Book Festival Draws Crowd

The first ever Boston Book Festival attracted thousands of people to Copley Square this Saturday to listen to panels, participate in workshops, and flip through books of all genres.

Event organizers said that the event was intended to celebrate “the power of words and ideas in a city that has a long history of innovation and creativity,” and featured a multitude of internationally-known authors and artists, including filmmaker Ken Burns, comedian John Hodgman of Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk.

Several Harvard affiliates were also featured as presenters at the event, which highlighted different forms of literature.

Hollis Research Professor of Divinity Harvey G. Cox, who brought a cow to the Tercentenary Theater earlier this year in celebration of his retirement, spoke about the role of religion a society that suffers from “cultural attention deficit syndrome”.

“I think that faith is a basic, irrefutable human need,” he said. “You can’t live without it.”

Bret A. Johnston, the University’s director of creative writing, hosted the “Ties that Bind” panel, and focused the discussion on the role of the family in novels.

“[Stories about families] will probably be the last stories we ever write,” he said. “They are stories that arrest, sustain and reward the reader time and time again.”

Deborah Z. Porter, the festival’s founding president, said in an interview that she began preparing for the event after learning that Boston was “the only major U.S. city that did not have an annual book festival.”

The event took more than two years to organize, she said.

Panels were held in the Boston Public Library and booths for the festival’s sponsors were featured outside in Copley Square.

She added that she wanted to concentrate the day’s events in one central location.

“[The book fair in New York City] was all over town,” she said. “I wanted a center and a heart to the festival...one that has an outdoor component to it.”

Justin M. Levine, a volunteer at the inaugural festival, said that he was impressed by the organization of the day.

“For the first time, they’re doing an amazing job,” he said. “The different types of panels, the different authors they’re bringing in...it’s a fantastic thing.”

People who attended the event said that the festival did a good job of bringing together booklovers of all ages.

“[Reading] is like an escape from the real world,” said Danny D. Gottschalk, a graduate of Suffolk University. “The more you read...the more you get educated.”

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