Up 13% from last year, an estimated 85,000 people attended the eighth annual Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day weekend in Decatur, Ga., bringing in the largest number of readers yet. With the majority of events free to the public, the historic square in downtown Decatur was packed with author readings, panel discussions, poetry slams, live music, and exhibitor tents. Attendees filled readings like the one for bestselling authors Joshilyn Jackson and Gillian Royes to standing room only. "This is my eighth year in a row I’ve spoken at DBF, and I’ve fallen more in love with it every year," said Jackson, who credits the festival with inspiring her move to Decatur in 2012. "I spoke on the very last panel on the final day of the fest, in a venue a little off the beaten path. It was pouring rain and had been for three hours by then. The place was packed. Packed! And with lively, delightful readers who were full of smart questions about our books and the hideous and delightful craft of writing. All the events I attended were like that."

From the sold out John Lewis keynote address Friday night to the bustling outdoor Children and Teen stages Saturday and Sunday, the attendees of the festival maintained sunny dispositions even as storms threatened to disrupt the festival Sunday afternoon. Reveling in the large crowds and eager audiences, more than 50 authors launched new books and interacted with readers. Little Shop of Stories, Foxtale Books, Book Exchange, Charis Books and More, and Eagle Eye Bookshop were on hand selling books and hosting author signings.

The largest independent book festival in the country, it was clear more than authors, booksellers and readers support the celebration. The cities of Decatur and Atlanta showed their encouragement as the numbers for the festival grew steadily over the three days, and businesses joined in the fun, updating window displays to match the bookish theme, and throwing open their doors in welcome. “With all the changes in the book industry, I think book lovers in Atlanta have come to see the AJC-DBF as living proof that authors and books are not just surviving, but thriving," said Daren Wang, executive director of the AJC Decatur Book Festival. "The festival is more than the opportunity to see one’s favorite author, but to see the community of book lovers come together and revel in the things they love.”