The Best Online Book Festivals in 2021

An overhead shot of a woman holding a cup of coffee with a tablet and book beside her with the words The Best Online Book Festivals in 2021 written in light pink bars.

One of the highlights of 2020 was that it was possible to attend amazing virtual literary events from anywhere in the world and this is going to continue with a whole range of online book festivals in 2021.

There may be a possibility that literary festivals may only offer physical book events in the second half of the year as pandemic restrictions ease. However, it’s likely that most will also run a digital programme and if so, we’ll add to this page as soon as events are announced. And once again, we’re including digital literary events across the world so that you have something to look forward to every month.

This page was updated in September 2021.

Tips for Attending Virtual Book Festivals

  • Book in advance – lots of literary festivals still require a reservation and some have number limits.
  • Read the book beforehand – an obvious one and applicable to all literary events. You’re going to get a lot more out of the experience if you can connect with what’s being discussed.
  • Check timings – this is essential, especially if you’re tuning into an event in another time zone. This Time Zone Converter will help you to work out the difference in hours.
  • Prepare your equipment – set up your laptop, tablet or phone well before the event starts so you don’t miss the beginning.
  • Anticipate technical glitches – although it’s likely that this year will be smoother than 2020, online events are still more prone to disruption because of their reliance on a stable internet connection.
  • Donate/pay if you can – many literary festivals are struggling to survive, particulary the smaller ones that don’t have huge sponsors. If you can contribute financially, this will help these amazing events to survive.

We’ve included information and resources in these listings below and will update over the coming weeks. If you’re particularly interested in an online literary festival, we recommend signing up to the newsletter for the latest updates.

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Book Festivals in March 2021

Wigtown Book Festival – Big Bang Week

Dates: 3 March – 6 March 2021

A dark skies festival from Scotland’s National Book Town. This series of literary events focuses on astronomy and science – introducing readers to a whole host of fascinating perspectives on life and the universe.

Virtual Literary Events

  • Kellie Giraldi talks about her non-traditional path to a career in the space industry and her book Not Necessarily Rocket Science: A Beginner’s Guide to Life in the Space Age
  • Jo Marchant investigates humanity’s relationship with the heavens in The Human Cosmos.
  • Brian Clegg tracks our sub-atomic origins in What Do You Think You Are?

Cost: Content is FREE but you need to reserve tickets for each event via the website. Donations are very welcome.

Litfest – Lancaster Literary Festival

Dates: 12 March – 21 March 2021

The 42nd Litfest is taking place completely online and all events are free.

Virtual Literary Events

There are plenty of events to choose from in the March 2021 programme. Authors include Matt Haig, A.M. Dassu, Jackie Morris, Shaun Tan, Sarah Moss, and Raymond Antrobus.

You can also join the Litfest Big Read which is basically a big online buddy read of Boy, Everywhere by A.M. Dassu and The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I have read both of these titles and highly recommend them (click on the inks above to find out more).

Cost: Content is FREE but you need to reserve tickets for each event via Crowdcast. Please donate if you can.

Book Festivals in April 2021

Cambridge Literary Spring Festival Online

Dates: 23 – 30 April 2021

The Cambridge Spring Festival will be taking place online this year. There’s also a Children’s Festival running 28 March to 4 April.

Virtual Literary Events

An awesome line-up including Maggie O’Farrell, Nikesh Shukla, Mike Berners-Lee & Caroline Lucas, and Monique Roffey & Salena Godden.

Cost: A single event ticket costs £6 and you have access to the event video for just over a week. A Festival pass for all events is £35-50.

Book Festivals in May 2021

Bay Area Book Festival 2021

Dates: 1 to 9 May 2021

The 7th annual Bay Area Book Festival is going to be held virtually, which means that book lovers from all over the world will be able to attend.

Virtual Literary Events

The full line-up will be revealed on the 18th March. In the meantime, you can have a sneak peek on their website. Guests include Kazuo Ishiguro, Yaa Gyasi, Douglas Stuart and Michael Eric Dyson.

Cost: To be confirmed.

Hay Festival

Dates: 26 May to 6 June

The Hay Festival is undoubtedly one of the biggest literary festivals in the UK and it has just announced that it will be held mostly online in 2021. It sounds as if the events will be professionally recorded on stage at Hay-on-Wye and then broadcast free of charge.

