Miami Book Fair International takes shape

The Miami Book Fair International poster by Miami-based artist David “LEBO” Le Batard and Australian children’s book author and illustrator Graeme Base.
The Miami Book Fair International poster by Miami-based artist David “LEBO” Le Batard and Australian children’s book author and illustrator Graeme Base.

We can’t say for sure who will be part of the Friday night presentation at Miami Book Fair International in November — the outcome depends on who wins some seriously prestigious awards — but we can tell you this: You don’t want to miss it.

The fair, which runs Nov. 16-23 at Miami Dade College, has just about completed its schedule. The 31st annual event kicks off with a radio host (Ira Glass) and a Scottish novelist (Alexander McCall Smith, author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series and an updated version of Jane Austen’s Emma). It ends in comic fashion on the evening of Nov. 23 with Monty Python alum John Cleese, who will talk about his new memoir, So Anyway...

In between, book lovers have the usual awe-inspiring lineup of authors. A sample: Robert Baer; Nicholson Baker; Richard Blanco; Maureen Corrigan; Richard Dawkins; John Dean; Barbara Ehrenreich; Michel Faber; Richard Ford; Roxane Gay; Siri Hustvedt; Walter Isaacson; Azar Nafisi; Rick Perlstein; Francine Prose; Jess Row; Emma Straub; John Waters — and hundreds more. You can see a full list at

The fair’s biggest coup comes the night of Nov. 21, when 20 finalists for the National Book Awards from four categories (fiction, nonfiction, young people’s literature and poetry) will appear. Longlists for all categories have been announced at; the finalists will be announced Oct. 15. South Floridians will definitely recognize one contender: Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen is nominated for his young adult novel Skink: No Surrender (which he’ll talk about at 7 p.m. this Tuesday at Temple Judea).

“I’m really excited about this,” Book Fair director of programs Lissette Mendez says of the NBA partnership. “It’s unprecedented that something as prestigious as the National Book Awards will partner with one book fair. It will pave the way for them to do this with other book fairs, and it will bring even more authors to our fair.”

Mendez is also thrilled about the fair’s newest brainchild, The Swamp, a pop-up lounge that will celebrate all things Florida through music, poetry, film and more. The Swamp, product of a Knight Arts Challenge grant, will be set up in a vast tent in the area previously reserved for food vendors. Don’t worry, you won’t go hungry — they’ll move closer to Children’s Alley.

“I grew up here in Miami Beach, and I’ve always loved the whole allure of weird Florida,” Mendez says. “I guess everybody must feel this way about their patch of the U.S., but I love the kind of stuff that happens here. ... We’ve always had local authors, but we wanted to create a space to celebrate all of that, one space we can go to and say, ‘This is what we are, for better or worse!’ We can examine our flaws and celebrate the fun and good and kooky things that make us who we are.”

Evening appearances

Here is the latest “Evenings With ...” schedule for Miami Book Fair International. Events take place at the Chapman Conference Center on the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., unless otherwise noted. Tickets cost $15 and will go on sale at a later date at

Nov. 16

5 p.m.: “3 Acts, 2 Dancers and 1 Radio Show Host” with Ira Glass (at Olympia Theatre at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, Flagler Street and Northeast Second Avenue in Miami)

7:30 p.m.: Alexander McCall Smith

Nov. 17

6 p.m.: Patricia Cornwell

8 p.m.: Anne Rice

Nov. 18

6 p.m.: TBA

8 p.m.: Nicholas D. Kristof

Nov. 19

Chuck Todd (time undetermined)

Nov. 20

6 p.m.: Larry McMurtry with screenwriting partner Diana Ossanna in conversation with editor Robert Weil

8 p.m.: Joyce Carol Oates

Nov. 21

6 p.m.: National Book Award winners in fiction, nonfiction, young adult literature and poetry