LISTEN: Now in its 17th year, the festival will offer a full slate of free author presentations on Saturday. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

Savannah Book Festival logo
Credit: Savannah Book Festival

A Presidents' Day weekend tradition returns to Savannah on Saturday, when more than 30 authors take to the stage throughout downtown for the 2024 Savannah Book Festival.

Officially kicking off Thursday night with an opening address by British thriller writer Ruth Ware, the festival enters its 17th year — and the first since it began in 2008 to feature Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil author John Berendt.

The 1994 true-crime travelogue — often referred to by Savannahians as simply “The Book” — super-charged the then-sleepy Southern town's tourist economy (much to Berendt's surprise).

Not that the Savannah Book Festival is about the money: All 33 author presentations on Saturday, including Berendt's 9 a.m. talk at the Savannah Theatre, are free to attend.

Here's a reader's digest of a few who sport Georgia connections, including book descriptions from their respective publishers:


Michael L. Thurmond

James Oglethorpe, Father of Georgia: A Founder's Journey from Slave Trader to Abolitionist (Nonfiction)

10:20 to 11:15 a.m., Trinity United Methodist Church

From University of Georgia Press:

"Founded by James Oglethorpe on Feb. 12, 1733, the Georgia colony was envisioned as a unique social welfare experiment. Administered by 21 original trustees, the Georgia Plan offered England’s 'worthy poor' and persecuted Christians an opportunity to achieve financial security in the New World by exporting goods produced on small farms. Most significantly, Oglethorpe and his fellow Trustees were convinced that economic vitality could not be achieved through the exploitation of enslaved Black laborers.

"Due primarily to Oglethorpe’s strident advocacy, Georgia was the only British American colony to prohibit chattel slavery prior to the American Revolutionary War. His outspoken opposition to the transatlantic slave trade distinguished Oglethorpe from British colonial America’s more celebrated founding fathers."


April Genevieve Tucholke and Stefan Bachmann

The Secret Life of Hidden Places: Concealed Rooms, Clandestine Passageways, and the Curious Minds That Made Them (Nonfiction)

11:40 a.m. to 12:35 p.m., First Baptist Church Education Building

From Workman Publishing:

"This wondrous guide for the curious and the intrepid takes readers on a lushly photographed and lyrically written tour of 18 of the world’s most captivating architectural mysteries. Delve into both the secretive places themselves and the eccentric and obsessive minds that created them. Visit a chamber of skulls high in the Swiss Alps, a Japanese temple full of traps, a Parisian apartment locked and untouched since World War II, a Prohibition-era speakeasy in Washington, D.C., and a spooky 'initiation' well in Portugal built by a secret society. How far down can you climb before losing your nerve?"


Keith F. Miller Jr.

Pritty (Fiction)

3:40 to 4:35 p.m., First Baptist Church Education Building

From HarperCollins:

"On the verge of summer before his senior year, Jay is a soft soul in a world of concrete. While his older brother is everything people expect a man to be — tough, athletic, and in charge — Jay simply blends into the background to everyone, except when it comes to Leroy.

"Unsure of what he could have possibly done to catch the eye of the boy who could easily have anyone he wants, Jay isn’t about to ignore the surprising but welcome attention. But as everything in his world begins to heat up, especially with Leroy, whispered rumors over the murder of a young Black journalist and long-brewing territory tensions hang like a dark cloud over his neighborhood. And when Jay and Leroy find themselves caught in the crossfire, Leroy isn’t willing to be the reason Jay’s life is at risk."


Harrison Scott Key

How to Stay Married: The Most Insane Love Story Ever Told (Memoir)

5:00 to 5:55 p.m., Jepson Center

From Avid Reader Press:

"One gorgeous autumn day, Harrison discovers that his wife — the sweet, funny, loving mother of their three daughters, a woman 'who’s spent just about every Sunday of her life in a church' — is having an affair with a family friend. This revelation propels the hysterical, heartbreaking events in How to Stay Married, casting our narrator onto 'the factory floor of hell,' where his wife was now in love with a man who 'wears cargo shorts, on purpose.' What will he do? Kick her out? Set fire to all her panties in the yard? Beat this man to death with a gardening implement? Ask God for help in winning her back?

"Armed only with a sense of humor and a hunger for the truth, Harrison embarks on a hellish journey into his past, seeking answers to the riddles of faith and forgiveness. Through an absurd series of escalating confessions and betrayals, Harrison reckons with his failure to love his wife in the ways she needed most, resolves to fight for his family, and in a climax almost too ridiculous to be believed, finally learns that love is no joke."