Lafayette sponsors Easton Book Festival, connecting campus with community


Photo by Madeline Marriott for The Lafayette

Professor Chris Phillips, the president of the Easton Book Festival’s board, held an event at the College Store discussing his book.

The Easton Book Festival made the climb up the Hill this year. This October, Lafayette College became the official sponsor of the festival, which has been a part of the Easton community since 2019. 

Professor Chris Phillips, head of the English department, is the president of the festival’s board. This year’s collaboration gave him the opportunity to combine two things that he cares deeply about: Lafayette and books. 

“This is a community and an institution here at Lafayette that cares, obviously, deeply about books and reading … To have an event that brings all of that together just was really cool,” Phillips said.

Bonnie Winfield, former director of the Landis Center and women’s, gender and sexualities studies professor at Lafayette, sees this collaboration as an innovative opportunity for students to get further involved with the Easton community. 

“For Lafayette students, no matter where they’re from, while they’re at Lafayette, Easton is their place. And so the more we can get them involved in community activities, community issues, engagement, the more likely they are to become involved in their place when they go forward,” Winfield said. “I think the book festival is a perfect example of how the two can come together.”

Both Phillips and Winfield hosted their own events at the festival.

Winfield’s event centered around highlighting pieces of writing composed by incarcerated mothers. She saw her event as a way to inform both the people of the Easton community, as well as those in the Lafayette community about what it is like to be a mother living in the U.S. prison system.

“I think more and more people need to know what it’s like for women who are incarcerated,” Winfield said.

Phillips’ event focused on readings from his 2018 book “The Hymnal: A Reading History” about the history and cultural usage of hymnals. In a tent outside the College Store, Phillips read excerpts from his book detailing the unconventional and unexpected ways hymnals were used by people of all ages, locations and denominations.

“It was a chance to talk some about the research, talk about how I did the writing and about the content of the book, which is very much about how people lived with these devotional books,” Phillips said of the event.

Phillips hopes the future of the festival will include more collaboration with Lafayette students. “There are so many different ways that students could be part of [the festival]. We started to get the word out this year, but I think now that we’ve had some campus events, we had some students attending. I think people are starting to pick up on this a bit more,” he said.

According to Phillips, the festival provides opportunities for students to volunteer in several areas, as well as to hear interesting speakers that could be relevant to their studies. “We’re trying to think how [to] help make that connection happen more often going forward,” he said.