Heeeeey, Who Needs the Fonz With This Lineup?

Heeeeey, Who Needs the Fonz With This Lineup?

Above: This year’s Book Festival co-chairs are Deborah Jacobs (left) and Dee Kline.

The 25th edition of the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center from Nov. 5 to 20 offers local, national and Israeli authors, reality TV stars, a pop music legend, and topics ranging from Nazis and World War II spies to Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and from Zionism to identity theft.

But the festival won’t have the Fonz.

Henry Winkler, best known for wearing a leather jacket and riding a motorcycle on “Happy Days,” was supposed to appear with writing partner Lin Oliver on Sunday, Nov. 6, to promote the latest entry in their “Here’s Hank” children’s series. It would have been a special, higher-profile version of the Family Reading Festival that falls on one Sunday each Book Festival.

Instead, Winkler had a conflict with his new NBC reality show with William Shatner and others, “Better Late Than Never.” He and Oliver have agreed to appear at the JCC in the spring, and the Family Reading Festival will be back next year, said the Book Festival’s director, Pam Morton.

In another sign that the Book Festival, despite its popularity with authors, can’t get everyone it wants, an appearance couldn’t be worked out with the top pick of the selection committee, “Irina’s Children” by Tilar Mazzeo, but Mazzeo agreed to be the guest speaker at the JCC’s Yom HaShoah observance in April.

Thomas Friedman, always a big draw, isn’t coming out with his latest book until after the festival, so he’ll appear Feb. 1 instead.

As many restaurants use a farm-to-table concept, “we are author to audience,” festival co-chair Deborah Jacobs said. “We have to go with what is being offered by the authors, and then we bring it to the audience.”

What’s being offered for children of all ages opening night is Kenny Loggins with a children’s book, “Footloose,” a zoo-based reimagining of his ’80s pop hit. Every ticket comes with a copy of the book, and Loggins will perform a mini-concert.

Loggins’ publisher approached the festival, “and we were so excited and thrilled about it,” Morton said.

With the elections only three days after opening night, she said, festival organizers were happy to open with something light.

“That was an exciting time to get Kenny Loggins,” Jacobs said.

Festival co-chair Dee Kline said one of the attractions for authors is the format of conversations with well-known interviewers, such as CEO Derreck Kayongo of new festival partner National Center for Civil and Human Rights, instead of standard book readings.

Such partnerships, as well as special access for book clubs, helped the festival grow to 13,000 attendees last year, and Kline expects at least that many this year, when all of the events will be at the JCC’s Zaban Park in Dunwoody.

When the festival began in 1992, it ran five days and presented six authors, Jacobs said. This year, 39 authors are appearing in 30 events over more than two weeks.

“It has really built into a keystone event for the community,” Jacobs said. “A lot of organizations look to us to ask, ‘How do you do this?’ ”

The festival will have some special touches to celebrate 25 years, including a trivia contest, recognition for past chairs, a special reception for festival patrons, and a gallery of past festival images along the center’s Main Street.

Local Voices

The 25th Book Festival of the Marcus JCC includes the following metro Atlanta authors:

  • Brian Curtis, “Fields of Battle.”
  • Jesse Itzler, “Living With a SEAL.”
  • Zoe Fishman, “Inheriting Edith.”
  • Jeffrey Selman, “G-d Sent Me.”

The festival also offers Savannah resident Jonathan Rabb with “Among the Living.”

Project GIVE

The Book Festival’s book collection, Project GIVE, is supporting ORT Atlanta’s ORT My School project by helping Atlanta’s Dobbs Elementary School build its library.

Through Nov. 30, you can drop off new or gently used secular books appropriate for kindergarten through fifth grade in a bin by the Marcus JCC’s front desk.

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