Building Community Through the Arts

2021 Virtual Festival of Books

The sixteenth annual Festival of Books ran from Columbus Day weekend through the month of October, with special books for sale online and distinguished authors discussing their latest works via Zoom. All presentations were offered free of charge.

A Big Thank You to All Festival of Book Sponsors

We couldn’t do it without your generosity. Visit our Sponsors page.


Members Only Day
Spencertown Academy members have early access to the online sale. Make sure your membership is current or you may miss out on this special opportunity. Take advantage of this and other member perks by joining now.


Book Room Open to All
Close to 500 carefully selected volumes in like-new condition, as well as CDs, DVDs, vinyl LPs and ephemera, fill the virtual shelves of the Special Book Room. Richly illustrated coffee table books and rare collectible books are highlights this year. The collection includes art, architecture, design, biography/memoir, cookbooks, fiction, children’s/young adults, history, music/film, photography, signed books and other offerings. Quirky or collectible, rare or simply stunning, all are priced accordingly from $5 to $1,000 and everything in between. NOTE: Purchases must be picked up at the Spencertown Academy Arts Center by appointment. There will be NO shipping.


Thanks to all who watched and listened! All of our author presentations are available on the Spencertown Academy YouTube channel.


Rishi Reddi. Passage West. and Dexter Palmer. Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen.

Two authors will discuss their historical fiction with Daphne Kalotay, prize-winning author of short stories and novels (Russian Winter; Sight Reading; Blue Hours). Passage West tells the story of a Punjabi family, their Mexican in-laws and their Japanese neighbors at the onset of World War I in California. Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen fictionalizes the unlikely but true event of a woman giving birth to seventeen rabbits in 18th century England, confounding apprentice and experienced surgeons in rural England and London, and intriguing King George I.


Rick Rodgers. Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from Classic Cafés.

Culinary professional and author Rick Rodgers will conduct a cooking demonstration while being interviewed by Madaline Sparks, Festival Committee member. On the menu will be Almas Pite, or Hungarian Apple Pie, a classic pastry found in most any kaffeehaus and maybe soon your home. Their conversation will range from baking tips to celebrities and famous chefs he’s worked with, to challenges unique to publishing cookbooks, whether as author or editor.


Peter Sís. Nicky and Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued.

Peter Sís is an internationally acclaimed author-illustrator of books for children and adults. He will discuss his latest title, and how it fits in with his overall work, with Carl Atkins, Festival Committee member. Nicky and Vera is true story of the Holocaust written for children but with a message of decency, action and courage for all ages. Nicky was a young Englishman who went to Prague to help refugees from the Nazis; Vera, one of the children he saved. His effort to raise money, find foster homes in England, and ultimately transport 600 children is told with luminous, poetic images.


Ayad Akhtar. Homeland Elegies.

Ayad Akhtar, Pulitzer Prize-winning author for his play Disgraced,  and recently named New York State Author, blends fact and fiction in his latest work, the story of a Pakistani immigrant and his American-born son in post-Trump America. Homeland Elegies is a deeply personal narrative that explores fault lines that occur in families and countries, and the longing and dispossession that can result. Joining the author in conversation will be Julie DeLisle, former director of the Chatham Public Library.


Russell Shorto. Smalltime: A Story of My Family and the Mob.

Russell Shorto, historian and author of Amsterdam and The Island at the Center of the World, turned his research and writing inward with his latest book. In Smalltime: A Story of My Family and the Mob, the author reveals how his grandfather and great-uncle ran the mob in his hometown in Pennsylvania. It’s a story known in the family but never acknowledged aloud; one rich in detail and resonant of Italian-American culture in mid-century America. David Cudaback, Festival Committee member, will join the author in conversation.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 16, 10:00AM. This event has been canceled.


Nancy Castaldo. Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World.

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELED. Nancy Castaldo turns her own fascination with the natural world into science-themed books that inform and engage children, sometimes calling them to action. Her topics range from saving animals from extinction to the biology of their brains, and from how farms feed us to the vital need to save seeds. In Sniffer Dogs, children learn about dogs’ exquisitely sensitive noses, and how their handlers train the animals to find bombs or drugs, save people from rubble, or detect diabetics’ blood sugar levels. Suitable for children 10 and up.



Ann Gainer, storyteller and librarian at New Lebanon and Altamont Libraries, will read and discuss with children Peter Sís’s Nicky and Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued. Nicky was a young Englishman who went to Prague to help refugees from the Nazis; Vera, one of the children he saved. His effort to raise money, find foster homes in England, and transport 600 children is told with luminous, poetic images. This true story of the Holocaust was written for children but carries a message of decency, action and courage for all ages. Suitable for children over 8 and adults.


Sonia Purnell. A Woman of No Importance. & Clare Mulley. The Spy Who Loved.

Two historians and authors whose books focus on remarkable women and their roles in WWII will discuss their works with David Highfill, Festival co-chair. A Woman of No Importance tells of an American heiress, injured in an accident, who broke disability and gender barriers to spy for the British and help lead a core unit of French resisters. The biography The Spy Who Loved relates the ventures of a Polish-born part Jewish countess called Churchill’s favorite spy who served behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France. Among her accomplishments was securing the defection of an entire German garrison.


Michael Kupperman. All the Answers.

A comic artist-author turned serious for the first time with his All the Answers, also the Festival’s first graphic book. It’s a son’s search to understand his father, a child prodigy-turned reserved professor, before dementia robbed the memories. Joel Kupperman was the most celebrated “Quiz Kid,” appearing on the radio and TV series weekly in the 40s and 50s. The moving memoir touches on the early history of radio and TV, the quiz show scandal, anti-Semitism, celebrity culture and, most of all, human relationships. Brian Heater, a comics and tech writer-podcaster will join the author in conversation.


Six prize winners and one honorable mention were chosen from 38 entries to the 2021 competition.
See the winners and read their works.


We had a terrific line up last year! Details and YouTube links for your reading and listening pleasure.


Sponsor the Festival of Books. Make your tax-deductible donation online or mail a check to PO Box 80, Spencertown, NY 12165.

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Author presentations are made possible with generous support from New York State Council on the Arts.

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