Home Sponsored Wisconsin Book Festival Celebrates 20th Anniversary With Free Books at Upcoming Events

Wisconsin Book Festival Celebrates 20th Anniversary With Free Books at Upcoming Events

Kwame Onwuachi. Photo supplied.

Special promotional content provided by Wisconsin Book Festival.

The Wisconsin Book Festival marks its 20th anniversary this year, with two signature upcoming events featuring James Beard Award-winning chef Kwame Onwuachi and best-selling author James Patterson, plus free books for all their attendees.

Raised in the Bronx, Nigeria and Louisiana, former Top Chef contestant and now recurring judge Onwuachi will discuss his first cookbook, My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chef. The Culinary Institute of America graduate opened five restaurants before age 30, and is also a Zagat and Forbes a 30 Under 30 honoree. The event is at 7 p.m. Monday, May 23, in Central Library’s Community Room.

Patterson will discuss his autobiography, James Patterson by James Patterson: The Stories of My Life, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, in Overture Center for the Arts’ Capitol Theater. Guests will learn how a boy from small-town New York and whose father lived in the poorhouse became the world’s most successful storyteller.




Thanks to a gift from the Cheryl Rosen Weston Estate, event guests will receive free copies of the two books.

The Wisconsin Humanities Council started the Wisconsin Book Festival in 2001, but after a re-evaluation of its strategic plan, it approached the library to take over the event. In 2013, Madison Public Library — in partnership with Madison Public Library Foundation — assumed the festival’s ownership. Well-known authors with local ties, such as David Maraniss, signed on to participate in the festival, and have returned time and again as new books are written. 

The library eventually transitioned the festival into a year-round event to provide more consistent opportunities for connection with authors, publishers, media and book lovers. It also gave the festival a flagship location for events when Central Library was rebuilt in 2013, and it boosted its efforts to feature a diverse lineup of participants that includes local and award-winning authors, many authors of color, LGBTQ authors and a wide range of literary genres.

“We’re incredibly proud to be our region’s source for free programs that give our community access to a wide range of authors and literary masters, from first-time local writers to acclaimed, award-winning authors and poets,” said Wisconsin Book Festival Director Conor Moran, who has provided festival leadership since 2014. “We love the role we play in being the place for voices — especially the underrepresented — to express their ideas and shape community conversations that deepen our knowledge and understanding, and intensify the desire to read and learn.”

When the pandemic began, the festival quickly adapted its programs to an all-virtual format and became a national leader in the book festival world. It continues to offer some virtual programs via Crowdcast.

Madison Public Library Foundation annually raises funds and solicits grants for nearly half the festival’s operational costs, including the director’s salary and travel expenses for authors. 

The festival will announce the schedule for its annual fall festival celebration (October 13–16) in late summer. Visit wisconsinbookfestival.org for a current schedule.