Photo by DANIEL ERATH -- Book Festival kickoff took place at 2 Audubon Place with Tulane President Michael Fitts. Cheryl Landrieu and Walter Isaacson as hosts. Book Festival, June 9, 2019 -- Walter Isaacson, Mike Fitts, Cheryl and Mitch Landrieu

Two years ago, the organizers of the New Orleans Book Festival planned to go big with their inaugural event. Instead, they went home. Most everybody did.

That festival was among the first local in-person events to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last year was a bust as well.

The third time is shaping up to be the charm, though. The free festival, co-chaired by best-selling biographer and Tulane professor Walter Isaacson and lawyer and former New Orleans first lady Cheryl Landrieu, finally debuts this week on Tulane University’s Uptown campus. It should be worth the wait.

Isaacson said organizers’ aspiration is to be “the equivalent of South by Southwest, but for books.”

“It’ll be bigger and have more going on than your average book festival — a lot more fun, a lot more music and a lot more food,” he said.

The schedule is packed with author appearances, with many local names and quite a few national ones. Among them are Malcolm Gladwell, Jon Meacham, Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. and Bakari Sellers, as well as native Louisianans who’ve hit it big such as Michael Lewis, Clint Smith and Sarah Broom.

Saturday’s “family day” programming will be a nod to the festival’s popular predecessor, the New Orleans Children’s Book Festival, which Landrieu founded in 2010 along with civil rights activist Ruby Bridges.

In all, the festival, which runs through Saturday, will feature 130 authors. It’s free, and no tickets are required.

And there’s more good news for Louisiana’s cooped-up readers. Also planning its first live event in three years is the giant Louisiana Book Festival, which attracts some 20,000 people to the State Capitol and downtown Baton Rouge each fall. After two years of virtual programming, this year’s in-person festival is being planned for Oct. 29, with its own impressive list of authors.

It’s always a good time to cheer the written word, we say. And what fun it will be to get back to celebrating it the way Louisianans do best: en masse