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The Edinburgh International Book Festival

Entrance tent
Courtesy Edinburgh International Book Festival
There's a lot to recommend the quietly-successful Book Festival. It's the most compact of the multi-event festivals - based entirely at Charlotte Square, a stone's throw from Princes Street. It has a varied, interesting, family-friendly programme, and it's got some of the cheapest tickets around, as well. It may not be the reason you came to Edinburgh - but if you give it a chance, you could well find it filling a few slots in your Festival diary.

And let's forget right now the beard-and-sandals image of the book festival devotee. Yes, the stereotypes are all there - the ladies who lunch, the goatee-bearded students in earnest argument and the occasional man talking to himself - but all in all, the Book Festival is notable for the breadth of audience it attracts. The programme is as diverse as the literary world around which it's built, with fiction and non-fiction both well-represented, and a welcome range of family-friendly talks take their place alongside writers' workshops and literary discussions.

Most of the dozens of the daily events follow a familiar pattern. An author appears, is interviewed by a fellow bigwig in their field, gets in a few good plugs for their book… and then retires to a lucrative book-signing in the adjacent room. And indeed, with maybe a third of the site given over to tented bookshops, it's all too easy to deride the strange mix of commercialism and erudition which drives this most refined of festivals. Yet it's somehow all forgivable: somehow, it just works.

Nor is the Book Festival entirely divorced from the hedonistic side of Edinburgh in August. Sporting one of the city's Festival Spiegeltents - a plush, mirrored relic of a bygone age - Charlotte Square makes a fine place to stop for morning coffee, a sneaky mid-afternoon beer, or late night music. Easy to overlook but, once discovered, impossible to ignore, this self-contained festival within the Festival merits a stop on anyone's tour of Edinburgh.

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