12th Annual National Book Festival
If you hear anybody telling you—as people are wont to do these days—that the book is dying, people are not reading books—and magazines and newspapers—any more, just say—or tweet or text some version of “Oh, yeah?” or “Seriously?”
Because it’s that time of year, it’s time for the 12th annual National Book Festival Saturday and Sunday where tons of writers—who write books of all sorts—will be on hand at the National Mall to sign books, talk, press the flesh, and perhaps more importantly, thousands (an estimated 200,000 people are expected) will be on hand to wander among an assortment of pavilions catering to adult and young readers, parents and kids, students and teachers. It’s hard to get a kindle or a nook book autographed.
The festival, a legacy of former first lady Laura Bush and held by the Library of Congress, gets bigger in terms of attendance and participating writers and authors every year. Tourists and readers flock to it, it’s like a bookish folk life festival, a rock festival with pages. Words ring out into the air, spoken by writers reading from their works, as well as the words of poets which have a special weight and lightness all at once.
As usual, there will be a Pavilion of the States—although this year only on Saturday—in which the 50 states and various non-states, including D.C. will show off their literary wares of writers, fiction, poems, children’s books and their own particular historic works, all home-grown.
The Washington Post is sponsoring “Let’s Read America” pavilions, along with Wells Fargo, AT&T, PBS Kids, Lego Duplo and Scholastic Inc., and, as always, the Digital Bookmobile returns, making the festival one of the most family friendly events you’re likely to encounter.
The sponsoring Library of Congress has its own pavilion, of course, where opportunities abound to explore the country’s oldest federal cultural institution, where you can scour research on your very own family history.
Primarily, though the National Book Festival is about the country’s passion and love for reading and books, which is to say there’ll be all sorts of authors on hand in person at various categories of pavilions: Family; Children; Teens and Children; Poetry and Prose; History and Biography; Sci-Fi, Fantasy and the accompanying and growing category of graphic novels; Fiction and Mystery and Contemporary life.
For the adults, in the Contemporary Life Section, you’ll find the likes of New York Times writer, historian of the present and accessible seer and prophet of the future Thomas Friedman; Lisa Scottoline, a popular mystery writer talks and writes about motherhood; Douglas Brinkley now in the news with his controversial biography of “Cronkite” and Congressman John Lewis, among others.
In the poetry and prose pavilion there’s award winning local students reading poetry out loud; former Washington Postie and author of a books on Ernest Hemingway and Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara Paul Hendrickson, former poet laureate Philip Levine, novelist Jeffrey (“Middlesex”) Eugenides, novelist T.C. Boyle, who has written 23 books, including his latest “San Miguel” and Thomas Mallon, whose latest historical novel is called simply “Watergate.” and is as fine an act of alchemy and fictionalization as you’ll find with the real life protagonists of the scandal that ousted Nixon from the presidency taking center stage.
In the Fiction and Mystery pavilion, you’ll find Stephen Carter, who’s imagined what might happen if Lincoln had survived his assassination attempt in “The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln”; Steven Millhauser, the novelist who won a Pulitzer Prize for the wonderful “Martin Dressler: The Tale of of an American Dreamer"; crime novelist Patricia Cornwell and Geraldine Brooks among many others.
In the History and Biography pavilion, you’ll find the ambitious Robert Caro still busy on telling the story of the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson; David Maraniss, who chronicled the early life of Barack Obama; Sally Bedell Smith who’s taking on the current Queen Elizabeth; Walter Isaacson, who’s written about Steven Jobs, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein.
For a complete listing of authors and activities, including children and family activities and pavilions as well as daily events and signings, you should go to the National Book Festival web site or check out twitter, facebook and all the usual digital suspects And buy a book.
For more information and to see featured authors, visit the Library of Congress's website