Desert Companion

Zeit bites: One weekend, two festivals

Vegas book lovers have a tough decision in April: Stay in town for the big, new litstravaganza? Or go to L.A. for the traditional bookapalooza?

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Sponsored by: A certain L.A. newspaper

When: April 22-23

Where: University of Southern California

Headliners: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, T.C. Boyle, Joyce Carol Oates, Roxane Gay, Michael Connolly, Bryan Cranston, Congressman John Lewis, Chuck Palahniuk, Rebecca Solnit, more

Why this festival over the other: Choice. A crazy, exhausting wealth of choice. From a dozen panel talks, author interviews and book-signings in every time slot, to stages devoted to poetry, cooking and readings, to hundreds of vendors (publishers, creators, knickknacks), you’ll need a case of Red Bull to power through all the options and the ability to make a few hard choices.

Footnote: Here’s a tip: Stay in beautiful Pasadena — home to the great bookstore Vroman’s and a number of excellent used bookshops worth a crawl — and zoom down to the festival. Afterward, satisfy your book lust at such great L.A. shops as The Last Bookstore and Book Soup.

Support comes from

The Believer Festival

Sponsored by: The Black Mountain Institute

When: April 21-22

Where: Red Rock Canyon; Mob Museum; Place on 7th; Bunkhouse Saloon

Headliners: Dave Eggers, Heidi Julavits, Vida Vendela, Miranda July, Carrie Brownstein, Ben Marcus, Luis Alberto Urrea, Tift Merritt, more

Why this festival over the other: No travel, for one. Also: It’s a big deal — this gathering of talent deserves national attention, as does the nontraditional format. Shrewdly, the organizers will eschew the familiar panel-chat setup for more inventive staging: an evening of readings at Red Rock Canyon; music at the Bunkhouse Saloon; in the Mob Museum’s courthouse, writers will present “amicus briefs” before a panel of literary judges, about where the American Dream is most alive now.

Footnote: This is called The Believer Festival after The Believer magazine, an offbeat lit-mag once a mainstay of the McSweeney’s portfolio, newly purchased by the Black Mountain Institute. The overall theme of the festival is “American Dreams.”

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