The Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival is next weekend, so time to get reading. Or if in vacation mode, no need to read a thing, just stop by for inspiration.

Books will be for sale and authors on hand for signing on both days. — Peter Simon

Every two years, prominent authors, local and from off-Island, gather to do readings, join panel discussions, and even just hang out and talk, Vineyard style. This year’s line-up features a mix of fiction and nonfiction authors, including former congressmen and chefs, best-selling authors and local favorites.

There’s something for every reader: nonfiction books about the art theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardener museum, the lives and minds of animals, and Pope Pius XI’s relationship with Benito Mussolini; memoirs about exploring one’s past, trying to get smarter, life as a female professional athlete and life as a New Yorker copy editor; and novels about southern France, a librarian’s obsession with a younger patron and a teenage girl held captive by Ugandan rebels.

“Our approach is to always have some very big names and also to find books that we think are important or interesting or would appeal to the community here but they might not otherwise know about it,” said festival founder and organizer Suellen Lazarus. “So we try to strike the right balance.”

On Saturday, August 1, the festival takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown and features six panel discussions on a variety of topics. On Sunday, August 2, the action moves to the grounds of the Chilmark Community Center from 9 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. There authors will speak individually in three different tents, some in one-on-one interviews, about their work.

For a full schedule of events and to find out more about authors and the festival, visit or call 508-645-9484.

Dick Lehr returns to the book festival to talk about his book The Birth of a Nation. — Ivy Ashe

Ms. Lazarus said the authors at this year’s festival explore some common themes.

“I think we have a lot about racial issues and the current discussion about race in the United States,” she said. This includes the sold-out opening event on Friday night, a discussion between author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates and NPR special correspondent Michele Norris entitled What Ever Happened to Post-Racial America? The event is sponsored by the Vineyard Gazette.

The theme continues throughout the weekend, Ms. Lazarus said. New York Times columnist Charles Blow’s memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones, which details the author’s childhood in a segregated Louisiana town and his journey of self-discovery, deals very much with race, she said.

Seasonal Aquinnah resident Dick Lehr’s newest book, The Birth of a Nation, looks at “a very inflammatory film and how the African American community, especially one man, organized against it,” Ms. Lazarus said.

In The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, Jeff Hobbs explores the story of Mr. Peace, his roommate at Yale: a man who grew up in a tough neighborhood, went to an Ivy League school, and was killed in a drug-related shooting in his 30s. “How do you escape poverty, how do you escape your past?” Ms. Lazarus said. “There’s that theme.”

Another theme is local food and food sustainability, with several cookbook authors on hand over the weekend, including Chris Fischer, author of The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook; Ali Berlow, author of The Food Activist Handbook; Laurie David, author of The Family Cooks; Corky Pollan, co-author of The Pollan Family Table; and Steven Satterfield, author of Root to Leaf. These authors will participate in a Saturday panel discussion about the local food movement and whether it is sustainable and affordable.

Laurie David, author of The Family Cooks, is one of several cookbook authors participating. — Alison L. Mead

New York Times best-selling author Erik Larson—a “blockbuster,” Ms. Lazarus said­—will be on hand to discuss his new book Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. Former Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank will talk about his new memoir, Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage.

In Paper Love, Sarah Wildman tells the story of her quest to find the woman in a photograph among her grandfather’s things, a journey that leads to 1930s Vienna and turns into a story about love and the Holocaust. New Yorker writer Patricia Marx writes about her efforts to reverse the mental decline that comes with age in Let’s Be Less Stupid, New Yorker copy editor Mary Norris talks language, grammar and life in Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, and Ginny Gilder writes about being a collegiate athlete and Olympian in Course Correction: A Story of Rowing and Resilience in the Wake of Title IX.

Some of the fiction at this year’s festival has a seafaring theme. Peter Nichols’s novel The Rocks draws from his experience with boats and has gotten a lot of critical acclaim, Ms. Lazarus said. John Benditt will be on hand to talk about his novel The Boat Maker, a story about life, boat-building and love. Matt Hobart from Gannon and Benjamin Boatyard will introduce him on Sunday.

Always time for reading, too. — Ivy Ashe

“It’s fun to find those connections in the community that fit with what the book is about,” Ms. Lazarus said.

The festival concludes Sunday with a panel discussion titled Dissecting the News featuring Mr. Blow, Mr. Frank and Jeffrey Fager, executive producer of 60 Minutes. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Alex Jones will moderate.

On both days, Bunch of Grapes bookstore will sell books, and the authors will be available for book signing. On Saturday, grab and go food and drinks will be available at the Lighthouse Grill Bar at Harbor View; the Home Port sell soup, sandwiches, salads, snacks and beverages in Chilmark.

An advisory panel that includes local authors and those in the bookselling and publishing industries makes recommendations about authors and books, and the book festival works closely with Bunch of Grapes. The festival tries to feature only books published in the last 12 to 18 months, Ms. Lazarus said, with nothing self-published and no children’s books, young adult books, or poetry.

The parameters are necessary to keep the size down. “We could have 12 tents,” Ms. Lazarus said.

Local connections are important, too. “It’s interesting to people to see their friend’s son in law or grandchildren or whatever,” Ms. Lazarus said. For example, Rick Mast of Mast Brothers Chocolate (and the author of a cookbook) is the son in law of a Vineyard couple and will speak on Sunday.

“We’re hoping he’ll bring some samples,” Ms. Lazarus said.