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Bristol BookFest logo, dark and light blue with the date April 5 - 6, 2024

Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick

Blue poster showing seagulls and a ship, in the water a large white whale. MOBY DICK.

“Call me Ishmael.”

One of the most famous opening lines of literature.

BookFest is an evening and a day of stimulating conversations around a classic book created to bring together avid readers, writers and scholars in the Bristol community and beyond — all in a welcoming and sociable atmosphere. This years selection is: Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

BookFest will be held on April 5 & 6, but it is not just a weekend event. The festivities include a series of supporting events; see the calendar of events below. Join us for conversations, crafts, and programs that bring our own community together around this seafaring story.

Calendar of Events

All events take place at Rogers Free Library and are free unless otherwise noted.
All events require registration. Links are provided below.
We look forward to seeing you!

Whale Guitar 10-Year Celebration

Created by artists in the Ocean State, the guitar is inspired by Melville’s Moby-Dick as an Instrument of Change that makes waves about climate change. Join us in a rollicking all- ages concert of sea shanties to celebrate the Whale Guitar’s 10-year anniversary.

Past Events

Every Thursday
January 11 to February 29
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Moby-Dick Reading Group

Facilitator Charles Calhoun offers a chapter by chapter guided tour, with group discussion, of this complex and challenging masterpiece. Copies of the novel are available at the circulation desk at the library. Find the links to register and the reading schedule below.

Please click on each week to register.

Week 1 (1/11/24 in the Upstairs Conference Room) // Etymology and Chapters 1-12: Loomings – Biographical
Week 2 (1/18/24 in the Herreshoff Community Room) // Chapters 13-32: Wheelbarrow – Cetology
Week 3 (1/25/24 in the Upstairs Conference Room) // Chapters 33-46: The Specksynder – Surmises
Week 4 (2/1/24 in the Upstairs Conference Room) // Chapters 47-61: The Mat-Maker – Stubb Kills a Whale
Week 5 (2/8/24 in the Upstairs Conference Room) // Chapters 62-81: The Dart – The Pequod Meets the Virgin
Week 6 (2/15/24 in the Herreshoff Community Room) // Chapters 82-99: The Honor and Glory of Whaling – The Doubloon
Week 7 (2/22/24 in the Upstairs Conference Room) // Chapters 100-122: The Pequod Meets the Samuel Enderby of London –Midnight, Aloft
Week 8 (2/29/24) in the Herreshoff Community Room) // Chapters 123-135: The Musket – The Chase, Third Day — Epilogue Conclusions

Monday, January 29
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

in the Herreshoff Community Room

Sailors’ Valentines

Join this craft night with Melonie Massa of Mermaids Baubles and design and make your own sailors’ valentine inspired creation from seashells and other sea treasures. All supplies will be provided.

Click HERE to register

Saturday, February 3
11:00 am – 1:00 pm

in the Herreshoff Community Room

Magic Lantern Slides and Moby-Dick

Professor Tony Hollingsworth of RWU will present 19th-century glass slides shown through a magic lantern during a talk on biblical references in Moby-Dick.

Click HERE to register

Saturday, February 17
2:00 pm – 4:30 pm

in the Herreshoff Community Room

Film Screening. Moby-Dick, 1956, with SPECIAL GUEST

Hollywood costume designer Deb Newhall will introduce John Huston’s 1956 film adaptation of Herman Melville’s novel.

Learn about the exciting behind the scenes work of a costume designer and screen a classic with us!

Click HERE to register

Tuesday, February 20 2 Sessions:
10:00 am – 11:00 am
11:15 am – 12:15 pm
in Colt Andrews Elementary School

Whale Tales

Learn about this massive mammal and star of Moby-Dick.

Discover the amazing size and adaptations of a whale! Children will get up close and climb inside a 65-foot, life-sized inflatable fin whale. They will learn why whales are mammals and all about their special characteristics and skills for survival. Recommended for ages 3-12.

Click HERE to register for Session 1 at 10 am
Click HERE to register for Session 2 at 11:15

Monday, February 26 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
in the Herreshoff Community Room

Knotically Challenged

Learn simple knots and what they are used for from Don Betts, boat builder, storyteller and Warren community rowing facilitator.

