Top of page

A man holds a book entitled "How the Word Is Passed" in his lap, his head and shoulders obscured.
Clint Smith speaks about his book, "How the Word Is Passed," on the History and Biography Stage at the National Book Festival, September 3, 2022. (Kimberly Powell/Library of Congress)

What in the Literary World Are We Doing Here?

Share this post:

Welcome to a new blog from the Library, “Bookmarked,” where we talk about contemporary writers, book programs, and collections connections to the literary world, including our annual National Book Festival. The blog is produced by the Literary Initiatives Office with contributions from other Library divisions.

Like this blog, the National Book Festival is an endeavor produced by many Library departments, including my office, the Signature Programs Office, plus volunteer coordinators, communications specialists, designers, our development office and more – and you’ll have a chance to get to know them on this blog.

Our Literary Initiatives team specifically is made up of the people who think a lot about which writers should appear at the Festival each year. We talk to small and large publishers about the books they’re publishing this year, think about the trends and themes of those new books, and joust with each other about why some beloved writers should be invited over others—there are only a limited number of speaking slots at the Festival. It’s like playing chess with a live octopus, in a lot of ways.

Figuring out which writers will have the right chemistry together on a panel is rarely easy—that work requires a lot of reading, a fair amount of online video sleuthing, and sometimes a little behind-the-scenes détente. Sometimes a book is so multi-faceted that we have several different events where we could place the writer; we have to choose one and that can feel wrenching. And of course, we are always thinking about the attendees of our literary programs. Here are some questions we ask ourselves as we talk about you, our audience:

  • Which writers do you all want to hear from?
  • Should we do more fiction this year than last year? More nonfiction?
  • What’s the perfect National Book Festival event you’d like to attend, if any of your favorite living writers could be featured?

The best way is to hear directly from the book lovers who attend (or would like to attend) our events, in person or online. Feel free to respond to any of these questions in the comments!

There are a number of other things the Literary Initiatives office does at the Library. After the Librarian of Congress selects the U.S. Poet Laureate and a children’s writer to become the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, we send those ambassadors around the nation to talk to Americans about books and reading and big, big ideas. We get a lot of help from the nonprofit Every Child a Reader as far as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature is concerned.

But I stress our work on the National Book Festival because our Literary Initiatives staff are deep into program ideas for this year’s festival. In this brand-new blog, we’re excited to provide this sort of behind-the-scenes coverage for all of you who subscribed to our National Book Festival blog. For those of you who subscribed to the “From the Catbird Seat” poetry blog, don’t worry: we’ll still be featuring the same year-round content you’ve always loved, even during the National Book Festival planning period. We’re also looking to feature interviews with contemporary writers whose new books are connected to Library of Congress collections in intriguing ways and coverage of what the Library’s ambassadors are doing out in United States.

We hope you like our new look, and we really hope you enjoy having one place to learn about all the ways we feature writers and books. And stay tuned for a big National Book Festival 2023 announcement, coming soon!

Comments (28)

  1. Bonnie Jo Campbell! With yet another novel on the docket, a national book award nominee, Once Upon a River, American Salvage, Women and Other Animals all translated into several languages, rural Michigan USA traverses the globe. One Upon a River was adapted into a great film! Campbell is a published fiction writer, non fiction writer (creative non fiction, essay), and poet.

    Bring her in!

  2. Writer – Jose Andres

    More contemporary thriller and mystery writers – e.g. Deborah Crombie, Nadine Matheson, Elizabeth George

  3. As a school librarian I would like to hear from more of the authors being targeted for book bans as in my position we are first on the firing line in this battle and need to know that what we are going through isn’t in vain. Authors speaking up helps us know we are not alone in this fight. The banning targets may be their books but the losses are being felt by librarians and our students. Thank you

  4. Lydia Davis

  5. I really love that there has always been a fairly heavy emphasis on science fiction. I have been able to see some of my very favorite sci-fi authors (John Scalzi, Charlie Jane Anders, Tochi Onyebuchi, Janelle Monet, and many more). I really appreciate the emphasis on diversity in the authors that are featured. This is one of my favorite events of the entire year; I look forward to coming alone so I can choose the tracks I want to attend without compromise! I learn a lot from seeing authors that aren’t necessarily NYTimes top 10 multi-week bestsellers but have important things to say and teach us. I also appreciate the emphasis on kids and young adult literature.

  6. I started attending the National Book Festival when it opened on National Mall. Sometimes it was really hot, but I never missed. I served as a volunteer in 2015. I have continued to attend the festival’s exciting events. My excitement grows as the 1st weekend in September grows nearer. Thank you for this wonderful experience,

  7. There are three authors of wonderful historical fiction who would be great guests and speakers at the National Book Festival:
    1. Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See, and of Cloud Cuckoo Land.
    2. Ruth Downie, author of the Medicus series.
    3. Elsa Hart, author of City of Ink.

  8. I am a public librarian in Louisville Kentucky. I use videos from the National Book Festival for part of my mandatory continuing education through Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. The requirement is that any video be at least 30 minutes in length. 29 minutes and 59 seconds will not do. Please encourage your interviewers to go at least 30 minutes. Many thanks.

