The Basics Each year, the Chicago Humanities Festival brings an impressive slate of writers, artists, and cultural figures to town. This year (unlike the all-virtual 2020 festival) is no exception. The 2021 program runs basically all autumn long (September 21 to December 9), with a blend of in-person and online events. Several have already taken place, but it’s not too late to get into deep topics and deep conversation — we’ve selected a few upcoming lectures, readings, and conversations you can’t miss. Tickets go fast, so snag yours ASAP at

Debbie Millman
Photograph: John Madere

1. For Design Devotees

Creative culture and the role of design in everyday life are the subjects of Debbie Millman’s podcast, Design Matters. Her new book, Why Design Matters: Conversations With the World’s Most Creative People, includes profiles, photographs, and wisdom from cartoonist Alison Bechdel and This American Life’s Ira Glass. November 6 at 4 p.m. Columbia College Student Center, 754 S. Wabash Ave.


Amber Baldet
Photograph: Benjamin Spradley

2. For Change Agents

The festival’s series What Next? tackles the topics that define our era: political divisions, wealth inequality, climate change. November’s installment explores the future of money. The conversation features Amber Baldet, who runs Clovyr, which works to make blockchain-type technologies more accessible, and UC Irvine economic anthropologist Bill Maurer. November 11 at 7 p.m.


Angela Jackson
Photograph: Courtesy of the State of Illinois

3. For Literature Aficionados

Catch an afternoon of poetry readings, culminating in a conversation with Illinois poet laureate Angela Jackson, who will discuss her long career, from the 1974 collection VooDoo/Love Magic to the 2009 American Book Award–winning Where I Must Go. Emceed by poet Parneshia Jones and artist avery r. young. November 13 at 1 p.m. Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.


Nikole Hannah-Jones
Photograph: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

4. For History Buffs

MacArthur “genius” grant winner Nikole Hannah-Jones drops by Orchestra Hall to discuss The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story. The book expands on Hannah-Jones’s Pulitzer-winning New York Times project. Ibram X. Kendi, Eve L. Ewing, and others contributed essays exploring how slavery permeates American culture. November 20 (time TBD). Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.


Alan Cumming
Photograph: Elisabeth Caren/USA Network

5. For Cabaret Fans

Alan Cumming, who won a Tony for playing the Emcee in Cabaret, graces Lake View to discuss Baggage: Tales From a Fully Packed Life. Cumming’s book covers the actor, writer, and club owner’s mental health struggles, failed relationships, and run-ins with icons from Liza Minnelli to Stanley Kubrick to the Spice Girls. November 21 at 6 p.m. Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave.


Annie Leibovitz
Photograph: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune

6. For Leibovitz Lovers

Hear from the photographer who shot some of the most indelible celebrity images of the past half century — including John and Yoko’s Rolling Stone cover and a pregnant Demi Moore. The conversation will center on her new book, Annie Leibovitz: Wonderland, in which the famed photographer reflects on the role of fashion in her work. December 7 at 7 p.m. Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St.