When is the last time you read a book not because it was assigned for a class, necessary for research, or on a recommended reading list, but simply because you wanted to? The average college student barely has time to sleep, much less read for pleasure. This weekend gives us the opportunity to rediscover the magical world that exists between the turns of a page at the Miami Book Fair International.
The literary-palooza is a Miami-Dade College tradition that has grown to astronomical proportions over the past 25 years. The fair takes place throughout the week with various readings and special appearances by some famous (and other not-so-famous) authors and culminates in a street fair of epic proportions. The street fair has thousands of new and used books on sale and shuts down entire city blocks downtown all weekend, allowing bookworms to roam free. Just a metro ride away, the book fair seems like the perfect opportunity for UM students to flex their literary muscle.
“I love the book fair and have been attending for at least five years,” said professor Zisca Burton, the head of the English Composition Center. Burton recommends the book fair to her students every year. She encourages students to take full advantage of the author readings.
Highlights from this year include controversial British novelist Salman Rushdie and Art Spiegelman, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel Maus. (Maus tells the story of Spiegelman’s father, a Holocaust survivor, with Jews represented as mice and Germans represented as cats.) Spiegelman will release two highly anticipated new books on Saturday.
“Listening to an author give a lecture is an entirely different experience from reading their work,” Burton said. “I think students can always benefit from hearing what authors have to say, whether it’s about their writing methods, political views, or upcoming projects.”
The most popular aspect of the week, the street fair, seems to be attracting the attention of UM students.
“They have many books on sale on a wide variety of topics,” junior Michael O’Neill said. O’Neill cited browsing the books in a comfortable outdoor environment as one of the things he most enjoys about the festival.
“I’m not looking for anything in particular,” he said. “Its just something interesting to do that’s not going to the movies.”
Sophomore Kevin Coleman is going to the fair to fulfill an assignment in his creative writing class.
“I’m definitely going to go, not just because I have to for class, but because I’m excited to go,” he said. “When I feel I have the time I probably read half an hour to an hour a day during the school year. I read whatever piques my interest, usually fiction.”
The theme of this year’s fair is comic books, with all of Friday devoted to comic books, graphic novels, and manga. While comics are considered by some to be of low literary value, the special sessions on manga and Japanese culture are expected to attract a younger audience.
With a small start the Miami Book Fair is sure to draw crowds larger than ever on its 25th anniversary this weekend. The fact that Miami, a city more widely known for its beaches and bikini-clad locals, is home to one of the preeminent book fairs in the nation goes to show that reading really is a top priority to some of its residents.
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