“Learn everything. Fill your mind with knowledge – it’s the only kind of power no one can take away from you.”

Take the advice of Min Jin Lee, the Korean author of Pachinko (which was included in the New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2017), and visit this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival.

Some of the world’s top literary heroes (including 300 locals) and commentators will gather at Carriageworks this year. A handful of events will also be held at Seymour Centre and as far as the Blue Mountains and Wollongong.

The theme of power will run throughout the program in 2018. “Our guests will examine power and its adjacent qualities, and its relationship to sex, money, politics, identity and the state of the world,” says artistic director Michaela McGuire.

There’s a lot happening, so here are our top picks to book mark.


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Jennifer Egan
American journalist and author Jennifer Egan, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her A Visit From the Goon Squad in 2011 will talk to Australian journalist Jennifer Byrne (of ABC television show First Tuesday Book Club) about her latest novel, Manhattan Beach. Named “Best Book of 2017” by the Guardian, it follows the story of a Brooklyn Navy Yard’s only female diver while she navigates gritty New York city during World War Two. Egan will discuss how she designed her complex American characters, which include sailors, union workers and gangsters.

Jennifer Egan will be speaking on May 5 from 6pm to 7pm at Carriageworks.

Junot Díaz
Known for his Pulitzer Prize winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (a novel influenced by Díaz’s background, and which took 11 years to write), the Dominican-American writer is coming to Sydney to discuss his recently published children’s book Islandborn. It follows a child who is asked by her teacher to draw a picture showing where her family migrated from and explores dormant memories of her birthplace as they come to the surface.

Junot Díaz will be speaking on May 3 from 6pm to 7pm, at Carriageworks.


Masha Gessen
Vladimir Putin’s unauthorised biographer and author of The Future is History Masha Gessen will lead a talk examining the future of Russia. The Russian-American journalist began contributing to the New Yorker in 2013 and became a staff writer in 2017.

Gessen will be speaking on May 3, from 8pm to 9.30pm at City Recital Hall, Angel Place.

Ben Taub
New Yorkerstaff writer Ben Taub will share audio and footage from his reportage on Syria. Taub, who was named one of Forbes’s 30 Under 30 in media, argues that states are more capable of systematic atrocities than any terrorist group and will also delve into a discussion on why he believes ISIS has become so powerful. Ben Taub will be speaking on May 6 from 11.30am to 12.30pm at Carriageworks and from 3pm to 4pm at the Seymour Centre.

Other highlights

The festival’s Opening Address: André Aciman, Min Jin Lee and Alexis Okeowo (on May 1 at Carriageworks) will be by André Aciman (author of Call Me by Your Name), Min Jin Lee and American journalist Alexis Okeowo (A Moonless, Starless Sky).

At SWF Gala: Power, Wesley Morris (critic and staff writer at the New York Times and half of the podcast team behind Still Processing) will examine power with the help of Tayari Jones (author of An American Marriage); Warwick Thornton (Australian film director, writer and cinematographer, Samson and Delilah); Aminatou Sow (co-host of podcast Call Your Girlfriend), Masha Gessen and deputy leader of the opposition Tanya Plibersek on May 4 at Sydney Town Hall.

Julia Gillard: On Power and Gender will see the former Prime Minister team up with former leader of the Greens Christine Milne and politician and founder of the Jacqui Lambie Network Jacqui Lambie to discuss their very different memoirs on May 5 at Sydney Town Hall.

DJs and book signings for young adults will be happening all day at Writing for YA Books and Film on May 5 and will feature American-British author Patrick Ness (A Monster Calls) and illustrator and writer Shaun Tan (who won an Academy Award for the short animation The Lost Thing in 2011).

Merit Over Mates: Women in Media Reach Toward Newsroom Equality is presented by Kate McClymont (Sydney Morning Herald journalist), Emma Alberici (ABC's chief economics correspondent), Marina Go (Wests Tigers chair) and Tracey Spicer (author, columnist and gender-equality advocate), who unpack the definition of feminism and how it fits into the newsroom on May 4 at the Seymour Centre.

Peter Greste: The First Casualty (the Lativian-Australian journalist who spent 400 days in prison in Egypt) will discuss the impact of September 11 and the war on journalism on May 2 from 6.30pm to 7.30pm at the Seymour Centre.

Festival highlights will be live-streamed across 36 venues around Australia.

The Sydney Writers' Festival runs from April 30 to May 6 across various venues.

Tickets are on sale now. For full program and to purchase tickets visit: swf.org.au.