One of my favorite things about going back to school in the fall is that it means it’s time for the National Book Festival! And it’s a good thing they moved it to the Walter Washington Convention Center a few years ago, because this year we had heavy rains- but that didn’t stop over 100 authors and thousands of book lovers.
I started my day with a presentation of JD Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy”, interviewed by David Rubenstein. Ultimately, though, I didn’t learn anything in the interview that wasn’t already in the book.
I had to hustle to catch the last half of M.T. Anderson, but I loved his books “Feed” and “Symphony for the City of the Dead” so much that I really wanted to hear him speak, even just for 20 minutes. His two-part series “Octavian Nothing” is definitely on my “To Be Read” list.
Next on my list was a sci-fi author, but I had a break in between, so I wound up sitting in on Meg Abbott– and downloaded one of her books on Overdrive while I was listening to her speak! I liked her emphasis on multi-dimensional young women in her novels, as well as her research into the world of competitive sports such as cheerleading and gymnastics.
Sci-fi writer John Scalzi was just as funny in person as he is in his writing, and I found out he used to live in Sterling, VA (which is where I had my first job as a middle school librarian). Scalzi read a few of his short stories, including “Your Smart Appliances Talk About You Behind Your Back” and answered a few audience questions (but refused to choose between Kirk and Picard).
After watching the “Girl Rising” documentary a couple of years ago, I was interested to hear Tanya Lee Stone speak about the her latest book, which features the young ladies from Girl Rising, as well as her other works such as “Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors” and “Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream”. Her presentation was very interesting and I could tell the audience was fired up and ready to continue the fight for free education everywhere. Stone suggested working with groups such as “Pinkbike” in Cambodia or “Room to Read“, which focuses on literacy and gender equality.
Probably the hottest Young Adult author, Angie Thomas, was next. Winner of the Walter Dean Myers Award and the We Need Diverse Books Award, Thomas published the hugely successful “The Hate U Give” this past spring and already it is being cast as a movie, being given to communities to read, and sparking discussions and debate about topics ranging from police brutality to diversity needed in publishing. I loved what she told one audience member when they asked what they could do with her class of young elementary students to promote further understanding of diversity: “Empathy is more important than sympathy”. That is definitely something we can all stand to work on.
Last on my agenda for the day (whew! what a day!) was Amor Towles, author of “Rules of Civility” and “A Gentleman in Moscow” (which I stayed up late reading on New Year’s Eve last year, because I am such a book nerd). Towles gave a great presentation on the background of the Russian Revolution, in which his novel is set, and answered some questions. He offered a few hints about his next novel (a road trip involving two brothers in the 1950s) and I can’t wait until that is published.
And that’s a wrap for this year’s National Book Festival. I am so fortunate to live so close to Washington DC and be able to attend this amazing, free book festival every year. Thank you to the Library of Congress for supporting this every year.