Charleston Literary Festival
Image Credit: Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman
Charleston is one of the most romantic and historic cities in the South. It’s no wonder so many famous authors have set their novels in the Holy City.
The Charleston Literary Festival draws up to 50 authors each year, including some of the biggest names in literary fiction.
If you’re headed to Charleston for this event, you may want to make a few stops at literary haunts during your trip.
Charleston Literary Festival
The Charleston Literary Festival is one of the preeminent events for bibliophiles in Charleston each year!
This boutique literary festival runs for 10 days at the beginning of November, and it will be happening from November 3 to November 10, 2023.
A few of the authors on the panel this year include:
- Claire Keegan
- Richard Ford
- Adam Gopnik
- Rebecca Makkai
- A.O. Scott
- Lorrie Moore
- Simon Schama
Past speakers have included:
- Marcus Amaker
- Marie Brenner
- Geraldine Brooks
- Tina Brown
- Hernan Diaz
- Elisabeth Griffith
- Nick Hornby
Tickets start at $25 per session or $625 for the entire festival.
Best Books Set in Charleston and South Carolina
It’s no surprise that Charleston has been the setting for some of the best books of the 21st century.
Just a few of our favorite books that take place in the Lowcountry include the following:
- The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
- Charleston by Margaret Bradham Thornton
- The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs (Temperance Brennan, #20)
- The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
- Mamba’s Daughters by DuBose Heyward
- The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe
Charleston Literary Sites
Since Charleston has been the setting for so many famous novels, it stands to reason that there are plenty of sites to visit that those books were based on.
Some of our favorite literary sites in Charleston include The Bench by the Road, Poe’s Tavern, and the Dubose Heyward House.
If you want to see some of these sites yourself, consider booking a private tour.
Toni Morrison’s Bench by the Road
After surviving inhumane conditions on slave ships, these Africans were held at Fort Moultrie in “pest houses” where they were quarantined before being moved to the slave market.
In a 1989 interview, Morrison, who wrote the novel Beloved about the horrors of slavery stated, There is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves . . . There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There’s no 300-foot tower, there’s no small bench by the road.”
Edgar Allen Poe lived in Charleston for just over a year in 1827 when he was in the army and stationed at Fort Moultrie.
The stories “The Balloon Hoax”, “The Oblong Box” and “The Gold-Bug” all take place in South Carolina’s Lowcountry.
After a visit to Sullivan’s Island, make a stop at Poe’s Tavern, one of our favorite Charleston restaurants, where you can check out photos and writings of the famed author while you enjoy Poe-themed menu items.
Dubose Heyward House
Possibly one of the most famous and important Charleston authors is Dubose Heyward, the author of the book Porgy that inspired Gershwin’s famed musical, Porgy and Bess.
Though Heyward was white, he was praised by African-American Author Langston Hughes for his descriptions of Catfish Row; however, many scholars do claim that Heyward wrote black characters as stereotypes and through the lens of whiteness.
The Porgy House at Folly Beach is where Heyward and his wife, playwright Dorothy Heyward, lived in the 1930s.
Pro tip: you can visit the outside of the Dubose Heyward House on our Charleston History Tour! Or, book a private tour if you want to delve deeper into some of the Charleston sites.
Charleston Bookstores for Bibliophiles
As long as you’re in the Holy City for the most holiest of bibliophiles weeks, why not support a few local independent bookstores? Here are a few of our favorites.
Blue Bicycle Books
This King Street independent bookstore specializes in new releases, literary fiction, and commercial fiction. Blue Bicycle Books is the hub for YALLFest, Charleston’s Young Adult Book Festival, which takes place during the second week of November.
Itinerant Literate Bookstop
Itinerant Literate Bookstop is a traveling bookstore that makes its way around the city in a trailer. It also has a brick-and-mortar location in the Park Circle neighborhood. It specializes in signed copies and runs a literary book club once a month.
Another King Street independent bookstore, Buxton Books, specializes in signed books and special editions. This bookstore also runs a packed calendar of events each month and participates in the Charleston Literary Festival events.
The Village Bookseller
The Village Bookseller is a Mount Pleasant independent bookstore that runs a mystery book club and a historical fiction book club. It’s no surprise it specializes in historical fiction and mystery books.
Crazyhorse isn’t a bookstore, but it is one of the most important literary magazines in the U.S. Though you can’t just walk into the office and meet the editors, lit fans can geek out by taking photos outside the College of Charleston headquarters.