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Great Reads from Great Places: Celebrating Our Nation’s Literary Heritage

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Every state and region of the country can boast of its unique literary heritage. Think of the great writers of Mississippi such as William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. New England has Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Ohio was the birthplace of the literary giant Toni Morrison. Mark Twain was born in Missouri but Connecticut was where he spent the latter part of his life. The American West offers limitless sources of literary inspiration. And the Native peoples of Alaska and Hawaii further enrich this diverse tapestry.

Beginning with the second National Book Festival, in 2002, the Library played an active role in recognizing each state’s contributions to America’s rich literary heritage. The 53 affiliates in the Center for the Book’s network (one center in each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) choose a book each year (often one for young people) that in some way is connected to the state (the author was born in the state or lived there, or the book is set in the state, for example).

When the National Book Festival is an in-person event, the 53 affiliate Centers showcase their chosen books and other informational materials of their state or territory at individual tables arrayed on the floor of the Washington Convention Center in an area called the Roadmap to Reading. Thousands of families go from table to table each year seeking information about regional books. In 2021, our virtual Roadmap to Reading can be accessed via the map in the “Festival Near You” section of the National Book Festival website.

Explore Great Reads from Great Places and local events on the 2021 National Book Festival “Festival Near You” feature.

Click on any state and you’ll see this year’s Great Reads from Great Places book title chosen by that state, as well as links to other local Festival activities you may want to join virtually or in person.

Some states are offering watch parties for favorite authors; others are sponsoring book discussions and other activities related to books. The beauty of this being a virtual festival is that you can join any activity in any state — take a virtual trip across this great nation, feasting on its extraordinary range of authors and books!

We hope you will take advantage of these Great Reads and local events, all of which are putting the “national” in the 2021 National Book Festival.

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.