Past Events

Since 1986, Friends has brought books, authors and readers together by hosting or co-hosting a variety of events to inspire, inform and entertain local book lovers.


On May 16, Friends, Union Ave Books, the Knox County Public Library, and the East Tennessee Historical Society presented an evening with award-winning author Nathaniel Philbrick, who discussed his most recent book, Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution.

Listen to the podcast of the Nathaniel Philbrick event here:


Nathaniel Philbrick, May 16, 2017

Friends, Union Ave Books, and First Presbyterian Church hosted an evening with author Anne Lamott at the church on April 9. Lamott read from and discussed her newest book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. She also filmed a TED Talk, “12 truths I learned from life and writing,” in April that can be viewed here.

Novelist Amy Greene presented the 2017 Wilma Dykeman Stokely Memorial Lecture on March 23 at the East Tennessee History Center. The event was sponsored by Friends,  the Library Society of UT, the Knox County Public Library, the East Tennessee Historical Society, and Union Ave Books. A photo album has been added to the Friends Facebook page (no Facebook account required), and The Library Society has archived a recording of this event. 


Jim and Dykeman Stokely, sons of the late Wilma Dykeman, celebrated the posthumous publication of her memoir, Family of Earth: A Southern Mountain Childhood, on September 11 at the East Tennessee History Center. The event was made possible by a partnership of Friends, Union Ave Books, the Library Society of UT, the East Tennessee Historical Society, and the Knox County Public Library. Photos from the event can be viewed here. Chapter 16 published An Appetite for Imaginative Living, Nashvillian Emily Choate’s review of Family of Earth, on November 1.

Washington Post reporter and author Dan Zak discussed his new book, Almighty: Courage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age, at the East Tennessee History Center on August 4. The event was hosted by Friends, the Knox County Public LibraryUnion Ave Books, and the East Tennessee Historical Society. A photo gallery has been added to the archived event page.

The East Tennessee Historical Society and Friends hosted a return visit by author Sharyn McCrumb on May 25. McCrumb talked about her newest Ballad novel, Prayers the Devil Answers. Photos from the evening have been added to the archived event page.

Friends joined with the Library Society of UT Knoxville for an evening with acclaimed author Robert Morgan on April 7 at the Bijou Theatre. Morgan presented the 2016 Wilma Dykeman Stokely Memorial Lecture. Please visit the Library Society’s website to view a recording of this event.

On March 22, Friends, the East Tennessee Historical Society, the Knox County Public LibraryUnion Ave Books, and Keurig Green Mountain hosted an evening with best-selling author Erik Larson at the Bijou Theatre. A photo gallery has been added to the archived event page.

Program hosts Friends of the Knox County Public Library, the Knox County Public Library, the Clarence Brown Theatre, and the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office and several community partners brought The Big Read to Knoxville February 5–March 13. A Lesson Before Dying, the award-winning novel by Ernest J. Gaines, was the focus of book discussions, community events, and performances at the Carousel Theatre.


Friends joined with the East Tennessee Historical Society, the Knox County Public Library, and media sponsor WUOT to present an evening with Steve Inskeep, NPR anchor and author of Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Chief John Ross, and A Great American Land Grab, at the Bijou Theatre on June 2.

On March 12, Friends partnered with The Library Society of the University of Tennessee to bring ethnomusicologist Dom Flemons, the American Songster, to the Bijou Theatre to present the Wilma Dykeman Stokely Memorial Lecture. Please visit the Library Society of UT’s website to view a recording of this event. Flemons returned in May 2016 for the Knoxville Stomp Festival of Lost Music, which was sponsored in part by a Friends mini-grant.


An afternoon with Vince Vawter, former managing editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel and author of the Newbery Honor Award-winning novel Paperboy, on October 19 included readings from the book as well as a book signing. Vawter’s essay about the writing of Paperboy, “A Slippery Bar of Soap in a Large Bathtub,” was published by Chapter 16 prior to his appearance at the 2016 Children’s Festival of Reading.

Friends and the Knox County Public Library hosted Christmas in Appalachia, an evening with New York Times-bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb, at the East Tennessee History Center on October 9.

Friends was honored to be a co-sponsor of the Fifth Annual Anne Mayhew Distinguished Honors Lecture given by Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, on the evening of September 23.

Friends joined with the Great Schools Partnership and others to host Amanda Ripley, journalist and author of The Smartest Kids in the World, at the Bijou Theatre on April 9.

Poet, short story writer, and novelist Ron Rash presented the Wilma Dykeman Stokely Memorial Lecture on March 4 at the East Tennessee History Center. Please visit the Library Society of UT’s website to view a recording of this event. Rash’s most recent novel is Above the Waterfall. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2017.


