New decade, new name. The Central Arkansas Library System’s Six Bridges Book Festival, formerly the Arkansas Literary Festival, has been a favorite for bookworms and lifelong learners for the past 16 years.

A nod to Little Rock’s numerous structures spanning the Arkansas River, the new name is, according to CALS Executive Director Nate Coulter, “more fitting for the diverse, energetic celebration” the fest has become, putting a special emphasis on community feedback when selecting presenters and activities.

“The 2020 festival is packed with best-selling, cutting edge and intriguing emerging authors,” festival coordinator Brad Mooy says. “Seriously, if you like to read or don’t know what your next book to read should be, this is the place to be.”

Editor’s Note: Just before Soirée went to press, the festival announced it would be rescheduling to the fall amid COVID-19 concerns. We cannot guarantee all the authors below will be able to make the new date, but we encourage you to pick up their works in the meantime.



“Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era”
Jerry Mitchell

With more than 30 national awards under his belt, Mitchell knows a thing or two about uncovering injustices, particularly in the South. His book details how his journalistic digging led to the re-examination of long-closed cases and the conviction of four notorious Klansmen.



“The Warehouse”
Rob Hart

Centered around (and within) a mega-company that’s consuming the country and treating its people like merchandise, this almost-too-close-for-comfort thriller has drawn comparisons to the likes of “Fahrenheit 451” and “1984,” with Stephen King himself calling it “engrossing.” Hart’s hit novel was recently optioned for film by Ron Howard and has now been published in more than 20 languages.



“Red at the Bone”
Jacqueline Woodson

Woodson is a literary powerhouse whose bestselling and award-winning books span the full age ranges of readers. New to the festival, a special book club campaign selected Woodson to appear at the 2020 event on the heels of her latest novel, a tale of complicated family history that became an instant hit with critics and the public alike.



“The Things They Carried”
Tim O’Brien

Pulitzer Prize finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award contender, more than 2 million copies sold — O’Brien’s 1990 book quickly cemented its place in the new classics canon. Twenty years later, his tale of a platoon of American soldiers in Vietnam is every bit as poignant and still leads O’Brien’s repertoire of award-winning works.



“Furious Hours”
Casey Cep

True crime fans will enjoy this telling of a rural Alabama preacher accused of murdering his family for insurance money, a courtroom drama that caught the attention of Harper Lee herself, who sat in on the trial in the ‘70s. Cep tells the story of both Lee and the reverend on trial in her critically-acclaimed work.



“Ordinary Girls”
Jaquira Díaz

Díaz’s memoir found a spot in multiple “most anticipated books” lists in 2019, going on to become one of the must-read books of the year for everyone from “O: The Oprah Magazine” to Bustle. Vulnerability, curiosity and resilience shine as Díaz reflects on her early childhood in the Puerto Rico projects, her teen years in Miami and living through the struggles of family dysfunction, addiction, sexual identity and beyond.



“Bent Heavens”
Daniel Kraus

No stranger to “best of” and “top 10” lists, Kraus once again brings to the page his signature blend of the decidedly inhuman with the human condition. He follows up his bestseller “The Shape of Water” — which he wrote with Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro — with a brand new, genre-bending work that is that is equal parts alien horror and grief counseling.



“School Choice: A Legacy to Keep”
Virginia Walden Ford

As a teenager, Ford was one of the first students chosen to desegregate Little Rock schools in the ‘60s, but that’s just the beginning of her story. As an adult, Ford led a troop of parents in D.C. to advocate for school choice when she realized schools’ upkeep depended on their ZIP codes, a story depicted in the film “Miss Virginia” starring “Orange is the New Black’s” Uzo Aduba.



“The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages”
Trenton Lee Stewart

This Little Rock author took the young adult genre by storm with his “New York Times” bestselling Mysterious Benedict Society series following a band of gifted kids tasked with taking on the dastardly Mr. Curtain. The tale earned Stewart a spot on “Time” magazine’s list of the 100 greatest young adult novels of all time and is also in the works to become a series on Hulu.



“The Beautiful Ones”
Dan Piepenbring

Being hired to coauthor Prince’s memoir was a dream project for Piepenbring, that is, until the icon died before it was published. Piepenbring was left to gather Prince’s experiences and expressions into a single work detailing “the strains of mystery, black identity, sexuality and utopianism in his music.”



“Here For It, Or How to Save Your Soul in America”
R. Eric Thomas

When Lin-Manuel Miranda calls your essay collection “laugh-out-loud funny,” you’re on to something. The playwright, Elle.com writer and host of “The Moth” explores faith, sexuality, diversity and equity, to name a few, in his insightful, pop culture-drenched debut.



“Training School for Negro Girls”
Camille Acker

From misguided millenials to misplaced anger, the missteps and convictions of a cast of Washington, D.C. natives are at the center of this collection of short stories. Acker’s debut book is part-tragedy, part-comedy and all too relatable.


The festival has been rescheduled for Oct. 8-11. Learn more at SixBridgesBookFestival.org.