Best of the Buchmesse | Highlights from the Frankfurt Book Fair

Award-winning authors and the movers and shakers of the publishing world came together for this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. Here are a few highlights.

We stumbled off the train in Frankfurt with quiet assurance that the road to the world’s largest book fair would lead to whoever we were supposed to meet over the next few days. The clouds held out for the walk from A&O Hostel to the colossal Frankfurt Buchmesse, which boasts an attendance of over 300,000 authors, publishers, journalists, and book lovers from around the globe. The probability of productive encounters was maximized by the Frankfurter Buchmesse app, matchmaking visitors via tailor-made suggestions.

After making our way around a construction site, we stepped onto an airport-style moving sidewalk, stunned at the sheer size of the Buchmesse and surprised to hear that it had managed to expand even Stephen Theo stand in front of a display of mind, body, spirit booksfurther, with works underway in several buildings, including the former home of the Literary Agents & Scouts Centre. “LitAG,” where row upon row of busy tables buzz with multimillion-dollar deal-making, has moved to a new ”Festhalle,” where it proceeds under the watchful ray of an esoteric dome, such a fitting place for the heart of the book fair.

Titles focusing on mind, body, and spirit, on display from Inner Traditions, Findhorn Press, and North Atlantic Books, attracted attention. Though the U.S. independent publishers we met admitted having difficulty selling books to China, they seemed upbeat, echoing the sentiment that indie publishing in Europe was strong and curious about U.S. titles. “They’re really interested in what indie presses have,” said Kate Gale from Red Hen Press.

Although we didn’t meet her in person, we became acquainted with the stunning work of Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk, guest speaker at the Opening Ceremony, which also included HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway. As this year’s guest of honor, Norway exhibited about 1000 items displaying its literature, craftsmanship, and design in a dedicated pavilion.

One of the highlights was a panel discussion on climate change moderated by Porter Anderson, editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives. Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, a Norweigian scientist and the author of Libelle, Marienkäfer & Co. (Goldmann Verlag), described the interdependence of insects and humankind and emphasized the need for stories that inspire people to care for insects. “If that wish comes from inside, it’s much stronger. It has much more power than if you’re…being told just another thing that we should do,” she said.

Icelandic folk jazz bandThe unexpected banished the cobwebs of routine as we wandered over to the Gourmet Gallery for a red-hot cooking show, lingered at a booth to hear Guitar Islancio play Icelandic folk-jazz, and enjoyed readings from award-winning authors. It was refreshing to see the publishing industries of China, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, the U.S., Spain, and the Netherlands celebrating the winners of the fair's Young Talent initiatives on Oct. 16. That evening, the UK publishing network offered attendees a chance to hang out with the international publishing crowd at the Jambo Bar in Frankfurt's hip Bahnhofsviertel.

We're looking forward to Saturday, October 19th when the Frankfurter Buchmesse Film Awards and the B3 BEN Awards will be presented. Steve McQueen, director of the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave, will receive the B3 BEN "Most Influential Moving Image Artist" award. Also on Saturday, 2019 Booker Prize winner Margaret Atwood and renowned authors Maja Lunde, Elif Shafak, Colson Whitehead, and Ken Follett will join BOOKFEST, the expanded festivities that take place throughout the city once the Fair ends.

Even though hotel and restaurant prices took their toll on our pocketbooks and it rained a little, we have no regrets about coming to Frankfurt. Never could we have imagined so many literati gathered in one place. The incredible lineup and atmosphere make the Frankfurt Book Fair a tradition to savor.

Photo 1: Stephan Theo with a display of indie mind, body, and spirit titles; photo 2: Guitar Islancio plays Icelandic folk music. Photo credit JL Morin.

JL Morin is an LJ reviewer and the author of Nature’s Confession, the epic tale of two teens in a fight to save a warming planet, the universe…and their love.

Stephan Theo is a writer and actor. He will appear in the upcoming feature film Brothers.

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