Ticket sales for this year's Auckland Writers Festival, which opens tonight with a True Stories gala event, are heading towards a record 40,000 mark. Some sessions, like Eleanor Catton on Saturday, have completely sold out the 2,115-seat ASB Theatre at the Aotea Centre. Sessions with Lloyd Jones, Alexander McCall Smith's Auden lecture, and architecture writer Jonathan Glancey at Auckland Art Gallery are also at capacity, with Sandi Toksvig, Alexander McCall Smith's main event, Alice Walker and New Zealand bird photographer Brent Stephenson also at the AAG, reportedly "very busy". But there are still seats available to what should be some brilliant events.

We recommend:

A Question Of Civilisations
ASB Theatre, Friday at 4pm

Radio NZ broadcaster Susie Ferguson chairs physicist Jim Al-Khalili, Egyptian writer Yasmine Rashidi and Iranian-born scholar of religions Reza Aslan in a debate over the West's position that it is superior to the Arab world, based on prejudices which are astonishingly ignorant.

Choose Life: Irvine Welsh
ASB Theatre, Friday at 5.30pm

Edinburgh's "king of grime and crime" has cleaned up his life since moving to Miami. He discusses his latest novel, The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins, with Noelle McCarthy.


Dirty Wars: Jeremy Scahill
Upper NZI Room, Aotea Centre, Saturday at 5.30pm

Two sessions have sold out for journalist Scahill's Dirty Wars book and Oscar-nominated documentary on American covert operations abroad, so one more has been added, this time hosted by Herald journalist David Fisher. Veteran US journalist Bill Moyers describes Scahill as "a one-man truth squad"; the White House probably has differing views.

The Power Of Us: Ray Avery
ASB Theatre, Sunday at 2.30pm

Scientist and entrepreneur Sir Ray Avery delivers the Michael King Lecture, marking the 10th anniversary of our great historian's death. He challenges us to consider what defines us as New Zealanders in the 21st century and which direction we should be heading towards. Introduced by King's daughter, Rachael.

Honoured New Zealand Writer
ASB Theatre, Sunday at 5.30pm

One of our most modest authors, Patricia Grace, receives all the acclaim she deserves in this special event. Grace has not only been a highly accomplished writer for many decades, she has also been active in schools and her community, especially in the region of her ancestral land, of Ngati Toa, in Plimmerton. Free entry for under-18s, but a ticket is required. Geoff Walker hosts.