In partnership with the Knox County Public Library and Union Ave Books, Friends brought Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things, to Knoxville on November 2. Gilbert’s newest book is Big Magic.

Friends joined with several University of Tennessee departments and others as sponsors as noted physician, teacher and bestselling author Abraham Verghese gave the Fourth Annual Anne Mayhew Distinguished Honors Lecture on September 25.

On May 21, Denise Kiernan, author of The Girls of Atomic City, spoke at the East Tennessee History Center at an event sponsored by Friends and Union Ave Books.

Journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and military historian Rick Atkinson spoke at the Bijou Theatre on the afternoon of May 19 at an event co-sponsored by Friends, the Knox County Public Library, and the East Tennessee Historical Society.

Pulitzer Prize winner and noted Tennessee author Jon Meacham discussed his book Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power at the Bijou Theatre on February 18, an event co-sponsored by Friends, the Knox County Public Library, and the East Tennessee Historical Society. Meacham’s most recent book is Destiny and Power,  a biography of former president George H. W. Bush.


In celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the Knox County Public Library, Friends hosted author Marianne Wiggins, who discussed her novel Evidence of Things Unseen at the East Tennessee History Center on January 24.


Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, a story of pride and assimilation, faith and doubt, was the selection for The Big Read in September. The event was launched on September 16 in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month.

Native Knoxvillian Minky Worden, editor of China’s Great Leap: The Beijing Games and Olympian Human Rights Challenges and co-editor of Torture, delivered the Wilma Dykeman Stokely Memorial Lecture on March 24.


Comedian, author, and library spokesperson Paula Poundstone appeared at the Bijou Theatre on October 7 at an event to benefit Friends.

Biographer Charles J. Shields, author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, presented the inaugural Wilma Dykeman Stokely Memorial Lecture on October 2; Friends, the YWCA and the Knox County Public Library sponsored the event.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was the selection for The Big Read, which took place September 26–October 31.

New York Times-bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb spoke at the Burlington Branch of the Knox County Public Library on March 23.


Elizabeth Kostova, author of the best-selling novel The Historian and former student of long-time Friends member Ginna Mashburn, spoke at the East Tennessee History Center on November 14.

Friends joined with Friends of the University of Tennessee Gardens, the Knoxville Museum of Art Guild, and the Hodges Fund of the University of Tennessee Department of English for an evening with Emily Herring Wilson, editor of Two Gardeners: A Friendship in Letters and author of No One Gardens Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence, on March 7 at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Church.


Friends again joined several other sponsors to support One Book, One Community. Groups all over Knox County participated in discussions of A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines in February.


Friends welcomed Knoxville native Monica Langley, journalist and author of Tearing Down the Walls.

James Agee‘s A Death in the Family was the choice for February’s One Book, One Community. Knoxvillians again joined together for book discussions all month.


Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys, the book that inspired the film October Sky, spoke on September 9. October Sky was shown at the Tennessee Theatre on September 8. Hickam’s most recent book is Carrying Albert Home.

The 2002 selection for One Book, One Community was John Steinbeck‘s The Pearl. Book discussions were held at branch libraries and other venues. The grand finale was a Steinbeck Film Festival held May 19–22 at the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Farragut Town Hall, and the Tennessee Theatre.


Pulitzer Prize-winning memoirist and author Rick Bragg appeared at the Bijou Theatre as the guest of Friends.


Friends brought John Berendt, the man behind the best-selling true-crime book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, to Knoxville to speak at the Tennessee Theatre.


Book lovers braved a winter storm to hear author John Updike, who was best known for his quartet of Rabbit novels, at the Tennessee Theatre.


Friends sponsored a second BookFest in downtown Knoxville in October that again featured a number of authors, vendors and children’s activities.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy spoke at the 1992 Book and Author event.


In October, Friends sponsored BookFest, a downtown event featuring over 30 authors as well as vendors and children’s activities.

Friends hosted New York Times-bestselling author Pat Conroy at the Tennessee Theatre.


The 1990 Book and Authors Dinner featured Roy Blount Jr. and Lee Smith.


Authors Fred Chappell and George Garrett spoke at the Friends Book and Author Dinner.


Wilma Dykeman Stokely again acted as moderator/interviewer for the Book and Author Dinner, which featured authors Ferrol Sams and Anne Rivers Siddons.


The first Friends Book and Author Dinner featured authors Clyde Edgerton, Peter Taylor and Wilma Dykeman Stokely, with Ms. Stokely acting as a moderator/interviewer.


West Town Mall was the site of the first Friends book and author event, a book fair that was held in conjunction with Lawson McGhee Library’s Centennial Celebration. Some 60 authors, including Will Campbell, Josephine Humphreys and James Still, appeared during the 2-day event to meet readers and autograph books.