Creative culture is never in short supply in Mississippi. As the birthplace of renowned native fiction authors, including John Grisham, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Willie Morris and Richard Wright and playwrights Tennessee Williams and Beth Henley, Mississippi is America’s literary soul.
There’s no better way to kick off the oncoming fall festival season than the Mississippi Book Festival, a celebration of the state’s storied literary legacy held at the beautiful Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson. Book enthusiasts mingle between panel sessions featuring Mississippi’s most distinguished literary minds, while booksellers, food trucks and other vendors line the surrounding streets. For anyone with a love for the written word, this is a must-attend event.
While in town for the festival, spend an extra day or two exploring Jackson’s literary havens. Check out the itinerary below for inspiration.
1. Lemuria Bookstore
Start your day Jackson’s Banner Hall, where you can enjoy breakfast and coffee at Broad Street Bakery and shop for books at an independent bookstore, Lemuria. With books from floor to ceiling, first editions, rare books and plenty of cozy reading nooks, Lemuria is a literary enthusiasts’ paradise.
“As with many Southern Writers, I believe that the special quality of the land itself indelibly shapes the people who dwell upon it.” – Willie Morris
2. Margaret Walker Center at JSU
Drive west to the Jackson State University campus to unearth records and relics of Mississippi’s past. The Margaret Walker Center is a cultural preservation research resource center, housing significant records of the late Margaret Walker Alexander. The oral history department includes the official collection of the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. The campus also offers museum and exhibit spaces highlighting the Center’s collections and the history of Jackson State University.
“When I was about eight, I decided that the most wonderful thing, next to a human being, was a book.” – Margaret Walker
3. Eudora Welty House
Spend the afternoon touring the Eudora Welty House located in the historic Belhaven neighborhood. A Jackson native and Pulitzer-prize winning novelist, Eudora Welty returned to her home in Jackson to create novels and short stories. Books cover virtually every surface in Welty’s home, where she lived until her death in 2001. The garden at the house is beautifully reconstructed to the 1925-1945 period.
“A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.” - Eudora Welty
4. Library Lounge
If happy hour is calling you, you don’t need to go far. Nestled in the same neighborhood as the Eudora Welty House, the Library Lounge is housed in Jackson’s only AAA four-diamond small luxury hotel, the Fairview Inn. Imparting a distinct literary feel, the Library Lounge serves up craft cocktails named after Mississippi’s famous authors. Sip a “William Faulkner” while perusing the many books lining the walls.
“Perhaps they were right putting love into books. Perhaps it could not live anywhere else.” – William Faulkner
5. Hal & Mal’s
One of the most storied restaurants and watering holes in Jackson is also the site of several literary points of interest. Eudora Welty’s 90th birthday party was held at Hal & Mal’s. Book signings of John Grisham, Barry Hannah, Larry Brown, Willie Morris and Willie Dixon have been held there as well. With a crowd-pleasing menu of hearty southern staples, you are sure to find a satisfying meal and plenty of nightcap options. Be sure to check out memorabilia lining the walls and learn about the history of one of Jackson’s most colorful, cultural institutions. Nearly all featured writers at the Mississippi Book Festival frequent Hal & Mals. In fact, the Mississippi Book Festival’s Willie Morris After Party will be held there. If you plan to attend the festival, you can enjoy Hal & Mal’s twice!
“Writing's still the most difficult job I've ever had - but it's worth it.” – John Grisham