LitFest - Amherst's Annual Literary Festival

Book shelf The Center for Humanistic Inquiry partners with The Common, Amherst's literary magazine, along with the Emily Dickinson Museum, the English Department and the Office of Communications, to produce Amherst’s signature annual literary festival celebrating the College’s extraordinary literary life. One weekend each year, fans of good writing come from all over to hear their favorite authors speak and converse, while students have the opportunity to attend master classes by the visiting writers. The programming includes finalists and winners of the year's National Book Awards.

LitFest 2021 wordmark

Now in its sixth year, Amherst’s annual literary festival celebrates the College’s extraordinary literary life by inviting distinguished authors and editors to share and discuss the pleasures and challenges of verbal expression—from fiction and nonfiction to poetry and spoken-word performance. This year’s festival features Charles Yu, winner of a 2020 National Book Award (NBA) for fiction; 2020 NBA fiction nominee Megha Majumdar; 2020 NBA poetry finalists Tommye Blount and Natalie Diaz; and Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum.

Images of featured  book covers



LitFest 2020

Jen Acker and Jesmyn Ward
LitFest director Jen Acker with award-winning novelist Jesmyn Ward

LitFest's Fifth Year!

LitFest 2020 featured Jesmyn Ward, winner of a 2017 National Book Award (NBA) for fiction; 2019 NBA Fiction Winner Susan Choi and finalist Laila Lalami, and memoirist Ben Rhodes, former speechwriter and deputy national security advisor to President Barack Obama; and poet and U. S. Military veteran Karen Skolfield.

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LitFest 2019

Master class with Brandon Hobson
NBA finalist Brandon Hobson leads a master class

The story has to be smarter than the narrator.

LitFest 2019, the College’s fourth annual literary festival, brought to campus National Book Award (NBA) winner Jennifer Egan; NBA finalists Brandon Hobson and Jamel Brinkley; writer, editor, and producer Rebecca Carroll; Pulitzer prize-winning author and journalist Elizabeth Kolbert, and scientific author Charles C. Mann.

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LitFest 2018

Masterclass with Junot Díaz

The Art of Writing

LitFest 2018 featured National Book Award winner Min Jin Lee; author, essayist, and critic Carmen Maria Machado; award-winning author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o; Pulitzer prize-winning author Junot Díaz; and journalists and political writers Masha and Keith Gessen.

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LitFest 2017

Zadie Smith at Emily Dickinson Museum
During a tour of the Emily Dickinson Museum, Zadie Smith paused for a quiet moment of reflection in the poet’s bedroom.

Conversations with Literary Luminaries

More than 1,400 bibliophiles gathered on campus March 2-4 for LitFest 2017, the College’s second annual literary festival. Aimed at celebrating Amherst’s literary history as well as exceptional writing and writers, the festival included conversations and book signings with 2016 National Book Award fiction finalists Chris Bachelder and Jacqueline Woodson, internationally renowned author Zadie Smith and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Additional activities included master classes, a poetry slam, panel conversations and tours of the Emily Dickinson Museum.

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LitFest 2016

Angela Flournoy
Author Angela Flournoy at the storied “Ulysses bathroom” at Johnson Chapel

The First LitFest

The inaugural LitFest featured 2015 National Book Award fiction finalists Angela Flournoy and Lauren Groff ’01 with Deborah Treisman, fiction editor of The New Yorker. Also featured were non-fiction authors Mark Bowden (Black Hawk Down) and Stacy Schiff (The Witches: Salem, 1692).

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