Photo Credit: Gregg Wilhelm

The most readings for free happen at the Baltimore Book Festival, which takes place in Mount Vernon, Monument and Charles Streets, Sept. 23 – 25. On Friday, Sept. 23 at 5 p.m. the City Lit Tent’s “Literary Happy Hour” will feature Eight Stone Press publisher and editor Pat Tandy hosting readings from the Hon: Past, Present & Future issue of Smile Hon, You’re in Baltimore with music by The Degenerates.

However, five new reading series — all offered for free — have blossomed for those who want to hear great literature throughout the year:

Photo Credit: Jen Michalski

510 Readings at Minás Gallery

815 West 36th Street
Baltimore, MD
5:10 p.m., the 3rd Saturday of each month
Reviews, Directions & More Info

“The only dedicated fiction reading series in Baltimore,” the 510 Readings are hosted by local writers Jen Michalski and Michael Kimball. “We started the reading series in 2008 because we wanted to meet other writers and create a sense of community that thrived like the local music and art scenes,” said Michalski. Four writers are given 12 minutes each to read and they gather with the audience afterwards at Frazier’s on West 36th Street to share food, drink and conversation. Upcoming readers include Greg Olear, Leigh Newman, John Brandon and Christine Grillo on Sept. 17.

Photo Credit: Caryn Coyle

New Mercury Readings

The Windup Space
12 W. North Avenue
Baltimore, MD
5:30 p.m., the 4th Saturday of each month
Reviews, Directions & More Info

The New Mercury is based on the philosophy of H. L. Mencken’s The American Mercury Magazine (1924- 1981) to fulfill “a need for people to write, truthfully and independently, about the world around them.” Founded last year by Deborah Rudacille, journalist and science writer and John Barry, arts journalist and instructor, the reading series tries to get more nonfiction writers in front of audiences. The Windup Space, where The New Mercury writers read, is spacious, has a cash bar and offers surprises. Recently, New Mercury reader Bruce Jacobs interjected his saxophone with his reading on the Windup stage.

Photo Credit: Eric D. Goodman

Art & Lit at the Watermark

Bank of America Skywalk Level
100 S. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD
2 to 5 p.m., the last Sunday of every other month

Art & Lit is “laid-back with free wine and refreshments, international flair, and live music between each reading,” said local writer Eric D. Goodman, who founded the series in 2007 with Manzar, the owner of the Watermark Gallery. “She was an artist and I was a writer, we decided to put together an art and reading series at her gallery.” Visiting authors and musicians come from as far as Paris to participate and the next reading takes place on Oct. 30, featuring Nathan Leslie, Nik Korpon, Charles Rammelkamp, and Patricia Valdata.

Credit: Atomic Books Website

Atomic Fiction

Atomic Books
3620 Falls Rd
Baltimore, MD
7 – 9 p.m. Thursdays, twice a month
Reviews, Directions & More Info

Atomic Books, which will resume its Atomic Fiction readings in September, sells the book featured in the reading. “We started the series because fiction is really hard to promote as a one time book event for new authors. By creating a series, we hoped new authors would get a crowd,” said Rachel Whang, co-owner of Atomic Books and manager of the series which is hosted by local writer Kathy Flann. John Waters and Madison Smartt Bell have been recent readers at Atomic Fiction.

Photo Credit: Caryn Coyle

Poets at Preston Gardens

St. Paul Street North of Saratoga
Tuesdays at noon (weather permitting)
Learn More

In the garden named in 1919 for a former Mayor and Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, the Downtown Partnership hosts storytelling and poetry readings during the lunch hour with Cyclops Books owner Andy Rubin. “The series is designed to use the park and bring literature outdoors,” explained Rubin who schedules three local authors for each reading. Sarah Edelsburg, of the Downtown Partnership, introduces each reader and free smoothies are offered by Wheely Good Smoothies.

Caryn Coyle lives in Baltimore. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in more than a dozen literary journals and the anthology City Sages: Baltimore (2010) from City Lit Press.