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The annual Library of Congress National Book Festival is usually a well-attended affair in Washington, D.C. For years it was housed in huge tents on the National Mall; more recently it was in the Washington Convention Center. In 2019, the book festival drew 200,000 bibliophiles eager to hear from their favorite writers, buy their hot new releases,and line up to get autographed books from Joyce Carol Oates, Julia Alvarez, Rick Atkinson and other big book-world names.
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This year is the 20th festival and, like so much else during the coronavirus pandemic, it is all online. On the bright side? Many more people can participate in the long-weekend event, Sept. 25-27 (with an apt theme for 2020: “American Ingenuity"), from the comfort of their favorite reading chairs.
Events, accessed at loc.gov/bookfest, include on-demand videos and live discussions with famous authors and other well-known figures such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; two first daughters, Chelsea Clinton, who has a new book for young readers, She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians Who Changed the Game, and Jenna Bush Hager, discussing her new book about her grandparents, Everything Beautiful in Its Time (read our excerpt), and Hager's mother, former first lady Laura Bush, who cofounded the National Book Festival in 2001 with then-Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.
The many live author events (available to watch on demand later) include question-and-answer sessions featuring:
• Colson Whitehead, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for his 2016 novel The Underground Railroad (an Amazon TV adaptation's in the works) and 2019's The Nickel Boys. Sept. 26, 11 a.m. to noon ET.
• John Grisham, the mega-best-selling author of legal thrillers, such as his recent Camino Winds. Sept. 26, 1 to 2 p.m. ET.
• Bill Buford, journalist and author of the best-selling 2006 book Heat: An Amateur Cook in a Professional Kitchen, and this year's humorous Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking (read our excerpt here). Sept. 26, 4 to 5 p.m. ET.