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PBS Special: LeVar Burton and the National Book Festival

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Levar Burton, seated at a starkly lit library table, with a book open in front of him
LeVar Burton. Photo: Robyn Von Swank. 

LeVar Burton, fresh from a hosting “Jeopardy,” turns his attention to hosting a special edition of the Library’s 2021 National Book Festival, a one-hour special on PBS that is studded with some of the world’s brightest literary stars.

The show, “Open a Book, Open the World: The Library of Congress National Book Festival,” premieres  Sunday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS, and the PBS Video app. The show will feature 20 of the world’s most captivating authors and celebrities, ranging from actors Michael J. Fox and Lupita Nyong’o, to Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon Reed.

“Books open the world to us, fuel our imaginations and show us our common humanity, especially as we confront huge challenges in society,” said Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. “We’re proud to collaborate once again with PBS and public television stations nationwide to celebrate the power of reading from our national library.”

Burton, a longtime champion of reading, will host from the Los Angeles public library with Hayden appearing at the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill.

“I’m proud and honored to join Dr. Carla Hayden to explore the National Book Festival,” Burton said. “A good book can take you on a journey. After the last year, we’re all ready to plot a new course, and books can be an amazing compass. Join me for the National Book Festival as some of our nation’s leading literary voices bring us a sense of renewal, discuss their newest work and open up a whole new world of possibilities.”

"Open a Book, Open the World" poster, depicting books as flowers, their pages opening like leaves
The poster for 2021 National Book Festival. Artist: Dana Tanamachi.

Full interviews with each author will be featured in on-demand videos through the National Book Festival website and will be released Sept. 17. The 2021 virtual festival will invite audiences to create their own festival experiences from programs in a range of formats and an expanded schedule over 10 days, from Sept. 17 through Sept. 26.

The festival’s full lineup will be available online through videos on demand, author conversations in real time and live question-and-answer sessions, as well as a new podcast series with NPR. There will also be some in-person, ticketed events at the Library, should local COVID-19 restrictions allow gatherings.

To create the broadcast, the Library is collaborating with PBS Books, a national programming initiative produced by Detroit Public Television. PBS will distribute the one-hour National Book Festival broadcast to public television stations nationally.

“Books have been a lifeline for so many of us during this most difficult year. They have offered us an escape from the pandemic but also advice on how to cope with its challenges,” said Rich Homberg, president and CEO of Detroit Public TV. “We are delighted to be working once again with the Library of Congress, the National Book Festival and this incredible lineup of authors to celebrate our love of all things literary.”

The National Book Festival is made possible by the generous support of private- and public-sector sponsors who share the Library’s commitment to reading and literacy, led by National Book Festival Co-Chair David M. Rubenstein. Sponsors include: Festival Vice Chair the James Madison Council; Charter sponsors The Washington Post, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities; Additional generous support from the Library of Congress Federal Credit Union, Tim and Diane Naughton and Capital Group; Presenting Partner NPR; and Media Partner The New Republic.

You can llow the festival on Twitter @LibraryCongress with hashtag #NatBookFest, and subscribe to the National Book Festival Blog at

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Comments (4)

  1. Who is the artist for the poster? It has artists: but blank after it.

    • Dana Tanamachi. Plugged it in now; thanks for the heads up!

  2. I’d love to sign up for the live events at the library.

    How do I do that?

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