  9. Writers Would like to see:
    Sharon Doubiago, poetry
    Mag Gabbert, poetry
    Lulu Miller, nonfiction
    Juli Berwald, nonfiction
    Susan Orlean, nonfiction

    More Fiction or nonfiction:
    To me the most important thing is to focus on the quality of the writing. Excellent writing shines through both fiction & nonfiction.

    Perfect NBF event
    “The Surprise of a Lifetime:” Authors talk of their own (or their research subjects’) major surprises where researching X led to veering off to Y. Example: Lulu Miller (“Why Fish Don’t Exist”) studying David Starr Jordan and then discovering real-life victims (Anna and Mary) of the eugenics movement.

  10. Clay! So happy to see this from you and such great questions! No surprise, I’d like to see more nonfiction. Be well.

    • Great to hear from you, Tanya! Thanks for sending us your thoughts.

  11. Here are some authors I would love to see at the 2023 National Book Festival, and all of them have new books coming out this year: Ann Patchett, Richard Russo, Lauren Groff, Alice Hoffman, Lisa See, Elizabeth Berg, and Alison Weir

  12. I wholeheartedly recommend the world renowned neurologist and non-fiction health care author Dr. Bhupendra O. Khatri. Please review one of his best selling books: “Healing the Soul – Unexpected Stories of Courage, Hope, and the Power of Mind.”
    Thank you and keep up the great work!!!

  13. I like the new look. Plus, it keeps things simplified. I’ve volunteered at the NBF 3 years and plan to continue in 2023.

  14. Good morning

  15. Yay! Moving beyond just the Festival, would love to hear about fiction and historical fiction
    (Picoult, Patchett, Bohjalian, Robotham, Larson, etc.)

  16. I am so pleased that the Library is asking for suggestions. Here are mine:
    Saket Soni. The great escape
    Tracy Kidder. Rough sleepers
    Kerri K. Greenidge. The grimkes
    Ilyon Woo. Master slave husband wife

  17. Thanks for asking!
    I highly recommend the award winning novelist Mary Kay Zuravleff. Her latest work “American Ending” explores themes of immigration, the capricious history of American citizenship and a young girl’s lack of agency. I’ve seen an advance copy and absolutely adore this historical novel that resonates strongly today. And don’t just take my word for it, Oprah’s added it to her spring reading list! Mary Kay’s writing is always warm and wise. Plus, she’s an incredibly engaging speaker who provides amazing insights into the writing process. I can’t recommend her highly enough!

  18. I’m a poet. Would love to hear from these contemporary poets: the talented, accomplished, and well-known poets and teachers James Crews and Danusha Lameris, who spearhead the heart-enhancing ongoing webinar series called “Poetry of Resilience.

  19. What are the dates of the 2023 National Book Festival? We want to write a grant to cover the costs of travel.

    • Thanks for checking in. We’ll be announcing the date for the 2023 National Book Festival within the next week. Stay tuned!

  20. I would love to see an exhibit on the lower level of the convention center that features the artwork used in books – illustrations, jacket covers, etc.
    Perhaps a celebration of famous art works from books that have achieved iconic status.

  21. A) I endorse Deborah Hoover’s suggestion on banned book authors. Perhaps a panel on what can be done to counter this?

    B) How about having audiobook narrators? Lorelei King, Davina Porter, George Guidal, Barbara Rosenblat, Simon Vance? Could have a cross section panel and discuss the different approaches and/or have pairings with authors?

    Counting the days 🙂

  22. Would love to hear from:

    Barbara Kingsolver
    Jon Meacham
    Ron Chernow
    Richard Powers

    In person at the National Book Festival.

  23. A fascinating fiction/non-fiction duo would be authors Mary Kay Zuravleff and Erica Berry, both of whom released books this year. The title of Zuravleff’s novel, “American Ending,” is inspired by her Russian grandmother’s asking her children whether they want a story featuring wolves to have a Russian or an American ending. Berry’s “Wolfish” explores wolves, selves, and the stories we tell about fear.
    The two could explore the theme of How to be a brave woman/person when our bedtime stories are full of fear, embodied as wolves? How have these stories shaped previous generations, and how might changing the endings re-shape new generations’ sense of self and ability to face fear?

  24. Several books have been released this year exploring the immigrant experience in this country, including Mary Kay Zuravleff’s novel, “American Ending.” Her book includes the story of a U.S.-born woman who loses her U.S. citizenship because she marries a Russian immigrant, based on her grandmother’s real-life experience.

    Pulling together stories of different immigrant experiences, by different authors, would make for a fascinating discussion. The host of such a panel on “Immigration Stories: Fact and Fiction” could be an expert drawn from LOC staff, such as former Congressional Research Specialist in Immigration Ruth Wasem, author of numerous reports and books on immigration history, including laws such as the one mentioned above that removed citizenship from U.S.-born women.

  25. Obviously, some people told you that Louise Penny would be the one we wanted to hear from for the first Pick Your Poison Mystery night at the Library of Congress. I am of half Canadian heritage …my Mom’s family was from Alberta. Even though Louise is a Canadian author through and through, even having been born on Canada Day, her fans around the world consider her a “national treasure’ of the country/community of Three Pines. Thank you for the excellent choice. In today’s world where politics is, to quote Louise, “a bit of a shitstorm”, we need more people to read her books, and stop and think about what kind of a community we should be promoting.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.