Do we love to read? No matter what the measure, the numbers tell the story. has Greater Cincinnati listed as No. 18 in its list of best-read cities. That’s based solely on’s sales, of course. But considering we’re only the 28th largest metro area, the ranking is nothing to sneeze at.

Probably a better measure is that the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is the 13th largest library system in the nation, placing us far higher up the list than much bigger cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas and more than twice as large as the library in that vaunted book-reading city, Seattle.

Small wonder, then, that Cincinnati is host to one of the bright up-and-comers in the world of book festival.

Books by the Banks, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 12 at the Duke Energy Convention Center, has a delightful, almost circus-like atmosphere. Not in a razzmatazzy way, mind you. It’s just that the level of enthusiasm and excitement is incredibly infectious.

It’s not glitzy, by any stretch of the imagination. Mostly, it’s row after row of tables interrupted by stacks of books. Oh, and lots of talk. There are Q&As, panels, readings and discussion groups. Sometimes, there’s a little music. Or life-sized children’s characters come to life.

“It’s my favorite event of the year,” says Gina Kobak, a 33-year-old single mother from Westwood who was busy shopping at the Hyde Park Joseph-Beth Bookseller location. “I read constantly. So when I have a chance to spend a day with people who like books as much as I do, I never pass it up.”

Kobak isn’t alone. This is the seventh annual Books by the Banks festival and ever-so-gradually, it has grown into a booklover’s scene. It’s free, which probably helps. That, and the fact that nearly every major book-involved organization in the area has pitched in to make it happen. Among the festival planners are representatives of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, University of Cincinnati Libraries, the Mercantile Library, Northern Kentucky University’s Steely Library, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Clermont County Public Library, Midpoint Libraries, The Lane Libraries, Campbell County Public Library, Kenton County Public Library and on and on and on. It’s like a who’s who of local literary circles.

Best of all, it’s not a somber or self-important event.

“I can’t think of another book event where I can take my kids, too,” says Mindy Middleton, 47, who was perusing the kids’ book offerings with her two elementary-age daughters at the Kenwood Barnes & Noble bookstore. “We go downtown, look at the books, have lunch together—we make a day of it.”

Middleton is especially looking forward to next year when Books by the Banks is finally hoping to move out of the Convention Center and down to the riverfront.

“Books by the Banks of the Ohio,” says Middleton. “Can you imagine how much fun that will be?”

Book by the Banks, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Oct. 12. At the Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., downtown Cincinnati. Free.