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  • NYS Writers Institute

Book Festival events of special interest for fans of history, journalism, and psychology

Just days away from Saturday's Albany Book Festival,

we're finalizing plans for the author discussions and events.

Our Director Paul Grondahl and Assistant Director Mark Koplik will each host a pair of talks, and we're delighted to share news of more conversation hosts below...

Also, we encourage you to attend the special ceremony Friday for the installation of the State Author Ayad Akhtar and NYS Poet Willie Perdomo.

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras will preside over the event and many of the featured authors from Saturday's book festival plan to attend. Join us 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, at the University at Albany’s Campus Center West Auditorium. Free and open to the public. More information.

Nathaniel Philbrick in conversation with Paul Grondahl

Nathaniel Philbrick

10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 25

Campus Center West Auditorium

Nathaniel Philbrick, author of bestselling page-turners of maritime history, received the 2000 National Book Award for In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, the true story of the whaling disaster that inspired Melville’s Moby Dick. His new book is Travels with George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy (2021), an entertaining account of a road trip that retraces Washington’s journey through all 13 colonies.

Peter Osnos in conversation with Paul Grondahl

Peter Osnos

12:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25

Campus Center Boardroom

Peter Osnos is the author of An Especially Good View: Watching History Happen (2021), a memoir of his legendary career as a foreign correspondent and editor at the Washington Post (1966-1984), and as editor and publisher at Random House and PublicAffairs, which he founded in 1997. During his long career, Osnos worked on books with Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Nancy Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Boris Yeltsin, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and many others.

David Rohde in conversation with Mark Koplik

David Rohde

1:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25

Campus Center Assembly Hall

David Rohde, journalist, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and online news director for the New Yorker, spent seven months as a captive of the Taliban in Afghanistan before escaping in June 2009, an experience he chronicles in the book, A Rope and a Prayer: A Kidnapping from Two Sides (2010). His new book is In Deep: The FBI, the CIA, and the Truth about America's "Deep State" (2021), an illuminating history of a rightwing conspiracy theory—the “Deep State”— and its dangers to democracy.

George Makari in conversation with Mark Koplik

George Makari

3:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25

Campus Center Assembly Hall

George Makari's new book is Of Fear and Strangers: A History of Xenophobia (2021). Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and the son of Lebanese immigrants, Makari draws on insights from psychology, medicine, history, literature and his own family experience. Previous works include Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind (2015), a Guardian "Book of the Year," and Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis (2008), which The Economist called “electrifying.”

Simon Winchester in conversation with Kendra Smith-Howard

Simon Winchester, author of LAND: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World

3:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25

Campus Center West Auditorium

Simon Winchester is widely hailed as one of the best nonfiction storytellers presently at work. His many books of popular history include The Professor and the Madman (1998), The Map That Changed the World (2001), Krakatoa (2003), Atlantic (2010), and Pacific (2015). His new book is LAND: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World (2021), “an entertaining and erudite roundup of humanity’s ever-evolving relationship with terra firma” (Publishers Weekly).

Kendra Smith-Howard is associate professor of history at the University at Albany, where she writes and teaches about the intersections of histories of the environment, agriculture, health, and consumer culture. Her 2013 book Pure and Modern Milk explores the 20th-century history of dairy foods and the farms from which they came.

David Pietrusza in conversation with Reif Larsen

3:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25

Campus Center Boardroom

David Pietrusza, notable American historian, biographer and chronicler of U.S. Presidential campaigns, is the author most recently of Too Long Ago (2020), a memoir of his childhood and his family’s experiences in the Rust Belt city of Amsterdam, NY. An Amazon New Releases Best Seller, the book brings to life a tight-knit Polish community, transplanted from tiny, impoverished villages to a hardscrabble, hardworking, hard-drinking upstate New York mill town.

