A New Literary Tradition

Since 2016, when The Common first partnered with the National Book Foundation to host the National Book Awards on Campus, LitFest has grown into one of the college's signature events. One weekend in March each year, fans of good writing come from across Massachusetts to hear their favorite authors speak and converse, while students have the opportunity to attend master classes by the visiting writers. The programming includes a keynote speaker, finalists and winners of the year's National Book Awards, and prominent literary alumni and faculty. Past participants include Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Jennifer Egan, Carmen Maria Machado, Junot Diaz, Zadie Smith, Min Jin Lee, and Michael Chabon. 

Six people posing together 3 sitting on a couch, 3 standing, all holding books and smiling

Top Five LitFest Moments

LitFest turns 5 this month, and to celebrate, we asked Jennifer Acker ’00, editor-in-chief of The Common and the festival’s lead organizer, to pick her favorite moments from prior years of LitFest.

2021

LitFest 2021 featured a virtual celebration of great writing, featuring winner of a 2020 National Book Award (NBA) for fiction Charles Yu; 2020 NBA fiction nominee Megha Majumdar; 2020 NBA poetry finalists Tommye Blount and Natalie Diaz; and Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum, among others. Learn more about LitFest 2021 here.

2020

Image of 2021 LitFest photos

At LitFest 2020, Amherst College welcomed 2019 National Book Award winner Susan Choi and finalist Laila Lalami; memoirist and former Obama speechwriter Ben Rhodes; 2017 NBA winner Jesmyn Ward; poet Karen Skolfield; and book editor Andy Ward ’94; among others. Learn more here.

2019

Amherst LitFest, Johnson Chapel 2019

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Jennifer Egan was the keynote speaker for a delightful literary weeking featuring National Book Award finalists Jamel Brinkley, Brandon Hobson, and Rebecca Carroll, along with Amherst alumni Nuar Alsadir and Cullen Murphy. See more pictures or read more

2018

Jen Acker, Min Jin Lee, Parul Sehgal, and Carmen Maria Machado

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Rafael Campo '87, Tess Taylor '99, Junot Díaz, and Masha and Keith Gessen were among the other acclaimed writers featured at LitFest 2018. See more photos here

Image of authors from 2018 litfest.

 
2017

Chris Bachelder Talk

LitFest 2017 featured award-winning novelist Zadie Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and 2016 National Book Award Fiction Finalists Chris Bachelder and Jacqueline Woodson, among others.

Zadie Smith Q&A

Click here to see more photos from LitFest 2017.

2016 

2016 litfest collage

Amherst College and The Common welcomed Mark Bowden, Michael Chabon, Angela Flournoy, Lauren Groff ’01, and Stacy Schiff to campus as part of the inaugural LitFest.


Amherst College LitFest is organized by the Center for Humanistic Inquiry, The Common, the Emily Dickinson Museum, the English Department and the Office of Communications at Amherst College.