15th National Book Festival Welcomed Thousands
The 15th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival kicked off a day featuring more than 170 authors on 18 stages and program areas, with presentations from Pulitzer Prize-winning authors to teen circus performers, panels on topics like "why literature matters" and children’s story times.
Louise Erdrich received the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The author of such critically acclaimed novels as "Love Medicine," "The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse," "The Plague of Doves" and her current novel, "The Round House," was presented the prize by Library Chief of Staff Robert Newlen before a capacity crowd in the Fiction Pavilion.
"I’m very surprised and moved that you all could come to this event because there is so much going on here and, thank you," Erdrich told the fiction fans.
Erdrich is the third winner of the award. Previous winners are E.L. Doctorow (2014) and Don DeLillo (2013).
Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera announced his laureateship project, La Casa de Colores (The House of Colors), a collaborative epic poem that invites Americans to contribute verses about different topics monthly online.
"La Casa de Colores will be the voices of everybody," Herrera said. "Our voices are going to dance and sing."
Festival organizers thanked authors and book lovers, many of whom traveled great distances to be here, for contributing to the day as speakers, sponsors, volunteers and fans.
"We are thrilled to see so many book lovers at the 15th festival," said Guy Lamolinara, the festival’s co-director. "We purposely booked a record number of authors for this grand milestone in the festival’s history," said Marie Arana, the other co-director.
The festival provided a stage for two other Library program anniversaries. Both the John W. Kluge Center and the Veterans History Project celebrated 15 years with special programs at the festival.
This year’s festival also celebrates the 200th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library coming to the Library of Congress. Jefferson’s famous comment, "I cannot live without books," is the theme of this year’s event. A series of Jeffersonian scholars presented talks on the nation’s third president and historic bibliophile.
Letters about Literature is a Library of Congress national reading and writing program that asks young readers to write to an author about how his or her book affected their lives.
At the book festival on Saturday, student Gabriel Ferris read his award-winning letter to Walter Isaacson, author of the best-selling "Steve Jobs," as Isaacson listened.
"Thank you for writing the most insightful review not only of my book but of Steve Jobs’ life," Isaacson told Ferris.
Events continue until 10 p.m. today, including Graphic Novels presentations at 7:15 - 10 p.m., Romance Fiction presentations at 7:15 - 9 p.m., a Poetry Slam at 7:30 - 9 p.m. and a return of the popular Books to Movies conversation featuring A. Scott Berg from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m.
The National Book Festival is funded by private donors and corporate sponsors who share the Library’s commitment to reading and literacy. Since 2010, National Book Festival Board Co-Chairman David M. Rubenstein has been the festival’s lead benefactor and has pledged funding for the festival for five more years. Charter Sponsors include AARP, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, The Washington Post and Wells Fargo; Patron sponsors, The James Madison Council and the National Endowment for the Arts; the Contributor-level sponsors are C-SPAN2’s Book TV, The Junior League of Washington, Jacqueline B. Mars, National Geographic, PBS Book View Now, Scholastic Inc. and WAMU 88.5 FM; and, in the Friends category, Australia Council for the Arts, the Marshall B. Coyne Foundation Inc., The Embassy of Peru in the United States of America, Georgetown University’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, The Hay-Adams, the Inter-American Development Bank, The Jefferson Hotel, Susan Carmel Lehrman, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute with support from board chair Roger A. Strauch, the Mensa Education & Research Foundation, the Mexican Cultural Institute, Lissa Muscatine and Bradley Graham, the National Endowment for the Humanities, NPR, Small Press Expo and Split This Rock. Those interested in supporting the National Book Festival can contact the Library at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s first-established federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions.