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Best of the Fest 2022: Pop Lit

Four people seated in chairs on a stage with a National Book Festival backdrop behind them

Xochitl Gonzalez, Susan Coll and Grant Ginder discuss politics on the Pop Lit Stage with moderator Roswell Encina at the 2022 National Book Festival, Sept. 3. Photo by Kimberly Powell

This year’s Pop Lit Stage at the Library of Congress National Book Festival was a new one for us, featuring different kinds of books and writers. It also featured new ways of performing books that we hadn’t tried out at the Festival before. We’re happy to release the footage from that stage today on our site and our YouTube channel. Some of the events on this stage were generously sponsored by the Library’s Publishing Office and our National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. Here’s what you’ll find among the vibrant conversations that took place on the Pop Lit stage:

  • The day began with novelists Kirstin Chen, Katie Gutierrez, and Amanda Eyre Ward in conversation with book critic and writer Marion Winik about fiction that delves into crime and all-around bad behavior.
  • Bestselling writer Mitch Albom made his Festival premiere this year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Tuesdays with Morrie.” He was in conversation with writer and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein.
  • Novelists Eleanor Brown and Jennifer Close discussed their latest novels in our “Families Are the Best, Families Are the Worst” panel, with Shari Werb, the Library’s Director of the Center for Learning, Literacy and Engagement moderating.
  • In addition to collecting, archiving and storing books and other media, the Library of Congress also publishes books, chief among them our Crime Classics series, which reissues some of the finest American crime writing from the 1860s to the 1960s. We portrayed a crucial scene from a recent Library publication, Rudolph Fisher’s “The Conjure-Man Dies,” the first American mystery to feature a Black detective and all Black characters.
  • Dolen Perkins-Valdez, whose latest novel is titled “Take My Hand,” was in conversation with journalist Linda Villarosa about the novel, about a Black nurse in post-segregation Alabama who blows the whistle on a terrible injustice done to her patients.
  • Our next panel, “Is Anything Funnier Than Politics?,” answered its own question (no) as novelists Grant Ginder, Xochitl Gonzalez and Susan Coll talked about their latest, funny novels. The Library’s Chief Communications Officer, Roswell Encina, moderated.
  • Karen Joy Fowler and Louis Bayard’s new novels both depict mega-famous people—in Fowler’s case John Wilkes Booth and his family and in Bayard’s case Jacqueline Kennedy. Both novels depict their protagonists before they were famous, though, so we asked Colleen J. Shogan to moderate a conversation with them we titled “We Knew Them Before They Were Famous: Historical Fiction.”
  • In a collaboration with the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, this year’s Festival featured a vibrant performance from some of the NLS’s star audiobook narrators—Michael Kramer, Kimberly Schraf, and Dawn Ursula—performing and talking about the art of voice narration. Kathryn Marguy, a public affairs specialist at the NLS, moderated.

We hope you enjoy the events from this year’s Pop Lit stage!

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