On Saturday they jammed the Harbor View Hotel and filled every parking space in Edgartown, or so it seemed. On Sunday they donned sun hats and light sweaters and trooped up to the Chilmark Community Center. Book lovers were very much in evidence at the seventh Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival.

Overflow crowd gathered Sunday morning for panel discussion about politics. — Jeanna Shepard

At the Harbor View on Saturday, a discussion with authors Ann Patchett, Richard Russo and Amor Towles drew the biggest audience.

Ms. Patchett was a lively panelist and speaker, providing writing advice, levity and insight into her process.

“Reading and writing are like having two legs. It’s so tangled, so completely connected,” she said. She is the author of seven novels, most recently Commonwealth, a story that follows six siblings for half a century.

Mr. Russo spoke about the respite he finds on the Island, where he and his wife spend the month of September every year. His most recent book, Trajectory, is composed of four stories, each of which Ms. Patchett claimed contained an entire Russo novel. For Mr. Towles, the sprawling, expansive plot of A Gentleman in Moscow defined what’s best about the novel form, Ms. Patchett said.

Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko, was introduced by Caroline Kennedy. — Jeanna Shepard

Both Mr. Russo and Ms. Patchett have connections to new bookstores. Ms. Patchett co-owns Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn. But despite the countless books she reads to decide how to stock the shelves, Ms. Patchett never strays from her core interests.

Looking through the lens of race or class or family, she explores how communities are built.

“Those are the things that I’m made of,” Ms. Patchett said. “As much as I try not to write about them, I always will.” She said it’s not only a constant in her stories, but a constant in her conversations too. “My husband will attest, it’s the same old thing over and over again. Have dinner with me, I’m serious.”

Judging from the long lines at her book-signing table, many visitors may have wished to take her up on the offer.

With book festival over, time to start reading. — Jeanna Shepard

An afternoon panel on United States government in Science featured fewer laughs, but some optimism nonetheless. Peter Brannen, author of The Ends of the World, discussed the importance of sustaining organizations like the National Science Foundation that can fund long-term research into the history of climate change.

“We can either continue into the future blindly, with our head in the sand or we can learn from the earth’s history and see what we can do to avoid it,” he said.

David Foster, author of A Meeting of Land and Sea, brought the conversation to Martha’s Vineyard. The Island’s shores are receding three to five feet every year, he said. “That’s the fastest rate on the eastern seaboard. Nature can deal with these changes. It’s the human values that we put on these changes that leads to failed solutions.”

In the last panel of the day, five powerhouse female authors gathered for a talk about identity and friendships. Julie Buntin, author of Marlena, talked about young girls, like the ones in her novel, who join forces as they establish their own identity, helping each other up along the way. The intimacy in these relationships can be explosive, Ms. Buntin said, bolstered by secrets.

“The act of telling is a creative act,” said the young author. “It says, this is who I am and who I want to be.”

Crowds gathered under tents Sunday at the Chilmark Community Center, — Jeanna Shepard

Panelists discussed the difficulty of shrugging stereotypes and plowing ahead for the sake of their work.

On Sunday beneath a billowy tent on the grounds of the Community Center, an overflow crowd gathered for an early morning panel discussion with journalists E.J. Dionne Jr., Mike Bender, Mark Leibovich, Richard North Patterson and Ashley Parker, moderated by Jeremy Hobson. Ms. Parker, who covers the White House for the Washington Post, said she knew popular interest in politics was at an all-time high after a recent call from her dentist to schedule a regular cleaning.

“In the 25 years I’ve been going to this dentist, the hygienist is always the one who calls me,” she said. “After we scheduled the appointment . . . he literally stayed on the phone with me for 20 minutes,” peppering her with questions about Stephen Bannon and other political topics.

More than 100 people gathered to listen to Carol Anderson as she discussed reactionary white supremacist policies meant to counter black advancement.

Panel gathered Saturday at Harbor View to discuss black female resistance. — Jeanna Shepard

Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko, who was introduced by Caroline Kennedy, the former ambassador to Japan and longtime Vineyard summer resident, drew a similarly large crowd.

“We are all makers,” the author said, describing her personal journey as a writer to a rapt audience.

Some book fans stayed for the whole day, mingling, listening and learning. The closing event was a Marcia Kaufman lecture on reproductive rights and women’s equality. Gilliam Thomas, Deborah Tannen and Willie Parker joined the panel.

Summing up the festival, founder Suellen Lazarus said, “It’s been a rich two days. The discussions were all fascinating, the topics diverse. I think new connections were made.”

More photos from the 2017 Martha's Vineyard Book Festival.