With over 800 events planned for two weeks in August, one of the best things about the Edinburgh International Book Festival is that — whatever your interests and favoured genres — you can plot a personal path through the talks, signings and events to meet your own tastes.
This year is no different, and with my interest in magic realism & fairytale, historical fiction and young adult writing, my own meandering journey through Charlotte Square Gardens this year promises to be rewarding indeed.
Opening with young adult author Patrick Ness, discussing his new novel for (old?) adults The Crane Wife, the first day of the festival also features the many lives and many layers of Life After Life with Kate Atkinson, and the mythic YA fantasy of Michelle Paver.
The next few days see a dip into YA humour & adventure with Barry Hutchison and the ever-entertaining Eoin Colfer; Ian Rankin on the return of Rebus; the always brilliant A L Kennedy; and a crystal ball peek into the future of publishing at Future Books.
David Ashton promises some Victorian Edinburgh intrigue with Inspector Levy, whilst Melvin Burgess & Jeremy Dyson look set to provide a horrifying evening (in the best possible sense).
More evidence of the book as time machine comes from James Runcie & Sara Sheridan, who bring their Christie-like crime counterparts Sidney Chambers and Mirabelle Bevan; Kate Mosse, who will speak about Citadel, the third novel in her Languedoc series; then Lauren Beukes and Mikhail Shishkin, who will weave their time-travelling tales on the 23rd.
The patron saint of fairytale Neil Gaiman arrives on the 22nd for the first of several appearances, talking about his new novel Ocean At The End Of The Lane, whilst Charlie Higson and children’s laureate Malorie Blackman will definitely be YA highlights.
The Stripped comics & graphic novels mini-festival flexes its superhero muscles on the weekend of the 24th and 25th, with appearances from Bryan & Mary Talbot, a retrospective on groundbreaking Brit-comic 2000AD, and Gaiman on his seminal Sandman series.
Another literary giant inspired by myth and fairytale, Margaret Atwood makes her first appearance at this year’s festival on the 24th, then co-hosts two unmissable events with Ian Rankin and Neil Gaiman on the 26th.
Perhaps the most poignant event will be A Celebration of Iain Banks on the 25th, where Ian Rankin, Ken MacLeod, Val McDermid — together with what is bound to be a sell-out audience — pay tribute to the late author. As I mentioned before, even if I could only make it along to one event this year, this would be it.
There is more I plan to see. Debates on the future of publishing, yet more YA authors, spending too much in the bookshops, and random trips to Unbound in the festival’s own Spiegeltent. And even just soaking up the unique literary oasis atmosphere which the Book Festival always bestows upon Charlotte Square (even if it’s raining and the rubber ducks come out…)
As I’ll be covering all of this for Edinburgh Spotlight, my own writing is bound to take a bit of a back seat during August.
However, I don’t mind in the slightest: I know I’ll come out the other end moved, enlightened and — above all — inspired by what is my favourite of all city’s many festivals.