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Book lovers of all ages came together by the tens of thousands to celebrate reading and meet their favorite authors Saturday at the 19th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival, held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Thousands more watched the festival’s Main Stage streamed live on the Library’s YouTube platform.
The festival showcased more than 140 authors, poets and illustrators, who appeared on 11 festival stages crossing fiction and nonfiction genres, including two stages not seen since 2015 — International and Science. The festival also offered many family-friendly activities, including children’s book talks, story times and games, zine-making, photo captioning, a braille coloring project, and much more.
“I think of writers and books as important drivers of change,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in opening the festival on the Main Stage, which nearly doubled the size of last year’s venue. “Books can change society, they can start a movement and they can transform lives.”
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg drew a record-setting crowd of more than 5,000 people on the Main Stage at the festival, who cheered and applauded her rock-star persona. Interviewed by NPR’s Nina Totenberg, the 86-year-old justice shared highlights from her life before and after her appointment as the second woman on the high court.
Just eight days earlier, the Supreme Court announced that the associate justice had undergone treatment for a malignant tumor on her pancreas that had been discovered in July. Addressing the often raucous crowd, she talked about her health and immediate future on the court. “How am I feeling? Well, first, this audience can see that I am alive,” she said to huge cheers, “and I’m on my way to being very well. The term – we have more than a month yet to go. I’ll be prepared when the time comes.”
Ginsburg also talked about how she keeps going in the face of those health problems. “For one thing, I love my job,” she said. “It’s the best and the hardest job I have ever had. It has kept me going through four cancer bouts. Instead of concentrating on my aches and pains, I just know that I have to read this set of briefs, go over the draft opinion. And so I have to somehow surmount whatever is going on in my body and concentrate on the court’s work.”
On the History and Biography Stage, Evan Thomas presented his newest book, “First: Sandra Day O’Connor.” O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, granted Thomas access to a portion of her papers at the Library of Congress. Thomas shed light on O’Connor’s judicial decision-making and provided glimpses into her personal life.
An unprecedented 20 new books were launched at the festival, including Victoria “V.E.” Schwab’s “Tunnel of Bones”; Cece Bell’s “Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot!”; Fred Bowen’s “Speed Demon”; Linda Sue Park’s “Nya’s Long Walk: A Step at a Time”; Sherri Duskey Rinker’s “Three Cheers for Kid McGear!”; Jennifer Swanson’s “Save the Crash-Test Dummies”; Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg’s “AstroNuts Mission One: The Plant Planet”; Alexandra Horowitz’s “Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond”; Mitali Perkins’ “Forward Me Back to You”; Pamela Paul and Maria Russo’s “How to Raise a Reader”; and Amy Gutmann and Jonathan D. Moreno’s “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die.”
On the Children’s Purple Stage, Sharon Robinson also launched her new children’s book, “Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963,” in which she recounts finding her voice at age of 13 while observing her baseball-legend father, Jackie Robinson, take part in the civil rights movement.
On the festival’s Main Stage, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden awarded the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction to acclaimed writer Richard Ford, author of “Independence Day” — the first novel to win both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. The prize, one of the Library’s most prestigious awards, honors an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished for its mastery of the art, originality and imagination. Ford, in accepting the award before a packed auditorium, said that to make his work have lasting impact, he often chose to write in first-person narration with present-tense verbs.
Closing the festival, Hayden announced the 20th National Book Festival will be held Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020. “It’s been an amazing day for authors’ books and reading,” she told an enthusiastic crowd. “The festival gets bigger and better every year.”
On Friday, the Librarian announced the winners of the 2019 Library of Congress Literacy Awards, honoring organizations for their exemplary, innovative work to confront illiteracy, raise reading levels and promote reading. The top prizes were awarded to: ProLiteracy Worldwide of Syracuse, New York; American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults of Baltimore; and ConTextos of Chicago.
The National Book Festival is made possible by the generous support of private- and public-sector sponsors who share the Library’s commitment to reading and literacy, led by National Book Festival Co-Chairman David M. Rubenstein. Charter sponsors are the Institute of Museum and Library Services, The Washington Post and Wells Fargo; Patron sponsors are the James Madison Council, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Champions are Thomas V. Girardi, the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, PBS and Pizza Hut BOOK IT! Program; and, in the Friends category, Booklovers Circle Members, Bookshare – a Benetech initiative, Buffy Cafritz, Marshall B. Coyne Foundation Inc., Joseph and Lynn Deutsch, Embassy of Australia, Embassy of Canada, Embassy of Germany, Embassy of Ireland, Embassy of Latvia, Embassy of Peru, Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction administered by The University of Alabama School of Law, The Hay-Adams, Inter-American Development Bank, The Junior League of Washington, Andy King, Leon Levy Center for Biography (CUNY), Library of Congress Federal Credit Union, Mensa Foundation, Mexican Cultural Institute, Timothy and Diane Naughton, Planet Word, Nora Roberts Foundation, Scholastic, Small Press Expo (SPX), Spain Arts & Culture and Western Writers of America;Media Partners are C-SPAN2’s Book TV, The New York Times, NPR and PBS Books. Those interested in supporting the National Book Festival can contact the Library at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.