South Dakota Festival of Books makes its way to Brookings for the first time


This year marks the first time the South Dakota Festival of Books is being held in Brookings. Historically, the festival took place in either Sioux Falls or Deadwood.

The festival is Sept. 23 and 24 in Brookings. The events are taking place on the SDSU campus and in the Brookings community. The exact locations can be found at

“To have that caliber of writer in your backyard, on your own college campus, and to be able to see them for free, is pretty great,” Jennifer Widman, director of the Center for the Book at the South Dakota Humanities Council said.

According to Widman, most of the events are free, but there are several events where the audience is asked to buy a ticket.

This year the One Book South Dakota read is Some Luck by Jane Smiley. Widman describes the goal of One Book South Dakota as “to try to get as many people in the state to read the same book as possible, and then come together in groups to discuss it.”

Widman said the South Dakota Humanities council provides books by working with the publisher and ordering in bulk, and then libraries, book clubs and historical societies, and now can apply for a grant, the book is sent to the group to borrow. The organizations can then discuss the book in groups.

Smiley is a Pulitzer prize winner with ties to the Midwest. Smiley’s book, the first in a trilogy, takes place in Iowa.

Since this year is the 100th anniversary of Pulitzer prizes, a Pulitzer-prize winner was selected to be the One Book author, said Widman. Smiley will lead the keynote at the SDSU Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

Jason McEntee, department head of the English Department, is currently on the board of directors at the South Dakota Humanities Council.

McEntee said since the festival is in Brookings for the first time, the SDSU English Department is hosting the festival. This means that it has access to many university facilities, such as rooms for sessions.

This year is the first time a university has hosted the festival, and according to McEntee, “forms a bridge between the state festival and the state’s land-grant school,” McEntee said.

Because of its ties to the university, the festival will be incorporating a more diverse set of sessions, according to McEntee. Some of the sessions include lessons on how to brew beer and beekeeping.

McEntee encourages students and community members to come to the festival.

“There will be something out there for everyone,” he said.