Virtual Literary Events

Speakers include novelists Ali Smith, Lisa McInerney, Isabel Allende, Deborah Levy, Rachel Cusk, Colm Toíbín, Ethan Hawke, Jojo Moyes, Sjón, Maggie Shipstead, Val McDermid, Raven Leilani, Brit Bennett, Caleb Azumah Nelson, Marian Keyes, Tahmima Anam and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa; artist David Hockney; poets Simon Armitage, Hollie McNish, Lemn Sissay, Michael Rosen, Benjamin Zephaniah, Bank of England governor Mark Carney; lawyer Gina Miller; ormer British PM Gordon Brown and politicians Vince Cable, Ed Miliband, Jess Philips, and COP-26 president Alok Sharma; comedians Mel Giedroyc, Robert Webb, Frank Skinner and Graham Norton; actors Russell Tovey, Michael Sheen and Stephen Fry; Reverend Richard Coles; and children’s writers and illustrators Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Patience Agbabi, Cressida Cowell, David Walliams and Radzi Chinyanganya

Cost: All events will be available to watch for free 24 hours from their live broadcast. After this you can pay £10 for an annual subscription to Hay Player.

Book Festivals in June 2021

Folkestone Book Festival

Dates: 4 June to 13 June

Writers, artists and thinkers will explore wide-reaching issues including race relations, the environment, technology, food, pandemics and Britain, Russia, Europe and the US during this festival inspired by the ideas of H.G.Wells who lived in Folkestone for a number of years.

Virtual Literary Events

Authors include Hanif Kureishi, Horatio Clare, David Lammy, Natalie Haynes and Imbolo Mblue. There is also the opportunity to experience Beckett in Folkestone.

Cost: You will be able to enjoy the festival online by booking a digital festival pass for £15.

Book Festivals in July 2021

West Cork Literary Festival

Dates: 9 – 16 July 2021

The West Cork Literary Festival in Ireland has run online workshops in January and will be sharing more digital events this spring. There will be news about the main festival in July soon.

Book Festivals in August 2021

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Dates: 14 – 30 August 2021

The Edinburgh International Festival will be announcing their programme in June 2021. They had a fantastic choice of virtual events in 2020 so it will be interesting to see whether they replicate this even if physical events go ahead.

Book Festivals in September 2021

BIF Digital Festival 2021

Dates: Recorded book events available to view until 31 October 2021

The Buxton International Festival has launched an online programme of pre-recorded non-fiction book events, which were filmed during the 2021 summer Festival. Authors include William Dalyrymple, Andrew Marr, Margaret MacMillan, Nazir Afzal and Samir Puri. There is a £5 cost to watch a book event and you can buy the full package of opera, music and books (17 events) for £40. These can be viewed until 31 October.

Brooklyn Book Festival

Dates: September 26 – October 4 2021

The 15th anniversary of the Brooklyn Book Festival was open across the world free of charge via it’s digital programme. The line-up was wonderfully diverse with national, international and emerging authors. 100 authors contributed to a day of programming which included fiction, non-fiction, poetry and comics.

Book Festivals in October 2021

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

Dates: 8 – 17 October 2021

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival streamed 100 events live in October 2020. Guest curators were Shamil Thakrar – co-founder of Dishoom, Best Restaurant in the UK winner and award-winning British-Turkish novelist Elif Shafak.

Fall for the Book Festival

Dates 14 – 31 October 2021

Fall for the Book is Northern Virginia’s oldest and largest festival of literature and the arts. The hybrid 2021 festival, featuring aired live and recorded events, as well as in-person events will run from October 14-31. All events are free and open to the public thanks to the generous support of sponsors including the Fairfax County Public Library, George Mason University, the Fairfax Library Foundation, and the City of Fairfax.

The Vancouver Writers Fest 2021

Dates: 18 – 24 October 2021

The 2021 Vancouver Writers Fest is selling a $100 digital pass to watch 35 events as livestreams with an option to watch on demand until the end of October. Guests include Richard Powers in Conversation with Eleanor Wachtel, Francisco Goldman, Atticus Lish, and Ruth Ozeki, Brit Bennett in Conversation with Jael Richardson.

Are you aiming to attend any online book festivals in 2021?

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  1. February 21, 2021 / 12:04 am

    This is unbelievably cool! I am thrilled that I could actually “attend” some of these – it hadn’t occurred to me! Thanks!

    • thebookfamilyrogerson
      February 21, 2021 / 10:04 pm

      Yay! I wrote it for this very reason. I hope you enjoy all the bookish talks this year!

    • thebookfamilyrogerson
      February 21, 2021 / 10:05 pm

      Thanks Clair! I was surprised to see how many are coming up – it’s going to be an excellent year for online book talks!

  2. February 22, 2021 / 10:58 am

    Lockdown has made so many more things accessible. I hope when things change they keep some of the online options xxx

    • thebookfamilyrogerson
      February 25, 2021 / 10:07 pm

      I totally agree! I went to a (digital!) conference for festivals this week and it looks as if they’re all planning to keep an online stream because it’s helped them to reach new audiences – great news 🙂

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