New Orleans Book Fest 2024: Literary Delight at Tulane University

Michelle Miller & Sheila Johnson at 2024 Book Festival

New Orleans Book Festival Staff

March 27, 2024

The third annual New Orleans Book Fest at Tulane University drew readers of all ages and walks of life to Tulane’s uptown campus, March 14-16. Free and open to the public, the festival presented more than 150 local, regional and national authors, 90+ thought-provoking panel discussions with journalists, poets, musicians, politicians, athletes, and a U.S. General, as well as book signings, a culinary symposium, and Family Day festivities with puppet musicals and story time --- all for attendees to choose from.

The enthusiasm for the fest was palpable as attendees rushed from one venue to another on Tulane’s campus, filling most events to capacity. The feeling that this was the biggest fest yet is supported by the data. Over 15,000 attended, increasing the audience by 20 percent over last year’s fest. 

Stacey Abrams, Steve Gleason, Maggie Haberman, Donna Brazile, Sal Khan, Michael Lewis, Terry McMillan, Gen. David Petraeus, Liz Cheney, Kwame Alexander, Jake Tapper, Clint Smith, Jesmyn Ward, Amor Towles, and Ken Burns drew large crowds as expected, but interest was just as keen for the local sessions such as Richard Campanella and T.R. Johnson's conversation on New Orleans history. 

Unveiling its newly compiled list of the great American novels of the past 100 years, The Atlantic opened the fest with a bang. A booklet with the 136 American novels printed in chronological order was handed out as the audience arrived, revealing a list of great depth and breadth, as well as surprises and perhaps controversy for some. The Atlantic was the official national media partner for this year’s festival. 

A host of acclaimed musicians and chefs shared their stories throughout the weekend. Local musicians Tank Ball and Big Freedia brought their stories to the stage and later, members of The Stooges held a panel discussion. 

The popular culinary track brought together a distinguished lineup of chefs to discuss their New Orleans culinary family legacies. It included Meg Bickford, Edgar “Dook” Chase IV, Ashley Hansen, and E. J. Lagasse, moderated by Kevin Belton. Toya Boudy and John Currence explored southern cuisine, and later Kimbal Musk delved into innovation, food and community.

The weekend included cross-over panels with New Orleans Entrepreneur Week and partner events with Tulane Libraries, including a “living library” exhibition where people playing the role of books shared their diverse and varied life stories.

New to this year’s festival was a session presented in Spanish in collaboration with Tulane’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and author meet-and-greets with Tulane student groups. A musical celebration with the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas, wrapped up the festival with true New Orleans flair and crawfish, putting the icing on this literary cake.

The literary line-up, bookended by live jazz, cooking demonstrations from some of the country’s leading chefs and a Family Day for local kids, clearly mark this book festival as a Mardi Gras for the mind that could only happen in New Orleans.