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2020 National Book Festival Highlights: John Grisham

Welcome to our ongoing celebration of the 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival! If you love storytelling or are simply curious about the world, you’ve landed in the right place. As a way into this vast — and vastly fascinating — festival celebrating “American Ingenuity,” we offer here a string of highlights that truly illustrate the resilience, intelligence and wit of this year’s authors. Please enjoy, and make sure to explore our full National Book Festival video collection and special limited-time content on the Virtual Festival Platform.

The following post was written by Guy Lamolinara, communications officer in Literary Initiatives.

“Legal thriller” and John Grisham are synonymous.

Over the course of almost 40 novels, released once a year, Grisham has delivered No. 1 bestsellers like “The Firm,” “The Runaway Jury,” “The Appeal” and recently, “The Guardians” and “Camino Winds,” which he discussed at the 2020 National Book Festival. Grisham is the recipient of the first Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction (2009), and in 2011 he received the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, administered by the University of Alabama School of Law and awarded in conjunction with the National Book Festival. You can learn more about Harper Lee Prize winners in the University of Alabama School of Law booth on the Virtual Festival Platform (under “Partner Activities”).

This year, Grisham spoke with Marie Arana, Library of Congress literary director. In this exclusive video, the author reminds us that his first novel, “A Time to Kill” (1989), was “a complete flop. … I thought the career was going nowhere.” Of course, he could not have been further from the truth. Grisham has since sold more than 300 million books in every corner of the world.

Grisham’s novels always tell a great story, which he says is his goal, but they are much more: They touch on important issues such as equality, racism and criminal justice. He told Arana, “If we can just get back on the same page, we’re going to see some real progress on criminal justice reform.”

Grisham also participated in a Q&A session with his readers during the festival. You can hear that session (and Q&As with other select authors) on the Virtual Festival Platform (Go to “Stages” tab and select “Fiction.” Click on “Sessions” and select “John Grisham”).

There are more than 120 fascinating authors on the platform’s various stages. You can also view some of the presentations thematically, along the lines of “Democracy in the 21st Century,” “Hearing Black Voices” and “Fearless Women.” It’s a great way to hear how authors are addressing these topics through their works, both fact and fiction, while keeping in touch with current literature.

The 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival celebrates its 20th birthday this year. You can get up-to-the-minute festival news, highlights, and other important information by subscribing to this blog. The festival is made possible by the generosity of sponsors. You can support the festival, too, by making a gift now.

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