Culture beat — the world’s 4 coolest literature festivals

The late Senator John McCain was interviewed by journalist Bob Timberg at the 2015 Baltimore Book Festival. (Anthony C. Hayes)

If you like to travel and love books, is there a better way to combine these two passions than bagging a novel at the airport and reading it on the beach at your destination?

You bet your bottom buck there is — listening to live readings from awesome authors and mixing and mingling with arty types at a literary festival in a legendary location.

So we’ve collated a compendium of four of the world’s coolest literature festivals for your delectation, with some pre-trip tips thrown in for sheer fun — enjoy!

1. Baltimore Book Festival

Sometimes familiarity breeds brilliance — and that certainly seems to be the clear-cut case with local lit gathering Baltimore Book Festival, which gets better every year.

2018’s gathering featured wonderful wordsmiths like David W Blight, Nic Stone and Priscilla Oliveras, while in 2019, the festival will combine with light art celebration Light City at Inner Harbor to offer visitors double for their trouble between November 1 – 10.

So you don’t necessarily need to stray far to slake your arty thirst next year.

2. Calabash Literary Festival, Jamaica

Held at picturesque Treasure Beach in Jamaica’s St Elizabeth parish, Calabash is a biennial festival that attracts some of the world’s foremost authors and mixes literature, music, food and good vibes in an authentic Caribbean melting pot.

Past headliners include Salman Rushdie, Marlon James, Akala, and Lorna Goodison — so you might be sipping a rum punch in fine company.

It’s next held in 2020 — keep a keen eye on for updates.

3. Edinburgh International Book Festival

If a brilliant bookish celebration bang in the middle of a UNESCO City of Literature sounds sublime, look no further than Scottish gathering the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Held on 10-26 August 2019 in the center of Scotland’s capital, it’s a honeytrap for literary luminaries like Irvine Welsh, David Walliams, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Arrive in town at the start of August and you’ll also have plenty of time to catch plays, stand-up-comedy and street performances at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

4. Hay Festival

This rural literary get-together in Hay-on-Wye, Wales now boasts offshoots in exotic locations like Columbia, Mexico and Peru 1 but for the moment, perhaps the original is best.

Held annually for 10 days at the end of May, it’s a lively celebration that attracts heavyweight authors like Martin Amis, Hilary Mantel and Margaret Atwood, as well as fascinating speakers like Stephen Fry and Germaine Greer.

To find out more about this ‘festival of the mind’, check out

Pre-trip tips

Whether your US departure point is Atlanta or Zumbro Falls, grab a deal on airport parking from comparison site and your ride will be safe until you return.

And the weather at locations like Edinburgh can change quickly, so be sure to pack a lightweight rain jacket from a brand like The North Face or Berghaus.

Lastly, since you’ll be walking from venue to venue, invest in a pair of ethically-sourced sneakers from — they’re a talking point for fellow travelers as well as being tough and stylish.

That’s our list! Add your own literature festival tips in the comments section.