Event features Erik Larson, other authors

The Gold Coast Book Fair is coming to Oyster Bay

Setting the gold standard for book fairs


The inaugural Gold Coast Book Fair is set to take place June 28 to 30, bringing a celebration of literature to Long Island University, in Brookville, and downtown Oyster Bay. With more than 50 authors taking part, the event promises to be a significant cultural and economic boost for the hamlet.

The fair is the brainchild of former U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, owner of Theodore’s Books in Oyster Bay, who, alongside Meredith Maus, executive director of the Main Street Association, and organizers from LIU, has spent much of the past year preparing. The fair aims to showcase Long Island’s rich literary heritage while promoting local businesses.

“I learned that book fairs are not only great celebrations of literature, but also important economic development tools, because they draw people from around the country,” Israel said. “When I opened up Theodore’s Books, I had always imagined accompanying it with a book festival of our own.”

The fair will begin on Friday with a keynote speech by bestselling author and historian Erik Larson, known for his latest book, “The Demon of Unrest,” as well as “The Devil in the White City,” which focuses on the murderer H.H. Holmes during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Larson’s appearance, which requires a ticket, includes a signed copy of his new book.

Saturday’s program, at LIU, will feature a marketplace of crafts and refreshments, as well as a full day of panels featuring prominent authors from a variety of genres.

“Erik Larson is widely regarded as the best author of history in the country,” Israel noted. “He’s going to kick us off on Friday night, and his presence will set a high standard for the event.”

The fair’s extensive lineup includes both award-winning authors and emerging voices in subject matter ranging from historical fiction to science fiction, romance and children’s literature. On Saturday, Pulitzer Prize finalist Alice McDermott will present her latest novel, “Absolution,” at LIU, also with tickets that include a copy of the book.

On Sunday the festivities will move to downtown Oyster Bay, transforming Audrey Avenue into a literary street fair. Activities will include an indie author showcase, inflatables for children, live music, and swing dancing.

Carla Hayden, the librarian of Congress, will also be on hand that day to answer questions, and although the event is already at capacity, a standby line will be set up outside the venue at 2:30 that afternoon on a first-come, first-served basis. Several local venues, including the Life Enrichment Center, the First Presbyterian Church and the Oyster Bay Historical Society, will host author signings and book talks.

Maus highlighted the collaborative effort required to bring the fair to fruition. “We started working on this together about a year ago,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to bring a new focus to the downtown of Oyster Bay and highlight our community’s rich literary history.”

In addition to promoting literature, the fair aims to benefit local businesses. Maus emphasized that this is an important goal, and a key part of the Main Street Association’s mission.

“We’ve reached out to all of our local businesses to find ways they can get involved,” Maus said. “The book festival isn’t just about the celebration of literature; it’s also a celebration of what we have going on in our downtown — the great restaurants, retail shops and general services.”

The event will not only be a boon for local commerce, Israel said, but also a celebration of America’s founding principles. He added that it was also a way to highlight the literary impact Long Island has had on the country, thanks to iconic authors like Walt Whitman and Nelson DeMille.

“At the heart of this fair is a celebration of reading and democracy,” Israel said. “I believe we have a shot at meeting our challenges if we’re well-read and understand history and literature.”

The organizers have worked long hours to ensure the fair’s success, assembling a dedicated team of volunteers and staff to manage the myriad details involved in such a large event. Without the efforts of so many people, Israel said, the fair would not be possible.

“I’ve been very fortunate, because we assembled an amazing team of volunteers and staff that have coordinated a million details, from lining up authors to working with local merchants to ordering books,” he said. “So we put together a small army of literature lovers who are making this fair work.”

The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Maus, with residents and business owners eagerly anticipating the fair.

“People have been saying that they’re really excited about it,” Maus said. “It really is going to be a special event.”

The fair is free to attend, with select events requiring tickets. For more information and to view the full schedule, visit GoldCoastBookFair.com.