With Largest Cast Ever, Festival is One For the Books

(The following is an article written by Mark Hartsell, editor of the Library of Congress staff newsletter, The Gazette.)

2015 National Book Festival Poster. Peter de Sève, artist.

2015 National Book Festival Poster. Peter de Sève, artist.

The Library of Congress National Book Festival next weekend opens its latest chapter with a few new plots and the largest cast of characters in festival history.

The 15th annual festival will offer its biggest-ever roster of speakers, take a first fling with literary love, go back to the movies, pay tribute to America’s warriors and honor the Founding Father whose own library served as the basis for today’s Library of Congress collections.

The festival, themed “I Cannot Live Without Books,” takes place Sept. 5 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the District. The event opens at 10 a.m. Saturday with the presentation, to author Louise Erdrich, of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. Twelve hours and more than 170 speakers later, it closes with Books to Movies – the sequel to last year’s enormously popular program exploring the adaptation of literary works to the big screen.

In between, the festival presents Pulitzer Prize-winning historians (David McCullough, Rick Atkinson), poets (new U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera), best-selling mystery writers (David Baldacci, Lisa Scottoline), chefs (Patrick O’Connell of the Inn at Little Washington), weathermen (Al Roker), cartoonists (“Pearls Before Swine” creator Stephan Pastis) and one moon-walking astronaut: Buzz Aldrin, author of a new children’s book.

Special programs highlight the day and evening sessions:

  • In honor of the 200th anniversary of the purchase of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library by the Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division chief Mark Dimunation will host presentations by “American Sphinx” author Joseph Ellis, Annette Gordon-Reed (“The Hemingses of Monticello”), Jon Meacham (“Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power”) and Henry Wiencek (“Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves”).
  • “Greatest Generation” author Tom Brokaw and Pulitzer Prize-winner Atkinson are among eight authors who will explore “The Human Side of War,” a tribute to American warriors of the past 75 years. Veterans History Project Director Robert Patrick hosts the program.
  • Erdrich, author of critically acclaimed novels “Love Medicine” and “The Plague of Doves,” will receive the third Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction in recognition of lifetime achievement in writing fiction that explores the American experience.

A complete list of special programs is available at www.loc.gov/bookfest/information/specialprogramming.

For the second straight year, the festival will extend into the late hours – this year with poetry, movies and romance.

The festival again will stage a youth poetry slam – a competition that drew a raucous standing-room-only crowd for its 2014 festival debut. The event this year features teen poets from the District of Columbia, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago – and a celebrity judge who knows a thing or two about poetry: Herrera, the new U.S. poet laureate.

At Books to Movies, author A. Scott Berg (“Genius”) will present a multimedia overview of the film industry, then join a panel discussion about film adaptations with Lawrence Wright (“Going Clear,” his book on Scientology) and Anne-Marie O’Connor (“The Woman in Gold”). Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday will moderate.

The festival has an evening fling with literary love: the first program devoted to romance fiction, the second-best-selling category in the publishing business. The program features three of the genre’s best-loved writers – Sarah MacLean (“Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover”), Beverly Jenkins (“Destiny’s Captive”) and Paige Tyler (“Wolf Trouble”).

The festival again provides a showcase for its host – the Library. The Library of Congress Pavilion features exhibitions by 13 offices and 10 presentations that highlight services, collections and publications.

Those presentations explore, for example, World War I sheet music, mapping the West with Lewis and Clark, Congress.gov, the World Digital Library and Chronicling America. The complete schedule for the pavilion can be found at www.loc.gov/bookfest/lcpavilion.

The complete schedule of events, and other information about the festival, is available at www.loc.gov/bookfest/.

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