honor, which has awarded grants to more than 100 nonprofits worldwide, delivering life-changing care to hundreds of thousands of women and girls. More than 8 million have watched her TED Talks on leading a passionate life.

Thursday, October 15th

7:00est/4:00pst

Steph Kent and Logan Smalley’s book, The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book, is a revival of the yellow-pages directory you remember, but instead of contact information, it is filled with messages collected from book lovers all over the United States about the books that have changed their lives. 

Steph is a writer, multimedia producer, and former host of the literary radio show on Anchor. She is currently Special Projects Director on the Webby Award–winning Masters of Scale podcast, and led The Wall Street Journal team in product management for their mobile-first news app. As a freelance producer, she works with startups and companies making the world a better place, including Singularity University, National Geographic, The Emerson Collective, and XPRIZE, among others. Steph writes a weekly newsletter on creativity, and is a competitive boxer.

Logan is the founding director of TED’s youth and education initiative, TED-Ed—an award-winning website, content format, and program offering that serves millions of teachers and students every day. Prior to working for TED, Logan was selected as a TED Fellow for his roles as director, editor, and composer of the nonprofit, feature-length film, Darius Goes West. Logan began his career as a special education teacher in his hometown of Athens, GA, and he currently lives and works in New York City.

Saturday, October 17th

7:00est/4:00pst

in conversation with Michael Schapiro

Pico Iyer’s A Beginner’s Guide to Japan draws on his years of experience — his travels, conversations, readings, and reflections — to craft a playful and profound book of surprising, brief, incisive glimpses into Japanese culture. His Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells is a moving elegy on the passage of time and the passing of loved ones, including Pico’s Japanese father-in-law.

Pico is a British-born essayist and novelist, often known for his travel writing. He is the author of numerous books on crossing cultures including Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk and The Global Soul. An essayist for Time since 1986, he also publishes regularly in Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and other publications. He has travelled widely, from North Korea to Easter Island, and from Paraguay to Ethiopia, while writing thirteen works of non-fiction and two novels. Since 1992 Pico has spent much of his time at a Benedictine hermitage in Big Sur, California, and most of the rest in suburban Japan.

Michael Shapiro writes about travel, food, entertainment, art, and environmental issues for magazines and newspapers. A former staff reporter and editor at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, he’s the author of The Creative Spark, a collection of interviews with many of the world’s most creative people, as well as A Sense of Place featuring conversations with leading travel writers. His stories appear in National Geographic Traveler, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and many other publications. 

Saturday, October 24th

7:00est/4:00pst

in conversation with Sheila Heti

Claire Messud‘s latest release Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write opens a window on her own life: a peripatetic upbringing; a warm, complicated family; and, throughout it all, her devotion to art and literature.

Claire is a recipient of Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellowships and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Author of six works of fiction including, The Burning Girl, The Emperor’s Children, and The Woman Upstairs. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her family.

Sheila Heti is the author of eight books of fiction and non-fiction, including the novels Motherhood,  How Should a Person Be? and Ticknor, and the story collection, The Middle Stories. She was named one of “The New Vanguard” by The New York Times; a list of fifteen women writers from around the world who are “shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century.”

Her books have been translated into twenty-two languages. Her most recent novel, Motherhood, was chosen by the book critics at the New York Times as one of their top books of 2018, and New York magazine chose it as the best book of the Year. Her novel, How Should a Person Be? was named one of the 12 “New Classics of the 21st century” by Vulture. It was a New York Times Notable Book, a best book of the year in The New Yorker, and was cited by Time as “one of the most talked-about books of the year.”

Wednesday, October 28th

7:00est/4:00pst

in conversation with Tom Barbash

Mikel Jollett‘s remarkable new memoir of a tumultuous life, Hollywood Park, is both the story of a man born into one of the country’s most infamous cults and subjected to a childhood filled with poverty, addiction, and emotional abuse; and the story of fierce love and family loyalty told in a raw, poetic voice that signals the emergence of a uniquely gifted writer

Mikel is the frontman of the indie band The Airborne Toxic Event. Prior to forming the band, he graduated with honors from Stanford University. Mikel was an on-air columnist for NPR’s All Things Considered, an editor-at-large for Men’s Health and an editor at Filter magazine. His fiction has been published in McSweeney’s.

Tom Barbash is the author of the novels The Dakota Winters and  The Last Good Chance and the non-fiction books On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, and 9/11; A Story of Loss and Renewal, which was a New York Times bestseller. His stories and articles have been published in Tin House, McSweeney’s, Virginia Quarterly Review, and other publications, and have been performed on National Public Radio’s Selected Shorts series. He currently teaches in the MFA program at California College of the Arts. He grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and now lives in Marin County, California