Sunday, September 30, 2007

The 2007 National Book Festival

Yesterday I spent the entire day on the Mall in downtown Washington, DC, attending this year's National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress. Being an avid reader, this is an event I try not to miss each year - a chance to buy books, listen to presentations by authors, ask them questions, and have them sign copies of their books, and generally people-watch. Last year's festival was marred by chilly temperatures and drizzling rain, but yesterday's weather was glorious - bright sunshine, temperatures in the mid-70's (about 23 celsius for you overseas readers), and a nice breeze blowing all day.

The festival was held in huge tents covering seven blocks along the Mall, each tent devoted to a style of book (Home & Family, Mysteries & Thrillers, History & Biography, Poetry, etc) or a function (book sales, the Library of Congress tent, etc). There were also about 20 small individual pavilions for individual authors to sign copies of their books, and plenty of trailers and kiosks selling food and drinks, and one of the sponsors donated thousands of bottles of water which were distributed free to the attendees.

I took the opportunity to listen to talks by several authors whose work I enjoy:

Joyce Carol Oates (The Gravedigger's Daughter):

Jeff Shaara (The Rising Tide, Gods and Generals):

and Harry Turtledove (The Guns of the South, Household Gods, and many others):

All of the authors took questions from the audience after speaking...I was able to ask Harry Turtledove about his collaboration with Judith Tarr on one of my favorite stories, Household Gods, and he delivered a very entertaining and informative answer.

I spent quite a bit of time waiting in line to get three books signed by the authors: a copy of Harry Turtledove's new alternate history book, The Gladiator; a copy of Michael Oren's new book, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present;and, for Agnes, a copy of the new Thriller by Lisa Scottoline, Daddy's Girl.

Ms Scottoline was very nice; when I told her I hadn't read any of her books, but was getting one for my wife who was a fan, she said, "You mean you stood in line in the hot sun to get this for your wife?" Then she turned to the small crowd waiting in line and shouted, "Let's give this great husband a hand!" She signed the book, "To Agnes with love from your terrific husband and me." Awwwww.....

All in all, it was a great day. In spite of getting myself a world-class sunburn, I was able to meet and talk with some great authors and enjoy a beautiful day on the Washington Mall. There's no doubt I'll be back there again next year...and if you're a reader (as I know many of you are) and you have the chance to attend, you should do it - you won't regret it!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Jean-Luc Picard said...

That book festival sounds a super event. Lisa Scottoline gave a good response to what you said.

John said...

Sound like a wonderful event. Is it always the last weekend in Sept.?

Bilbo said...

John, I believe it's always the last Saturday in September, but since I've only gone two years in a row, I'm not sure if that is true. Check the Library of Congress website ( for more information. B.

Amanda said...

WOW! That looks like a fantastic event to go to. I'd love to go to something like that one day.