Marybeth Whalen, Ariel Lawhon and Anne Bogel are all Southerners — living in Charlotte, Nashville and Louisville, respectively — but that’s not all they have in common. Their love of books binds them as well, and they use their websites — SheReads.org and ModernMrsDarcy.com — to connect with other bibliophiles. She Reads, which is run by Marybeth and Ariel, is steered by the tagline, “Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.” According to Ariel, “Story makes us more empathetic because we can enter a story and, therefore, enter a character’s life, experiencing what they experience and feeling what they feel. We might’ve never been a nurse in World War II or a workaholic mother in New York or a captive in a Third World country but, through story, we can be. As a result of that, our world is expanded … and our hearts are as well. We can’t think of anything better to do than to point others to a means of understanding and compassion — and sometimes just a good old-fashioned escape from all the bad stuff out there. We need that too!”

Spend a weekend in beautiful Savannah, GA, among fellow book lovers at #ReadSavannah.

Spend a weekend in beautiful Savannah, Georgia, getting your read on at #ReadSavannah. Image: Kimpton Hotels

Anne is the founder of ModernMrsDarcy.com, a site devoted to sharing lifestyle “finds” and encouragement. Each year, she puts out her yearly summer reading guide, which this year features a whopping 30 books and she also hosts the podcast, “What Should I Read Next?” On week on this show, she plays literary matchmaker for one guest, using three books they love, one book they hate and what they’re currently reading to guide her suggestion of what their next read should be. “Anne’s show should come with a warning label, though,” says Marybeth, a devoted listener. “I never listen without adding at least one title to my already unwieldy reading list!”

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These three friends are reaching beyond the Internet, however, for the second year in a row, hosting a live-and-in-person event for fellow readers who love to connect over the written word. The second annual #Read event, taking place in Savannah, Georgia, is designed to allow readers to meet and listen to the authors they love. This year’s headliner is the bestselling author Liane Moriarty, whose novel Big Little Lies is being adapted into an HBO miniseries starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. Securing Liane Moriarty for the event was, “Huge!” as Ariel puts it. “We couldn’t believe it! This is her first book tour in The States, and she’s only coming to 10 cities. Our event is her only Southern stop.”

Liane Moriarty, author of Big Little Lies, is the keynote speaker at this year's #ReadSavannah event.

Liane Moriarty, author of Big Little Lies, is the keynote speaker at this year’s #ReadSavannah event.

#ReadSavannah takes place on Sunday, September 18, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hilton DeSoto Savannah hotel. Attendees can enjoy a moveable feast lunch (think progressive-dinner-meets-speed-dating) with 20 authors (Liane Moriarty, included) followed by author panels featuring writers representing women’s fiction, historical fiction, young adult and nonfiction genres. Attendees can mingle with the authors, get their books signed and conclude with the finale keynote delivered by Liane.

“We’re telling all our fellow book lovers to grab their reading friends, book club members, mom, sister, cousin — whatever — and come spend the weekend in Savannah. The city is beautiful and the event is going to be unlike anything they’ve ever been a part of,” Ariel says.

At the close of her podcasts, Anne Bogel quotes poet Rainer Maria Rilke, saying, “Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading,” a sentiment the underscores the joy of being among kindred spirits who appreciate story and words and authors and books, as she does. “The internet is a wonderful connection for all of us who love to talk reading and books,” Anne says. “But being in person at this sort of event adds a depth you can’t achieve in cyberspace. There’s nothing like meeting in person. It’s going to be amazing!”

To learn more about #ReadSavannah and to purchase tickets, click here

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