Fairs | September 2010 | Christopher Lancette

The clock is ticking: National Book Festival almost here

The countdown clock on the official home page of the National Book Festival shows me (as I write) that I have to wait 3 days, 14 hours and 43 minutes for the launch of this year's event on the National Mall. That's too long: The Mall is the planet's literary hot spot for only one day each year and it's a day that just doesn't come soon enough.

Even the Librarian of Congress is fired up.

"We are delighted to be celebrating this 10th anniversary of a beloved event for book lovers of all ages," James H. Billington said. "We will have a lineup of authors to thrill festival-goers."

The nation's book-lover-in-chief is talking about thrilling people but he's not exaggerating. There is something for everybody this Saturday. I've learned from past mistakes that the key to getting the most out of the event (it's not too late for out-of-towners to find hotel rooms) is to make a good plan in advance. Check out my blog post "Confessions of a 2008 National Book Festival Rookie" so you don't repeat my errors.

If you remember nothing else, absorb these tips: 

  1. Plan to spend the whole day there because you'll be mad at yourself if you stroll in late. I suspect I'll arrive a little before the official opening at 10 a.m. and organizers will have to throw me out at the 5:30 p.m. closing time.
  2. Study the official Web site from the Library of Congress in the first paragraph above so that you can decide which of the some 70 authors you most want to see. Buy the books of highly popular authors long before you need to get in their line for an autograph.
  3. Determine your purchase transportation strategy: I put saddle bags on my bike and can carry many pounds of books there, plus more on my back. If you're taking Metro, bring a backpack and know how much weight you can carry.
  4. Bring your smart phone and follow my Tweets from the event. You can follow me on Twitter @chrislancette. If you're not coming to D.C., live the event through me vicariously. I expect to send no shortage of Twitter missives about #NBF.
  5. Be kind and patient with the authors and volunteers. Organizing the National Book Festival is no easy trick. 
You want best-selling authors? The Mall is going to be flooded with them. How about the internationally acclaimed Isabel Allende, Jane Smiley and Scott Turow. Need a thriller to pump some adrenalin into your day? Brad Meltzer will be waiting for you. Prefer something for younger readers? Katherine Paterson will be there. Seeking great new insight on President Barack Obama? Biographer Remnick won't let you down.

Love history? Don't even get me started (and good luck edging me out for a spot in those autograph lines!).

Wait ... I know that Fine Books & Collections' fans have the most sophisticated tastes of all the biblio-nuts. You want something a little more high-brow -- the top-shelf stuff. Satisfy that craving with Orhan Pumuk. The Turkish author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006.

I'm too fired up to sleep tonight -- and I've still got 3 days, 13 hours and 57 minutes to go.