Every other year since 2005 the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival has opened the month of August with a celebration of books, authors and the exchange of ideas.

Suellen Lazarus, founder and organizer of the festival and a longtime Chilmark summer resident, said this year’s lineup features a diverse collection of fiction and nonfiction authors. However, they are all united with the theme of “bridging the gap.”

Interviews with a selection of the featured authors are collected online and in a special print section published this week by the Gazette.

The festival opens on Friday, August 2 at 6 p.m. the Performing Arts Center with a conversation between Chelsea Handler and Seth Meyers. Ms. Handler is the bestselling author of numerous books of humor. Her most recent memoir, Life Will Be the Death of Me, turns more inward and serious as she writes about a year of self-discovery, starting therapy and finally facing head on the grief she has carried since the death of her oldest brother when she was nine.

The format will be a free-flowing conversation between Ms. Handler and Mr. Myers, the former Saturday Night Live star and current host of Late Night with Seth Meyers. 

The opening event is sponsored by the Vineyard Gazette, which is also one of the festival partners. 

Festival founder and organizer Suellen Lazarus. — Jeanna Shepard

On Saturday and Sunday, August 3 and 4, the festival settles in at the Chilmark Community Center with a range of readings and panels that travel the spectrum of politics, race, cooking, fishing and grammar.

“It’s about the idea of bringing people together,” Ms. Lazarus said. “We are looking at authors who are giving us a greater sense of thoughtfulness in our public engagement. In the last two years we have spent a lot of time analyzing the problems we are currently facing. What we want to focus on now is not only understanding those problems, but understanding how we can bridge the gaps.”

For Ms. Lazarus, this means featuring authors who explore a wide variety of themes and authors who come from complex and different backgrounds.

“We have panels on the role of the media, feminist expression, social justice, immigration, climate change and culture,” she said.

Sigrid Nunez, Gary Shteyngart, Richard Russo and Stephen McCauley will take part in a panel on transformative friendships in fiction, and LisaTaddeo, Ruth Reichl, Emily Bernard, Juliet Grimes and Tina Cassidy will participate in a panel called Women Speak: Feminist Expression. The panel on social justice includes David Blight, author of Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom, which won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in History, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenhyah, a former student of George Saunders whose debut book of short stories, Friday Black, was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and Judge Richard Gergel, a United States District Judge in South Carolina whose most recent book is called Unexampled Courage. The panel on the role of the press features Jim Acosta and Mark Leibovich, who will discuss their experiences covering the Obama and Trump administrations in addition to examining the role that media plays in the world today.

In addition to the panels on Saturday there will be a series of author talks on Sunday including Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to former president Barack Obama and author of a memoir Finding My Voice, Janet Messineo, a Vineyard resident and experienced angler who will present her book, Casting Towards the Light: Tales of a Fishing Life, and John Grisham, bestselling author of 30 novels, discussing his latest book, The Reckoning.

This year’s festival arrives with a note of sadness with the recent death of author and West Tisbury resident Tony Horwitz. At the time of his death in May, Mr. Horwitz was on a book tour for his latest book, Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide. In addition to being a longtime member of the advisory panel, Mr. Horwitz was scheduled to speak at the festival about his latest book. His son Nathaniel Brooks Horwitz will discuss the book and his father's work in general in a conversation with historian David Blight.

The panel discussions and author talks on Saturday and Sunday are free and open to the public. Tickets for the opening conversation on Friday with Ms. Handler and Mr. Meyers are $100 and include a copy of Ms. Handler’s book. 

For a full schedule of events, visit mvbookfestival.com.  Click here to purchase tickets for the opening event.