Hey, book nerds! I'm here to inform you about a pretty cool event that's going to happen in just a couple of weeks. On Saturday, August 30th, the Library of Congress will hold their 14th annual National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. It will take place between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. at the Washington Convention Center. Admission is FREE.
Just in case you need a reason to attend an event called the National Book Festival, the LOC has pulled together dozens of authors from all corners of the literary landscape to speak and sign books at the festival. I'm particularly excited about their graphic novels lineup this year, which include such masters as Bryan Lee O'Malley, Jeff Smith, and Gene Luen Lang. The book signing schedule can be found here, and the events schedule can be found here.
As previously mentioned, admission to the festival, panels, and book signings is free as in beer (and speech, I'm assuming). You're even allowed to bring your own books to the festival for the authors to sign. If you're in the area, I strongly recommend that you make the trip over and enjoy what is essentially a free book convention.
I went to the NBF last year, my first year in the area (for proof, see my crappy cameraphone photo below). I had time to attend a great panel by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (of Love and Rockets fame) and get a book signed by fantasy author Elizabeth Moon.
While I enjoyed that part of the afternoon, one of the most rewarding aspects about the festival was the sheer number of people who were there for books. It wasn't an oppressive Disneyland environment or anything, but it was heartwarming to see hundreds or thousands of people roaming the Mall with their complimentary bright orange LOC bags, clearly interested in the authors and discussions taking place. Not to play the victim or anything, but it often seems that literature gets the short end of the cultural stick. When the spotlight seems to be perpetually fixed on movies, television, and tech, it's hard not to think that nobody gives a shit about books anymore. When you walk amongst the crowd at the NBF, you remember that you're not the only one who cares, that plenty of people still have a love for the written word.
Not to say that there aren't some disappointing sights at the festival, i.e. when you realize that the longest line of the day by far was for Giada de Laurentiis.