How to make the most of the L.A. Times Festival of Books this weekend

Crowds enjoy the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Crowds enjoy the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in 2011. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

The 27th Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is upon us, and this time — after two years of virtual events — it's back in person at the University of Southern California.

On April 23 and 24, more than 550 authors, poets, artists, chefs, journalists, celebrities and musicians will be featured in indoor and outdoor panels, readings, performances, cooking demonstrations and more throughout the campus. Special guests will include Amanda Gorman, Billy Porter, Danny Trejo, Don Winslow, Janelle Monáe, Jonathan Franzen, Joy Williams and many more. Hundreds of exhibitors will also be on site selling books.

The weekend will kick off on Friday with the 42nd Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, which recognizes outstanding literary achievements in 12 categories. Three previously announced honorees — Luis J. Rodriguez, Deborah Levy and Reginald Dwaye Betts — will also be celebrated.

Admission to the festival is free, but there is a small fee to reserve seats for indoor panels. All other outdoor panels and activities are free and do not require advance reservations.

Featured events during the weekend include a conversation with music icon Monáe about her debut book "The Memory Librarian"; children's story time with Meena Harris; a panel about race in America with Imani Perry, Clint Smith and others; exchanges on Latino stories with Natalia Molina, Luis J. Rodriguez and others; and one-on-one conversations with Jonathan Lethem, Adam Schiff, Billy Porter and Amor Towles. For this month's L.A. Times Book Club, Gorman, former L.A. youth poet laureate and author of "Call Us What We Carry," will be in conversation with Natalie J. Graham.

Masks will be required at all indoor events. Public parking on campus will be available for $14.

Ahead of the festival, The Times put together a guide to literary L.A., including a map of essential bookstores and features on other key gathering spots — enough to ground a self-guided reading tour to supplement the fair.

More details about ticketing, parking, public transportation, events and COVID-19 protocols can be found at latimes.com/FestivalofBooks and on the festival’s social media pages on Facebook and Twitter and The Times events Instagram.

Here’s a look at some of this year’s highlights:

Saturday

  • A panel about crime fiction will include Megan Abbott, Tod Goldberg, S. A. Cosby, Alison Gaylin and Rachel Howzell Hall.

  • Martha S. Jones, Mia Bay, Anna Malaika Tubbs, Clint Smith and Imani Perry will discuss race in America.

  • "Call Us What We Carry" author Amanda Gorman will join poet and professor Natalie J. Graham in conversation.

  • Lawyer and Kamala Harris' niece, Meena Harris, will read from her children's book "Ambitious Girl."

  • California U.S. representative Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) will discuss his book "Midnight in Washington" with Times opinion columnist Robin Abcarian.

  • "New Girl" actor Max Greenfield will join Times TV reporter Yvonne Villarreal to discuss his book "I Don't Want to Read This Book."

  • "Lincoln Highway" author Amor Towles will be in conversation with Times journalist Pat Morrison.

  • Music superstar and author of "The Memory Librarian" Janelle Monáe will discuss her debut book with Times columnist Erika D. Smith.

  • "The Dark Hours" author Michael Connelly and "Mecca" novelist Susan Straight will talk about their latest books, moderated by novelist and literary critic Paula L. Woods.

  • Artist Nikkolas G. Smith will read from the children's book he illustrated, "The 1619 Project: Born on the Water."

Sunday

  • A panel about Latino stories will feature Times food editor Daniel Hernandez, Times columnist and podcast host Gustavo Arellano, MacArthur fellow Natalia Molina and poet-novelist Luis J. Rodriguez.

  • "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" actor Terry Crews will discuss his memoir "Tough: My Journey to True Power" with Times reporter Tyrone Beason.

  • "Crossroads" author Jonathan Franzen will join journalist and "Deep Down Dark" writer Héctor Tobar for a conversation.

  • "How I Met Your Father" actor Josh Peck will chat about his book "Happy People Are Annoying" with Times assistant managing editor for audience Samantha Melbourneweaver.

  • Singer Kelly Rowland and educator Jessica McKay will read from their children's book "Always With You, Always With Me."

  • "Harold and Kumar" star Kal Penn will talk about his book "You Can't Be Serious" with Times audience engagement editor Amy Wong.

  • A panel about exploring queer identities in memoirs will include Noel Alumit, R/B A. Mertz, Edgar Gomez and John Paul Brammer.

  • "Pose" actor Billy Porter will discuss "Unprotected: A Memoir" with Essential California reporter Justin Ray.

  • Don Winslow will join Michael Mann to talk about "City on Fire."

  • Media personality Rachel Lindsay, author of "Miss Me with That: Hot Takes, Helpful Tidbits and a Few Hard Truths," will speak with Times entertainment writer Amy Kaufman.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.