Union-Tribune Festival of Books returns in person this Saturday, this time on USD campus

Thousands of people flocked to the San Diego Union-Tribune Festival of Books at Liberty Station.
Thousands of people flocked to the San Diego Union-Tribune Festival of Books, at Liberty Station, August 24, 2019, in San Diego, California.
(Howard Lipin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

More than 75 authors will be on hand as part of a daylong schedule that includes 50-plus panel discussions and workshops


The sixth San Diego Union-Tribune Festival of Books on Saturday is the first one happening in person since 2019. It’s also the first at a new home: the campus of the University of San Diego.

This move to USD follows three years of book festivals at Liberty Station in Point Loma and two virtual festivals necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost half of the hilltop campus will be utilized for events, activities and live entertainment, with parking structures at either end of the campus and tram service available for visitors.

On-campus locations for book festivals are generally the norm, as with the Tucson Festival of Books at the University of Arizona and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the largest in the U.S., held at the University of Southern California.

At USD, more than 75 authors will be on hand as part of a daylong schedule that includes 50-plus panel discussions and workshops. Spokesperson Fiona Leung calls this year’s roster of authors “the best that we’ve had so far.”

Some notable journalists are among them, including investigative reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize winner and developer of the New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project” that took a profound and comprehensive look at the Black experience in America. Another is Patrick Radden Keefe of The New Yorker, whose best-selling books include “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty,” a deep dive into a notorious family’s role in America’s opioid epidemic.

Among the more familiar names is Ron Shelton, the screenwriter and director whose résumé boasts the sports-flavored flicks “Bull Durham,” “Tin Cup,” “Cobb” and “White Men Can’t Jump”; and no less than Fox Mulder himself, David Duchovny. Fans of “The X Files” and “Californication” may not know that Duchovny has authored four novels, including his most recent, “Truly Like Lightning.”

Rafael Agustin was a writer on the popular “Jane the Virgin” TV series on the CW network, while Rebecca Serle developed an adaptation of her own young adult book series, “Famous in Love,” for a Freeform television series that starred Bella Thorne.

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff of California’s 28th Congressional District will be at the book festival, having just last fall published an insider’s look at the Trump presidency’s collateral damage titled “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could.”

But wait. There’s more:

• Award-winning chef Keith Corbin, author (with Kevin Alexander) of “California Soul: An American Epic of Cooking and Survival.”

• Noted Sudanese poet Safia Elhillo.

• Memoirist Reyna Grande (“The Distance Between Us”).

• Poet/essayist Kazim Ali, who’s also chair of the Department of Literature at University of California San Diego.

• Children’s books author Minh Li (“Drawn Together,” “Lift”).

Though the books festival is face-to-face again, with CDC-recommended guidelines being observed and masks encouraged indoors, some sessions will be livestreamed on the festival website ( and others pre-recorded for viewership.

Authors participating in virtual conversations include News Nation host Dan Abrams, journalist Todd Brewster (Time magazine, ABC News), children’s books and YA-fiction writer J.C. Cervantes, and Eva Chen, head of fashion partnerships at Instagram. Also, Hannah-Jones’ appearance will stream live.

How important are books and reading in general these days?

“There’s such uncertainty with the world and a lot going on,” spokesperson Leung said. “Reading gives you the knowledge to make informed decisions about our lives and transports us to other areas of the world.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune Festival of Books

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20

Where: University of San Diego, 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego

Tickets: All sessions are free, except for those in the Shiley Main Stage ($5, with a portion donated to the San Diego Council on Literacy)


Coddon is a freelance writer.