Joan Zieger of Middleton is a self-described Wisconsin Book Festival “nut.” She’s been attending free author events since the festival began 16 years ago, and has even served as an author escort.

Zieger, a Middleton and Sequoya libraries patron, is a big reader and always has several fiction and nonfiction books going at the same time, she said. Her favorite genres are literary fiction, cozy mysteries and nonfiction related to power, politics, contemporary history, horses and opera.

She likes to attend some festival events in person. “I love experiencing the crowd murmuring, the electric silences when an author states certain opinions, the intelligent questions, and the opportunity to see, perceive and empathize with an author for 45 minutes, which feels so personal and intimate,” said Zieger, a fiber artist.

However, she also loves the convenience of watching festival events telecasted on C-SPAN’s BookTV station. Four years ago, she was flipping through the channels and saw Robert Reich speaking at a festival event; it was at that time that she discovered the channel televises many festival events. “I also saw Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, which delighted me because I was unable to see him in person at the festival,” she said. “I was watching BookTV as usual and just saw it pop up.”

There are always lots of faces familiar to Zieger in the audience when she goes to festival events, she said.

“From my pet sitter to the mayor, from community leaders to next-door neighbors, they’re all there,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for diverse and eclectic people to come together on a subject, ask questions, and communicate together.”

She appreciates that the festival connects people and contributes positively to the city’s personality.

“It brings people together from all areas of Madison, resulting in a diverse and eclectic mixture of people united by their interest in a subject presented by a published author,” Zieger remarked. “All ideas are explored. The audience is patient, perceptive and curious. It adds to the creativity and cultural discourse of the city.

“I just saw Tommy Orange at Central Library and was delighted to talk extensively afterward with a Native American couple who were also there meeting Mr. Orange. Where else does this happen?”