Last year, my friend Allison came into possession of a Pepper Society Membership at the Philadelphia Free Library. Her mother is a collector of books and decided to donate her entire catalog of children’s books to the library (that’s around 1,000 books—some rare, some first editions) that entitled her to be a Pepper. Allison’s mother lives out of state, so Allison gets to take advantage of all the benefits of membership, which include tickets to author events at the library, and she’s been kind enough to invite me along as her plus one. Some of the events are free and anyone can attend; others require a ticket and, as Peppers, we get preferred seating and the opportunity to hob nob with other Peppers (and authors, sometimes) at pre-event receptions. We attended several events last year and the new season recently started.
The whole experience has been great fun, hearing some of my favorite authors read their work, talk about how they get from point A to point Q, and answer questions from the audience. But I have to say that the best part is the opportunity to hear from authors I know about but have not read and some authors I’ve never heard of.
The first two author events this year were with authors I’ve heard a lot about, and have even heard interviewed, but have never read. The first author this season was on September 6 with Jonathan Safran Foer. He wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I confess I had not even heard of until the movie came out in 2011 and still have not read. His most recent novel is Hear I Am. And, no, I haven’t read that one yet, either. The second author, on September 27, was Colson Whitehead. The first time I heard about him was when he was interviewed by Terry Gross about his zombie novel Zone One. The novel that came out this year is called Underground Railroad and is on the fiction shortlist for a National Book Award.
Because I haven’t read either book, I recommend you read our staff picks to get more insight into what they’re about and why you should pick them up yourself. All I’ll say is that hearing these two men read from their novels (they are both great readers, by the way), talk about why they write and how they write, and answer audience questions with thoughtfulness and humility was more than enough to move both books to the top of my reading list.
Author events, no matter where they happen, are great ways to meet the authors you love and discover new ones. And you don’t have to go to Philadelphia to do it. The Newtown Bookshop has author events throughout the year, some in the store and others at local schools and libraries. You can learn about upcoming Newtown Bookshop author visits here.