Join the writers and thinkers who immerse themselves in the big issues — and come away with a greater understanding of the world we live in. 

Here, we share our favourite sessions that give fresh insight into the issues that matter. 

Fault Lines, 2 May, 11.30am

Five phenomenal non-fiction writers come together to discuss why pervasive inequality is one of the great moral issues of our time – and what can be done to reverse growing societal divisions. Join Akala (Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire), Gabrielle Chan (Rusted Off: Why Country Australia is Fed Up), Beth Macy (Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America) and Rick Morton (One Hundred Years of Dirt) together with George Megalogenis as they consider why the fault lines appear to be widening at a time when our capacity to act with rationality and compassion has arguably never been more heightened.

Stan Grant: Australia Day, 3 May, 8pm

Since publishing his Walkley Award–winning, bestselling memoir Talking to My Country, Stan Grant has been travelling across Australia, talking to huge crowds about how racism is at the heart of our history and the Australian dream. But he knows this is not where the story ends. Stan returns to the Festival to discuss his much-anticipated follow-up, Australia Day, in conversation with George Megalogenis. This is an extraordinarily powerful and personal book about reconciliation, the Indigenous struggle for belonging, and what it means to be Australian.

Inside Stories, 4 May, 10am

Literary star Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah and acclaimed author of The Flamethrowers Rachel Kushner didn’t shy away from taking on big issues – inequality, racism and a faulty justice system – in their fearless bestselling books: Friday Black and The Mars Room. They join the National Book Foundation’s Lisa Lucas to discuss the influence and scope of storytelling and how fiction can be used to connect readers to real-world issues.

Worried Sick: Living in the Age of Anxiety, 4 May, 10am

It has been said that we’re in the grip of an anxiety epidemic. Pundits point to all manner of causes – inequality, social media, the gig economy, populist politics – but what are the true origins of this angst and what can be done to allay our malaise? Join three writers who have each considered the topic of anxiety through their work, as they share their experiences and insights in conversation with Sophie Cunningham. Featuring memoirist Marina Benjamin (Insomnia), political writer William Davies (Nervous States) and author Olivia Sudjic (Exposure and Sympathy).

Jenny Erpenbeck: Go, Went, Gone, 4 May, 3pm

Jenny Erpenbeck’s masterful new novel Go, Went, Gone explores the sometimes fraught and always complex relationship between a retired classics professor and a group of African asylum seekers in Berlin. The Guardian praises Jenny as “Europe’s outstanding literary seer” while The New Yorker likens her to J.M. Coetzee and V.S. Naipaul. She joins Michelle de Kretser to discuss her powerful response to the refugee crisis and explore some of the questions it raises about race, immigration and identity.

Closing Address: Fatima Bhutto, 5 May, 6pm

When internationally lauded Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto last appeared at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, she said her country was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Eight years later, The Runaways author returns to deliver an unmissable Closing Address about how that turbulence has seemingly spread far beyond her homeland’s borders. She reflects on the tectonic shifts that are occurring not just in global politics, but also in relation to ideas of race, class, sexuality and gender.