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Publisher's Summary

A searing and exhilarating new collection from the award-winning author of The Boys of My Youth and In Zanesville, who “honors the beautiful, the sacred, and the comic in life” (Sigrid Nunez, National Book Award-winner for The Friend).

A New York Times Notable Book

New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

A Boston Globe and LitHub Best Book of the Year

When “The Fourth State of Matter”, her now famous piece about a workplace massacre at the University of Iowa, was published in The New Yorker, Jo Ann Beard immediately became one of the most influential writers in America, forging a path for a new generation of young authors willing to combine the dexterity of fiction with the rigors of memory and reportage, and in the process extending the range of possibility for the essay form.

Now, with Festival Days, Beard brings us the culmination of her groundbreaking work. In these nine pieces, she captures both the small luminous moments of daily existence and those instants when life and death hang in the balance, ranging from the death of a beloved dog to a relentlessly propulsive account of a New York artist trapped inside a burning building, as well as two triumphant, celebrated pieces of short fiction.

Here is an unforgettable collection destined to be embraced and debated by listeners and writers, teachers and students. Anchored by the title piece - a searing journey through India that brings into focus questions of mortality and love - Festival Days presents Beard at the height of her powers, using her flawless prose to reveal all that is tender and timeless beneath the way we live now.

©2021 Jo Ann Beard (P)2021 Little, Brown & Company

Critic Reviews

"Ferocious...Beard [is] a towering talent.... Perhaps instead of an essayist we should think of her as a poet-naturalist, wedding intuition and observation, and forming from this union something unaccountably yet undeniably real...a book as forceful as it is fine, leaving us both awed and unsettled.” (Leah Hager Cohen, New York Times Book Review

"Beautiful.... Beard’s power comes from phrasings and insights that aren’t just screaming for likes. Few writers are so wise and self-effacing and emotionally honest all in one breath.... Over the course of nine beguiling pieces - which seamlessly meld observation and imagination - she effects an intimacy that makes us want to sit on the rug and listen.” (Sara Lippmann, Washington Post

"[Beard’s] books are worth the wait. A master of sensory details, she also writes with humor, melancholy and a love of animals that never borders on saccharine.... In her work, even everyday moments gleam with significance.” (Michele Filgate, Los Angeles Times

What listeners say about Festival Days

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Loved It!

Some of these were really, really good! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the narration was lively and augmented the stories.

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An Incredible Way to Spend a Summer Afternoon

I love this book! The stories were incredible, though I think they started with the wrong one (do not let it dissuade you from going to the second), and the narration was amazing. The imagery Beard uses is mind-boggling, the depths of the characters is spellbinding, and her syntax is no less than delicious.
If you are looking for a book you can get lost in, characters you can relate to, Festival Days is the book for you. Warning: each story's conclusion is not gentle, does not segue nicely into the next one, and is sometimes jarring, but it will capture you.

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Wonderful

Sad, moving and so worth the listen.
Tears and a few chuckles. Jo Ann Beard is a truly talented weaver of words.

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Moments of brilliance

I found the first three stories to be exceptional. Others seemed kind of experimental. The last story, Festival Days, was well written, but felt like a long stream of consciousness. In fairness, I’m not a big short story fan, but again I thought the first three stories are very good.