Reif Larsen is the founder of The Future of Small Cities Institute, an organization based in Troy that cultivates resilient communities by offering just and sustainable solutions for small and mid-sized metro areas. Larsen's bestselling 2009 novel, The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, was adapted as a 2013 movie starring Kathy Bates and Helena Bonham-Carter. He is the coauthor of the new children's book, Uma Wimple Charts Her House (2021), a fun and creative introduction to the art of data visualization.

Want to buy the books?

Books will be for sale -- and signing --- at the book festival. You may also purchase them in advance at the local, independent Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.


About the Albany Book Festival

The fourth annual event, on Saturday, Sept. 25, at the University at Albany, will be held in-person for the first time since 2019. Events will begin at 10:30 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. More information at

The list of Albany Book Festival guests includes (subject to change):

  • Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Friday Black: Stories),

  • Ayad Akhtar (incoming NYS Author, Homeland Elegies),

  • Robert Boyers (The Tyranny of Virtue: Identity, The Academy, and the Hunt for Political Heresies),

  • Elizabeth Brundage (The Vanishing Point),

  • Mary Gaitskill (This is Pleasure),

  • Garth Greenwell (Cleanness),

  • Farah Jasmine Griffin (Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature),

  • Janell Hobson (When God Lost Her Tongue: Historical Consciousness and the Black Feminist Imagination),

  • Quiara Alegría Hudes (My Broken Language: A Memoir, co-wrote the Tony Award-winning stage musical "In the Heights" with Lin-Manuel Miranda.),

  • Amitava Kumar (A Time Outside This Time),

  • Reif Larsen (Uma Wimple Charts her House),

  • Emily Layden (All Girls),

  • Ed Lin (David Tung Can’t Have a Girlfriend Until He Gets Into an Ivy League College),

  • George Makari (Of Fear and Strangers: A History of Xenophobia),

  • Bethany C. Morrow (So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix),

  • Peter Osnos (An Especially Good View: Watching History Happen),

  • Jay Parini (Borges and Me: An Encounter),

  • Willie Perdomo (incoming NYS Poet, Where a Nickel Costs a Dime)

  • David Pietrusza (Too Long Ago: A Childhood Memoir. A Vanished World.),

  • Nathaniel Philbrick (Travels with George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy),

  • David Rohde (In Deep: The FBI, the CIA, and the Truth about America’s “Deep State”),

  • Ed Schwarzschild (In Security),

  • Dana Spiotta (Wayward),

  • Simon Winchester (LAND: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World).

The book festival will also include a Local Authors Marketplace, readings by young local writers published in Skribblers magazine; and readings from banned books to help kick off Banned Books Week beginning September 26 with the theme, “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” The festival’s children’s programming is organized by Skribblers and the Albany Public Library.

More information at

Albany Book Festival Sponsors

The NYS Writers Institute is grateful for the following individuals and businesses whose donations help fund this year's Albany Book Festival.


Bruce Piasecki & The Creative Force Fund


Pernille Ægidius Dake / George and Kathleen McNamee / Renaissance Corporation of Albany

Charles Touhey and Alice Green / University Auxiliary Services


Times Union / Ellen Jabbur / Stuyvesant Plaza


Laurie Bank and Stuart Freyer / A. Andrew Casano, MD & Bella Pipas / Bernard F. Conners Foundation / The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza / Susan Novotny / CDPHP / Fenimore Asset Management / FAM Funds / Doris Fischer Malesardi / The Foy Fund / Henry Greenberg / Paul and Mary Grondahl / Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti P.C. / William and Dana Kennedy / William & Mary Jean Krackeler / Cecilia Lauenstein & Ronald Nadeau / Betsy Lopez / Mackin & Casey / Modern Press / Jeffrey Pollard / Janney Montgomery Scott, LLC / Roberta and Bob Redmond / Mary Scanlan / Herb and Cynthia Shultz / Jim and Teresa Stellar / Steve McKee Foundation / UAlbany William L. Reese Emeritus Center Three Voices Grant Program

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