My own, personal holiday: The Annual LOC Book Festival

23 Sep

I love books. Always have. (In related-news: I’m a dork.)

In fact, if I’m being honest, I partially blame books for not wanting to be a mother. I can’t tell you how many of my book-loving friends have said, “Now that I have a kid, I’m lucky if I read a few books each year.” Hear that enough times and you’ll begin to think of children and books as mutually exclusive.

And if you’re me, books have more appeal: you can pick them up whenever you want (and set them down just as quickly); they don’t cry – but can make you cry for all the right reasons; there’s no risk of death if you drop them on their spines; they’ll never sass you – although you may learn some choice new swear words from them; and if they crap the bed, it’s only in a figurative sense.

Now that we’ve established that I love books, let me tell you about my favorite weekend of the year: The Library of Congress’s Annual Book Festival. It’s a holiday that rivals Christmas in my book. <–See what I did there?

If you’re not familiar, the festival is a two-day event with huge tents (seating a few hundred people each) on the National Mall, with well-known authors presenting every hour. Here’s this year’s line-up of authors.

I ventured down both days and was able to hear Margaret Atwood, Brad Meltzer, Terry McMillan, Adam Johnson, Christopher Buckley, and Denise Kiernan. I wanted to see Joyce Carol Oates, Alyson Hagy, Khaled Hosseini, and Veronica Roth, but – due to either conflicting schedules, exhaustion or rain – had to miss their talks. Fortunately, the LOC records all the talks and broadcasts them on their website. (At this point they only have 2011-2012 webcasts available, but I expect they’ll add this year’s soon.) Guess what I’ll be doing with my next few weekends?

Of all the sessions I attended, the one that most pleasantly surprised me was Brad Meltzer’s talk. I tend to steer clear of authors that crank out thrillers that occupy the top slots on the NYT’s best seller list because (alert: unfair judgement coming) they generally strike me as formulaic, so I haven’t read any of his books. In fact, had I been there alone, I probably would’ve skipped his talk entirely, but I thought he might hold some appeal for Alan since he, too, is a recovering lawyer.

I’m glad we hung around. The guy is a great story teller. Sure, some of his anecdotes – like brunching at the White House – were somewhat self-congratulatory, but they were entertaining. If he writes as well as he talks, I might have to give his books a whirl.

The other presenter who surprised me was Christopher Buckley. I’ve never made it past the cover of his books and assumed I wouldn’t be a fan since he was a speechwriter for George HW Bush, but he was amusing. Unlike other authors, who transparently promoted their latest book by giving a reading or discussing it directly, Buckley cleverly promoted his book by talking about how titles are chosen. He then offered up a few titles that he’d suggested to the publisher for his latest book, using that prompt to tell us the stories he was drawing on – from the book.

He also wove in a few tidbits about proposed titles for other famous books that had the audience laughing. The one that cracked me up was his reference to Steinbeck, saying that when The Grapes of Wrath was translated into Japanese, its title became Angry Raisins. Amused, I tweeted it out…

When I checked my Twitter account a few minutes later to add a new post, I saw that a slew of people – including the person manning the official Library of Congress account – had retweeted my comment. BOOM! 

And that’s when I realized the full magnitude to my dorkiness. Not only was I treating the festival as my own private holiday, but I was also starstruck by having fewer than 140 characters noticed and shared by the Library of Congress. Nevermind that it was probably an intern who selected my post for retweeting.

Which means my excitement was probably on par (in all aspects) with this:

But hey… considering I think a book festival is nirvana, it shouldn’t be shocking to learn that I’m a big old dork.

10 Responses to “My own, personal holiday: The Annual LOC Book Festival”

  1. Barbara September 23, 2013 at 9:36 am #

    I saw your tweet and cracked up laughing! And maybe I’m just really good at pawning the kids off on Paul, but I’ve read 15+ books since the middle of May. Of course, most of that was when I should have been sleeping also… 🙂

    • pithypants September 24, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

      Well done. I’m going to make Paul a crown if you manage to keep that reading list growing!

  2. dianeskitchentable September 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    I’m a reader too & can’t fall asleep unless I’ve read. One trip I forgot to bring a book & ended up, yes…reading the bible in the hotel room. Boy that book is full of begats, shalts, & unto’s. I’ve been trying to clean out my house & finally caved in and started to sort and give away books. Our public library so far has over 200 books for their next fair but it was hard!
    The Jerk! I loved that movie.

    • pithypants September 24, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

      AWESOME. Do you know about the Little Free Library project?
      It makes me wish I had a front yard so I could build one and loan my books out.

      • dianeskitchentable September 25, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

        I just saw that & since there’s only 9 houses on this street there’s not much traffic but I just found out that our town hall also has a couple bookshelves where people can drop books off or borrow.
        I’m on a quest to get rid of all the stuff I’ve collected & I’ve only made a dent in the books but after the first load I think I noticed that the ceiling where the book storage is, isn’t sagging quite so much. That is the most fantastic festival I’ve ever heard of though. Worth a trip down to DC – do you think you could lock up all the politicians if I come down?

      • pithypants September 26, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

        Does the Pope shit on bears? Quite possibly! But you should come regardless… even just as a day trip, it’s worth evaluating. And if you’re a bookie – it’s a must. Next September – bucketlist it.

      • dianeskitchentable September 27, 2013 at 6:48 am #

        I don’t know about the new Pope, but certainly the old one shit on everything. September – bucketlist – done – thank you!

  3. thesinglecell September 26, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    You’re probably right about the formulaic writing. I recently learned that James Patterson only writes treatments of books, then farms the out to a team of ghost writers to have them flesh them out.

    I was personally offended.

    • pithypants September 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

      I want his job. Then I’d be less offended.

      • thesinglecell September 26, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

        That does seem like it would placate the outrage a bit.

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