well read - The National Book Festival

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Now in its tenth year, the National Book Festival, organised by the Library of Congress, is held on September 25 at the National Mall in Washington, DC, to celebrate the joy of reading.

Festival-goers can meet, and hear first-hand from, their favourite authors; get books signed; have photos taken with storybook characters; and participate in a variety of learning activities.

The line-up includes international best-selling author Ken Follett; winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for poetry, Rae Armantrout; National Book Award winner Julia Glass; Pat Mora, one of the USA’s most beloved writers for children; and Elizabeth Kostova, author of the worldwide sensations The Historian and The Swan Thieves.

They will be among more than 70 authors to appear at the event. Authors and illustrators participating in the National Book Festival will make their presentations in the Children, Teens and Children, Fiction and Mystery, Poetry and Prose, History and Biography, and Contemporary Life pavilions.

In observance of its tenth anniversary – titled ‘A Decade of Words and Wonder’ – the festival will feature a special line-up during the week preceding the festival day.

Jennifer Gavin, project manager for the National Book Festival, says: “This year we’re celebrating the tenth anniversary with a series of special events leading up to the festival, including a mystery book authors’ panel discussion for the ID channel and a book reading with young people’s author Katherine Paterson, currently the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.”

In addition, a new web site has been launched offering features including a video looking back at the first decade of the National Book Festival; brief ‘video vignettes’ from interviews with past festival authors, and easy access to website offerings from past festivals. Website visitors also have the chance to vote for their favourites among the National Book Festival’s nearly 500 past participating authors.

Jennifer concludes: “We’re very excited to be holding the tenth annual National Book Festival and look forward to many more. Last year the festival reached 130,000 attendees, and we expect to reach or exceed that number again; the festival has just grown and grown.”

Author Profile

Ken Follett

A best-selling novelist, ken has sold more than 100 million copies of his books. He became an instant sensation with his first novel, Eye of the Needle, which later became a successful film. Since then, Follett has continued to captivate millions of readers with his taut, suspenseful thrillers. His current project is his most ambitious yet: ‘The Century Trilogy’ will relate the history of the 20th century, as seen through the eyes of five linked families: one American, one English, one German, one Russian, and one Welsh.


Elizabeth Kostova

Elizabeth’s first novel, The Historian, took her ten years to write. When she was a child, she spent a year in Slovenia, travelling with her family throughout Europe. The tales of vampires that her father told inspired the book. After graduating from Yale in 1988, she studied Slavonic music, which led her to Bulgaria, where she met her husband. Thus, much of The Historian is set in that Eastern European nation. For her current novel, The Swan Thieves, she drew on her background in art.



By Rae Armantrout

Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Rae Armantrout organises her collections of poetry as though they were works in themselves. Versed brings two of these sequences together, offering readers an expanded view of the arc of her writing. Together, the poems of Versed part us from our assumptions about reality, revealing the gaps and fissures in our emotional and linguistic constructs, showing us ourselves where we are most exposed.


By Bruce Feiler

On being diagnosed with cancer in 2008, Bruce Feiler decided to approach six friends who could each provide advice and support to his young twin daughters throughout their lives should the worst happen. This book is the inspiring story of what happened next. A touching, funny, and ultimately deeply moving tale of parenthood, loss, and love.


By Jonathan Franzen

Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of too much liberty: the thrills of teenage freedom, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom’s intensely realised characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced a deeply moving portrait of our time.


By Anchee Min

In the small southern town of Chinkiang, in the last days of the 19th century, two young girls bump heads and become thick as thieves. Willow is the only child of a destitute family. Pearl is the headstrong daughter of zealous Christian missionaries. Moving out into the world together, the two women remain intimately entwined through love and loss, heartbreak and joy, exile and imprisonment.


By Allegra Goodman

A charismatic doctor and a rigorous scientist are co-directors of a cancer research lab. They demand nothing less than complete dedication and obedience from their young protégés. In this high-pressure setting, one young man’s experiments begin to show exciting results. At first the entire lab is giddy with expectation. But his colleagues become suspicious, and soon an all-too- public controversy engulfs the lab and everyone in it.



By Greg Dinkins

From the early 1850s through the late 1930s, millions of stereoscopic images were made by both commercial and amateur photographers. The television or internet of the day, stereos-cope viewers and a carefully chosen collection of stereoviews boasted pride of place in almost every middle and upper-income household around the world. Stereoviews offered entertainment, education, and armchair travel all in one, providing a glimpse of the wider world in all its three-dimensional wonder. Here are early views of Washington, DC: constructing the Washington Monument, early views of the White House and Capitol, Civil War sites, and other landmarks that have become symbols of the USA’s heritage.


By W.S. Merwin

According to Publishers Weekly, W.S. Merwin may be the most influential American poet of the last half-century – an artist who has transfigured and reinvigorated the vision of poetry for our time. Now 82, Merwin has produced ‘his best book in a decade – and one of the best outright’. The nuanced mysteries of light, darkness, presence, and memory are central themes in his latest collection. “I have only what I remember,” Merwin admits, and his memories are focused and profound – the distinct qualities of autumn light, a conversation with a boyhood teacher, well-cultivated loves, and “our long evenings and astonishment”.

In ‘Photographer’, Merwin presents the scene where armloads of antique glass negatives are saved from a dump cart by “someone who understood”. In ‘Empty Lot’, the author evokes a child lying in bed at night, listening to the muffled dynamite blasts of coal mining near his home.


Washington DC, USA
Distance: 11,120 km
Flight Time: 14 hours, 35 minutes
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