More than 200,000 book lovers jammed the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday, Sept. 1, for the 2018 Library of Congress National Book Festival. It was, by all accounts, the largest attendance in the event’s 18-year history. The book festival moved from the National Mall to the convention center in 2014.
They came to listen to Doris Kearns Goodwin, Amy Tan, David Ignatius, Madeleine Albright, Jon Meacham and over 100 other prominent authors and illustrators. Presentations were delivered simultaneously on 10 stages, with separate programs aimed at children, teens and fans of history and biography, fiction, graphic novels and poetry. The one-day event went on for more than 10 hours.
Packed rooms and long lines were the order of the day. Thousands were turned away as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor discussed her new books for children on the main stage, the 2,500-seat ballroom having quickly filled to capacity.
Annie Proulx, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Shipping News” and the short story “Brokeback Mountain,” accepted the 2018 Prize for American Fiction. One of the most prestigious awards presented by the Library of Congress, the prize honors an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished for its mastery of the art, originality and imagination. Reading Is Fundamental of Washington, D.C., won the $150,000 David M. Rubenstein Prize and East Side Community School in New York City won the $50,000 American Prize.
Current U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith read from her most recent work, “American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time.” On the children’s stage, Potterheads were treated to a presentation by illustrator Brian Selznick, who created 20th-anniversary covers for the seven Harry Potter books. “Mutts” cartoonist Patrick McDonnell headlined a special section devoted to graphic novels.
Politics and Prose, the official bookseller of the festival, sold more than 17,000 books, a record for the event. Authors and illustrators signed books at scheduled times.
The event was also broadcast live on C-SPAN2 Book TV. Most of the presentations will be made available at the loc.gov website and hundreds of videos going back to 2001 can be accessed in the C-SPAN Video Library.
Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress, announced the date for next year’s event: August 31, 2019, as usual on Labor Day Weekend. Thanks in large part to contributions from private donors, the event will again be free and open to the public, no tickets required.
“The National Book Festival is a thrilling, immersive experience that gives so many readers a unique opportunity to reflect on great books all day long,” said Hayden.
View Jeff Malet’s photos from the National Book Festival by clicking on the photo icons below.