Every year at the end of September, something magical happens on the National Mall in Washington DC—the National Book Festival. The Library of Congress has organized the annual event for thirteen years. The National Book Festival was created as “an opportunity not only to reaffirm America’s love of reading and learning, but also to share that passion with the next generation.” The first year, in 2001, the festival was actually held in the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building, but it moved out to the National Mall the following year due to its popularity.
Every September authors and readers descend upon the Mall for a weekend of discussing and purchasing books, as well as listening to and meeting authors. There are huge pavilions that stretch out across the area between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument. There is a pavilion for children’s books, teen book, poetry and prose, fiction, nonfiction, etc. And closer to the Washington Monument are a line of much smaller tents where authors sit and sign books for readers. Publishers nominate over 300 authors every year to speak at the festival, but only 80 are selected, most of whom have won awards or have a book coming out around the time of the festival. Some of the authors who have attended the festival in the past are T.C. Boyle, John Green, Geraldine Brooks, Maggie Stiefvater, Walter Dean Myers, David McCullough, Dave Eggers, Suzanne Collins, John Irving, Rick Riordan, Neil Gaiman, and many, many more.
A friend of mine jokingly described the National Book Festival as the weekend that hundreds of thousands of introverts willingly cram themselves together in one place. What he said may have a grain of truth in it, but the National Book Festival is more than that. The National Book Festival is a place where bibliophiles can be unironically enthusiastic about books and you can turn to the person next to you and say, “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” Basically, the National Book Festival has become one of my favorite annual traditions.
I attended the National Book Festival for the sixth time this year, and it was such a joy to hear some of my favorite authors talk about some of my favorite books. This year the festival attracted some amazing authors, including Richard Peck, Khaled Hosseini, Susan Cooper, Katherine Paterson, and Joyce Carol Oates, among others. The National Book Festival is one of my absolute favorite things about living so close to DC, and I look forward to sharing some of the information I learned from authors Holly Black, Margaret Atwood, and Veronica Roth with you later this week!