National Book Festival to continue with a nod to Jefferson

Laura Bush

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Book Festival will continue in its new location at the Washington Convention Center over Labor Day weekend with a special nod to Thomas Jefferson’s role in building the Library of Congress.

The festival, founded by former first lady Laura Bush, will be held Sept. 5, the library announced Tuesday. It will feature more than 100 authors across many genres, including historian Annette Gordon-Reed. She won the Pulitzer Prize for history for her work changing the scholarship about Jefferson and his relationship with slave Sally Hemings.

This year’s festival celebrates the 200th anniversary of the library acquiring Jefferson’s personal library in 1815. Those books formed the basis for building the world’s largest library. The festival will feature contemporary writers including Daniel Alarcon, Kwame Alexander, David McCullough, Walter Isaacson, Marilynne Robinson and Jane Smiley, among others.

Moving the festival indoors last year after a decade on the National Mall dampened the enthusiasm of some loyal attendees. Past festivals have drawn more than 200,000 visitors. Some would stumble onto the open-air festival by accident but found topics of interest. But new rules and costs associated with holding large events on the National Mall’s re-engineered turf would have made the festival too costly.

With the move inside, tens of thousands of people still attended last year and packed many of the rooms to capacity. The festival was also expanded to include evening programs, which will involve a “Graphic Novels and Movie Night” this year.

“We sort of learned that people who are fans of reading and fans of connecting with their favorite authors are going to come,” library spokeswoman Gayle Osterberg said of the move to the convention center. “We were very pleased with it and are very happy to be going back this year.”

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