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“Great Reads” Authors Talk Books and the Worlds They Revealed

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Great Reads from Great Places title card

On Sept. 15, I wrote about our long-running “Great Reads from Great Places” project and how it helps to make the National Book Festival a national event.

Now, you can not only read these amazing books but also see and hear their authors discuss them. The affiliate Centers for the Book discovered that the 53 books they had chosen (one from each state, the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico) fall into several themes, and they asked many of the authors to get together (virtually and thematically) to discuss their work and how it relates to their local literary heritage.

The eight themes — Family, Fitting In, Friendship, History, Mystery & Magic, Natural World, Picture Books and Social Justice — gave the authors the chance to address how their books discuss a common thread. Each of the authors also addresses the theme of the 2021 National Book Festival: Open a Book, Open the World.

It’s a revelatory experience to hear how important books have been to these writers, and the influence they have had on their lives as well as their work.

“The Autobiography of Malcom X” by Alex Haley “was a life-changer for me,” says Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, author of “Layla’s Happiness” (chosen by the Rhode Island Center for the Book) in the Family video.

Abdul-Razak Zachariah, author of “The Night Is Yours” (chosen by the Connecticut Center for the Book), says in the Friendship video, “The Corduroy books [about Corduroy the bear, by Don Freeman] opened the world for me. … It was one of the first times I saw a book where there were people of color. … Before that I just saw a lot of cartoon animals.”

Listen to the videos, then ask yourself and ask your friends and family: “What book opened the world to you?”

Their answers will make you want to read those books to see why. And, while you are at it, why not read the “Great Reads” selection from your home state (click on any state/territory on the map) and listen to the author in one of these videos?

You’ll be amazed at the breadth of books cited, as well as how these authors’ books can “open the world” for you!

Join us for the 2021 National Book Festival, Sept. 17-26. Audiences are invited to create their own festival experience this year, with programs in a range of formats. Subscribe to this blog for future updates on the festival, and visit the Festival website.