MJCCA Book Festival 2022 includes Bernie Marcus, Nikki Haley, Melissa Rivers, Andrew Young in person

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will do a remote event.

The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta next month is bringing back its book festival in full-fledged, in-person form for the first time since 2019 with authors such as the center’s benefactor and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, Joan Rivers’ daughter Melissa Rivers and former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young.

Pam Morton, the festival director since 2012, said she deliberately limited the author events this year to 16 vs. 50 three years ago.

“We’re being much more conservative,” Morton said. “We were looking for really fascinating high-profile authors we knew would pique people’s interests and get them back through the doors.”

Many of the book festival faithful, she noted, are older and still cautious about big crowds since COVID-19 remains a major risk for those with immune system deficiencies, even vaccinated.

Tickets are on sale now at atlantajcc.org with prices dependent upon the author. In a few cases, the book comes with the ticket and most authors will autograph the books after the talk. All events will be held at MJCCA on Tilly Mill Road in Dunwoody.

The festival officially begins Nov. 3 with historian Jon Meacham and will conclude Nov. 19 with deaf model and actor Nyle DiMarco.

Last year, the MJCCA used a hybrid model with some authors giving people the option of in-person or Zoom. An overwhelming majority opted for Zoom. So this year, the hybrid option is gone.

“If we continue to offer a virtual ticket, we’ll never get some people out of their living rooms,” Morton said. (There will be one pre-festival virtual event Oct. 20 featuring former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu via Zoom where a purchase of his memoir “Bibi: My Story” will provide online entry.)

Morton said the center has held 170 virtual events since the pandemic began with authors such as Matthew McConaughey, Sharon Stone and Michael J. Fox they may never have gotten in person.

“But I think what people really missed was the social aspect,” Morton said. “They love to interact in person with their favorite authors.”

Publishers, she said, began offering more in-person events around February and March. MJCCA so far this year has hosted authors at the center such as Brad Meltzer, Jennifer Weiner and Daniel Silva. “These are tried and true authors with built-in fan bases,” she said.

Besides the contingent of COVID-19-weary community center members, she said the festival is competing with a surfeit of other entertainment options and people who are making up for lost travel time in 2020 and 2021.

“I used to be able to estimate attendance within 50 people,” Morton said. “I have no idea this year.”

In 2019, the final author event featuring Hilary and Chelsea Clinton maxed out the gymnasium at 1,600 people. She isn’t sure any author will reach those numbers this year but she hopes to see crowds like that again in the future.

But Morton was encouraged when she watched a recent event with New York Times writer and cookbook author Melissa Clark that drew 150. “You can have an amazing event with 150 people,” she said. “They hung on her every word. We sold out of books. People were buying four or five at a time. You could not have asked for a more engaged audience.”

Among the notable authors:

Credit: Book cover

Credit: Book cover

  • Jon Meacham, Thursday, Nov. 3. He’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author who specializes in presidential biographies. His latest non-fiction book: “And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle.”
  • Melissa Rivers, Saturday, Nov. 5. She’s a TV personality, producer and daughter of the late Hollywood comedy legend Joan Rivers. Her book: “Lies My Mother Told Me.”
  • Bernie Marcus with Catherine Lewis, Sunday, Nov. 6. He’s the benefactor for the community center itself and co-creator of Home Depot. His advice book: “Kick Up Some Dust: Lessons from the Co-Founder of the Home Depot on Thinking Big, Giving Back, and Doing it Yourself.”
  • Julia Haart, Wednesday, Nov. 9. She is star of a Netflix reality series “My Unorthodox Life” about her escape from a religious sect and her rise to become a shoe designer and CEO of a modeling agency. Her book: “Brazen: My Unorthodox Journey from Long Sleeves to Lingerie.”

Credit: Book cover

Credit: Book cover

  • Tova Friedman, Thursday, Nov. 10. She was one of the youngest survivors of Auschwitz during World War II. Her book: ” The Daughter of Auschwitz.”

Credit: Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  • Andrew Young with Ernie Suggs, Saturday Nov. 12. Young is a civil rights legend and former U.S. Congressman, United Nations ambassador and Atlanta mayor. Suggs’ book: “The Many Lives of Andrew Young.”
  • Nikki Haley. Sunday, Nov. 13. Haley was a U.N. ambassador and governor of South Carolina. Her book: “If You Want Something Done.”

Credit: Book cover

Credit: Book cover

  • Clea Newman Soderlund. Tuesday, Nov. 15. She is the daughter of actors Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Her memoir, a companion to the HBO series “The Last Movie Stars,” is “The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man.”
  • Matt Paxton, Thursday, Nov. 17. The Suwanee resident made his name as an organizer for the show “Hoarders” and now hosts PBS’s “Legacy List.” His book: Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff: Declutter, Downsize, and Move Forward with Your Life.”

Credit: Book cover

Credit: Book cover

  • Nyle DiMarco. Saturday, Nov. 19. He’s a deaf producer, actor and model who won both “America’s Next Top Model” and “Dancing With the Stars.” His book: “Deaf Utopia.”