Click HERE to register

Tuesday, March 5 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
at the Herreshoff Marine Museum
One Burnside St
Bristol, RI 02809

Nathaniel Philbrick Lecture, “Why Read Moby-Dick?”

Register early for Nathaniel Philbrick’s lecture on the evening at the Herreshoff Marine Museum. Reception following.

Click HERE to register. This is a fee-based event with limited seats.

Sunday, March 10 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church
399 Hope Street, Bristol, RI 02809

Aurea Concert: Melville and the Great White Whale

This string ensemble’s concert features an exploration of the life and times of Herman Melville alongside Moby-Dick, Melville’s letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne, weaving in works of Beethoven and Webern, sea shanties, and harmonica improv.

Click HERE to register. This is a fee-based event.

Sunday, March 12 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
in the Herreshoff Community Room

Whale: Where Science and Poetry Meet

Vivian Eyre, author of the poetry collection Ishmael’s Violets and a marine biologist discuss whale endangerment and the programs and poetry that advocate for whales’ conservation. A special poetry reading & talk. 

Click HERE to register.

Wednesday, March 20 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
in the Herreshoff Community Room

Female Pirates: Myth and Reality

When we think about pirates, we tend to imagine men. However, there were some women who sailed under the Jolly Roger. This talk by Charlotte Carrington Farmer will explore the myth and reality about the lives of women onboard pirate ships during the golden age of sail. We will examine primary sources that illuminate their lives and challenge the traditional male-dominated narrative.

Charlotte Carrington Farmer is an Associate Professor of History, Roger Williams University.

Click HERE to register

Monday, March 18
5:00 pm – 8:00 pm

in the Herreshoff Community Room

Readers’ Theatre Rehearsal

Play a part in a live Readers’ Theatre! 

For anyone 14 and older!

Join the Bristol Theatre Company and Rogers Free Library to bring a section of this novel to life.

Sign up HERE to be in the Cast. We will contact you with more info

Curtain Up!

Saturday, March 23
01:00 – 3:00 pm
in the Herreshoff Community Room

Readers’ Theatre of Moby-Dick // See the performance!

Come see a live readers’ theatre of a section of Moby-Dick, performed by the Bristol Theatre Company and the community. 

Click Here to be in the Audience.

Thursday, March 28
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Linden Place

Melville’s Seagoing Uncle, Nor’West John D’Wolf

and his travelogue “Voyage to the North Pacific.” A presentation by Bristol writer DeWolf Fulton on this adventurous circumnavigation, including D’Wolf’s collision with a whale as it appears in Moby Dick.

This event at Linden Place is free and open to the public.

Friday, April 5
5:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Colt School Auditorium / Rogers Free Library

BookFest Keynote Address and Opening Reception

5:00 – 6:30 pm Keynote, Colt School Auditorium
“Out of the marvellous as he had known it”: Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick
Declan Kiely, Director of Special Collections and Exhibitions, New York Public Library

6:30 pm Reception, Rogers Free Library
Join us for refreshments to celebrate the opening of BookFest

The Friday events are free, but registration is required:

Saturday, April 6
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
The Ballroom at Linden Place

Bristol BookFest

Schedule of Events
9 am Introductions
9:15 Men and Obsession: Melville, Ahab, with a Glance at Hawthorne
Richard H. Brodhead, President Emeritus of Duke University and A. Bartlett Giamatti
Professor Emeritus of English, Yale University
10:15 Morning break
10:45 Herman Melville: Whaleman
Mary K. Bercaw Edwards, Professor of English and Director of Maritime Studies,
University of Connecticut
11:45 Lunch break with optional small group discussions
1 pm “Very Like a Whale”: Moby-Dick and Shakespeare

Cyrus R. K. Patell, Professor of English, New York University, and Visiting Professor of
English, New York University Abu Dhabi
2 :00 Afternoon break
2:15 Cetology (Chapter 32) Deconstructed

Robert Rocha, Associate Curator of Science and Research, New Bedford Whaling
3:15 Community Conversation with the Panelists
4:00 Farewells

There is a charge for the Saturday program, payable upon registration. Students with an ID
are invited to attend free of charge but must register:

Bristol BookFest is a public humanities program supported by the generosity of their founders, sponsors, and various private donors.