The Ritz-Carlton Hotel played host to the inaugural Bookstravaganza last year with about 150 book lovers in attendance. This year’s event boasted everything to be bigger than last year in all respects: venue, scope and attendance numbers. At over 400 people gathering in the beautiful ballroom at the Royal York Hotel it was easy to see that word spread quickly after last year’s fantastic event.
The cocktail reception was to start at 6:30pm but when Wendy (@_CupcakeQueen_) and I showed up promptly at the designated time we were greeted with a packed reception, with the sign-in table not even visible due to the sheer number of people gathered around. We finally got checked in, got our raffle tickets and made our way to one of the two bars on the far ends of the room. There was a delicious complimentary cocktail or a cash bar for all other beverages. Wendy and I made our way through the crowd and stopped by the Kobo booth and got a hand massage at the L’Occitane one. As book bloggers tend to do in large crowds, we always somehow manage to congregate and find each other wordlessly. In about the span of 3 minutes we find Laurie (Chatelaine Books), Jaclyn (Literary Treats), Siobhan (Conversations of a Reading Addict), Jenn (Lost in a Great Book), Kate (@kateplummer), Jen (@BookishJoJo), Dee (@dh_editorial) and Random House‘s Lindsey!
The crowd around the yet-to-open doors grows by the minute and just before 7:30 they’re finally opened to a frantic swarming of all the tables. Small groups sporadically snap up random seats at all different tables so larger groups (like ours) didn’t have enough seats to all sit together at one table. At each seat was a very-full gift bag as well as books by the two authors that were guests of honour for the evening. Once everyone was seated, the presentation began with some introductions and videos of the Fall season’s upcoming books. The authors were then introduced onto the stage where Wayne Johnston (The Son of a Certain Woman) and Mary Swan (My Ghosts) spoke for a bit about their respective books. One of the handiest things this year was that in our bags we had a pamphlet with all the books featured, with a checkbox for us to mark the ones we were interested in. Loved that.
A few in particular that were highlighted by the various speakers that I am very excited about include:
- The Circle by Dave Eggers – pitched to us as a creepy read that will resonate for those who are often on social media
- The Rude Story of English by Tom Howell – nonfiction hilarious account of how certain words/phrases in the English language came to be
- The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
- Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa – set in Toronto? Love it. I also unknowingly met him a year or two ago since a friend of mine used to work with him and we bumped into him while we were out for ice cream 🙂
- Longbourn by Jo Baker
- The Son of a Certain Woman by Wayne Johnston
Bookstravaganza is a grand time in luxurious settings and sharing the love of books with others. It’s an increasingly monstrous event to plan for the Chatelaine and Random House teams and this year’s event certainly delivered. However with the success of the first year, I felt that increasing the size of the overall event ended up being a bit of a disservice. It lost the intimate setting, the ability to easily chat with all our fellow book lovers. As mentioned above, it was difficult finding a group of seats together that weren’t either reserved or so split up among each other that we were at the very far end of the room. Due to the size of the room, the tables on the very far edges would have a more difficult time seeing the two large screens. Perhaps it was this, plus the excitement of seeing the upcoming books, that led to a lot of chatter during all the videos. Glancing around, especially on the ends, there were a lot of phone-checking (myself included) and restless shifting in seats. Don’t get me wrong, I still very much enjoyed the night but I just think the tripling of attendance numbers changed the vibe of the event.
That being said, I fully acknowledge the work that goes into planning something this enormous, and with another Bookstravaganza in Vancouver days later as well. I understand the want to make it larger and allow more people to attend (especially when it seems there were still a lot of people who didn’t get tickets – whether in time, or not realizing it was going on). It’s a fine line and maybe the venue was too wide. Maybe the room needs to go deeper rather than wide, so more people are able to see the screens and therefore be able to pay attention more. Nonetheless books make me happy and while the size of the event changed the atmosphere for me, a night talking about books is still always a win … in my book.