Nick Barley: Book Festival is for all

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FOr the past 11 months, the Festival directors have been eagerly programming events and artists that will be interesting and inspiring for Edinburgh residents and international visitors alike. After the fierce debates around Scotland’s relationship with the UK last year, I wanted to offer a different perspective in 2015, inspired by Scotland’s history as an outward-looking, wandering nation.

Earlier this year I visited Mexico to meet some of the country’s leading authors. Not long after my visit, photos of refugees in boats stricken in the Mediterranean began to appear in the press: it was clear that migration, as well as being a key part of Scottish history and identity, was also becoming one of the country’s most pressing news stories.

The result is the most international festival we’ve yet produced, centred on a series of events called Trading Stories. Alongside the array of well-kent Scottish writers, we proudly present overseas authors whose words will help us see Scotland’s place in the world a little differently.

Our guests have truly amazing stories, from Hyeonseo Lee’s terrifying escape from North Korea and stellar novelist Alain Mabanckou’s emotional return to the town in the Congo where he was born, to actor Alan Cumming telling us about leaving Scotland to make it big in Hollywood.

In the spirit of Jules Verne and his joyful romp, Around the World in 80 Days, Charlotte Square Gardens lights up with mind-opening international stories. With more than 800 authors, there will be plenty of last-minute ticket choices – or just come to the Gardens free of charge for fun in the sunshine. For tickets see, call 0845 373 5888 or visit The Hub, Castlehill.

Here are a few talks to entice you… If you like Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin, you’ll love Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen. The bestselling Danish writer discusses this heart-stopping thriller on August 24, at 3.30pm.

Like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown? Try Alessandro Gallenzi’s The Tower. It opens in the digital age, and time travels back to the Inquisition in Rome, August 21, 5pm.

If you like The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, try A Storm Blew in From Paradise by Johannes Anyuru. Born in Sweden but haunted by his father’s Ugandan history, Anyuru imagines events from his family’s past, August 23, 12.15pm.

A fan of My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult? Read Craving by Esther Gerritsen. Gerritsen’s razor-sharp third novel asks whether girls can ever escape the shadow of their mothers, August 20, 8.45pm.

If you like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, you’ll love As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka. In a frozen town a group of friends find a bag of money and its owner wants it back at any cost, August 27, 5.45pm.

Nick Barley is director of Edinburgh International Book Festival.