Thursday, September 29, 2016

National Book Festival 2016

This past weekend was the 16th annual National Book Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown Washington, DC.  The theme was "A Grand Journey".

Festival program

The free festival totes are great, but I brought along my favorite bookish tote bag.
Starting at 10:00 am, bookish enthusiasts of all ages had 12 hours of author interviews, book signings, informational booths, and activities in which to partake.  It coincided with the grand opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and there was a definite presence of diversity in the Festival's lineup.  Top speakers/authors included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Salman Rushdie, Colson Whitehead, Margo Jefferson, Laila Lalami, Alvaro Enrigue, Jacqueline Woodson, James McBride, Edwidge Danticat, Kwame Alexander, Rep. John Lewis, Gene Luen Yang, and Shonda Rimes.

Hi Shonda!
There are so many authors at the National Book Festival that it can easily become overwhelming and exhausting to try and do/see everything you might want.  My priority, this year, was to get a few favorite books signed, which unfortunately meant that I was unable to be in the audience for most of the author presentations.  An author has an assigned signing time, and lines (especially for widely-known authors) can queue up 45 minutes or more in advance.  That means, for those of us who want a book signed, that we'll be doing a lot of standing.  We are a dedicated bunch.

The three authors in whose queues I was willing to stand were Marilynne Robinson, Kelly Link, and Colson Whitehead.  As someone who doesn't make a living in the book world, and therefore doesn't encounter authors with any regularity, it's thrilling to be in the same space as these folks whose writing is so important to me.  Marilynne Robinson signed my itty bitty Picador Modern Classics copy of Housekeeping, and she even remarked about how much she enjoys that edition!  Kelly Link was very personable and friendly, and we chatted about books, Twitter, and the importance of silliness.  Colson Whitehead, whose line was the longest of the three, was so generous even towards those of us near the end of the line.

In addition to signings and presentations, the basement of the Convention Center contains booths and pavilions where attendees can learn about other bookish goings-on, and a Book Sale section where the books for all scheduled authors can be purchased.  I saw on Twitter that Politics and Prose, who staffs the book sales area, had 75 booksellers working!  The Library of Congress Pavilion, built to resemble the Library's main reading room, had a robust schedule of speakers on different topics related to the Library of Congress's services.

The Washington Post had a booth, with information about the newspaper's activities and their mascot, Ned the News Hound:

One of the most interactive areas was called Pavilion of the States.  Representatives from library associations in each of the 50 states, as well as territories, offered information, handouts, and swag like posters, bookmarks, and pins.  Children were encouraged to pick up a free "Passport" which could be stamped at each of the state/territory booths.  The booths were organized by geographic region, which made it easy to navigate.

I had a great time at the National Book Festival, and am already getting excited for the 17th, announced to be taking place September 2, 2017.

Librorum annis