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Why the National Book Festival Is ‘National’

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An illustration of stylized people and books in the theme of the 2022 National Book Festival

What makes the National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress and held in Washington, a national affair?

The many authors who come each year from all parts of the country. The people who attend from states as far away as the West Coast. The livestreamed sessions and the opportunity to view them at home, or maybe in a library near you. Read all about how to host a National Book Festival watch party and fill out the form.

And, of course, the Roadmap to Reading. It’s an enormous space on the exhibition floor of the Washington Convention Center where representatives from the Library’s Center for the Book Affiliates gather during festival. They are there at their state’s or territory’s table to  promote their unique literary heritage to the thousands of families that flock to the Roadmap each year.

The Roadmap to Reading is sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the federal agency that provides the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, also a federal agency and one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.

In 1977, the U.S. Congress established the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress as a center to promote books, reading, libraries and literacy. The mission is to be carried out on a national basis, and thus the Affiliate Centers for the Book – in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the three Pacific island territories – have been set up to fulfill the Center’s mission and, as we say, to promote their local “literary heritage.”

What is local literary heritage, you ask?

By local literary heritage we refer to books that reflect a distinctive literary voice – books set in a particular place, or written about a particular place, or by an author from a particular state or region. These authors and their works demonstrate the richness and diversity of American literature.

Books about the South, or set in the Great Plains, on an Indian reservation, or the Pacific islands.  Or how about a book that takes place in Harlem, or the French Quarter, or the Alaskan wilderness?

The vastness of our nation, coupled with the great melting pot that defines America, could reasonably be said to provide the most diverse literature of any country in the world. And that is because we have people living here (and writing) from every corner of the globe.

The friendly folks who will staff these tables are more than eager to tell you about the “Great Read” book they have chosen to represent their state or territory. And they will likely have other materials to entice you to pay a visit.

But if traveling to all the states and territories is not in your playbook, you can “travel” to these areas by picking up a few of these Great Reads from Great Places books. They will be available at the National Book Festival’s bookseller, Politics and Prose.

Many of the authors of these books have recorded videos in which they discuss their work. You can see these beginning on Sept. 3 at the National Book Festival website.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to attend in person, don’t miss the Roadmap to Reading area on the exhibition level of the Washington Convention Center. You can pick up a brochure with a list of the suggested books. Kids are encouraged to stop by every table, collect a unique stamp on the brochure’s map and receive a prize.

This year’s festival theme is “Books Bring Us Together.” That will certainly be the case on Sept. 3, when the doors to the festival are thrown open at 8:30 a.m. See you there, or virtually on the National Book Festival website. You will also be able to view select programs live if you cannot attend in person. And all programs will be recorded for later viewing after the festival concludes.

Comments (3)

  1. Many Thanks to keep all of us informed and growing in knowledge,

    Gretchen Weaver

  2. Thanks for the update. Going to the National Book festival is on my “bucket list”. Someday …

  3. As the Director of the Empire State Center for the Book, the New York State affiliate, I am proud to say that more than 30 authors from New York State will be at this year’s National Book Festival. One of those authors is Andrea Davis Pinkney who was inducted into New York State Writers Hall of Fame. Please stop by the New York State table because many of these authors will be there to say hello to you.

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