National Book Festival

NBF14A day of books. What could be better?

The 14th Annual National Book Festival put on by the Library of Congress happened today. And if you were lucky enough to be there then I’m sure you had an awesome time. And if you didn’t attend or didn’t enjoy it, then let me share some of my happiness with you. I will admit, firstly, that I didn’t know a lot of the authors going into this event. Which I’m a little ashamed to admit. But I didn’t let that damper my joy! I Googled and Goodreads’ed the crap out of the authors that interested me in the genres that I find fascinating, namely History, Science, Contemporary Life, Poetry, and Teen. I also stumbled upon a few Children’s authors (and well-done picture books) that I was happy to find,

A colleague of mine and I strolled through the metro stop and down the carpeted steps and entered the Convention Center. There were people waiting with boxes of programs at the bottom, happily smiling and handing them out as you approached. The best thing about government funded systems supporting an event like this is that it’s free. No ticket required, no fee to get in, just breeze on past and enter the wonderful land of books (and sticky children).

Once you figure out the lay of the land, it’s not so bad to find your way around. Although I spent more of my day walking thru the center than actually attending anything (not really, but that’s what it felt like). When I first heard about this event from my aunt, I was ecstatic thinking this is was basically like a Scholastic book sale but for adults. However, once I view the Web site, I found that this was not the case. And while I was struck with a little vein of disappointment, I was still excited to attend a conference of books, of sorts.

The program was basically divided up in several subjects that you had to pick and choose from to create your own hodgepodge schedule. I arrived just before 11am and already the area was packed. Not that I was really surprised. So my friend and I ventured first to the Pavilion of the States where each state and many of the territories were represented by people from those states which was awesome!! (Shout out to both Maine and Massachusetts who chatted me up with equal interest, miss you guys!) Each station had people to talk with, handouts, lists of authors/books from that state, and usually a goodie or two. What fun!

After that, we went to the actual books sales portion of the event. It was a rather large area, however each section heading, i.e. Science, History, etc. held a dining table of about 3 feet by 8 feet and stacked with books. Each table had maybe ten titles on it. Not at all what I expected but it did contain the titles that the present authors would be willing to sign which was a good thing, I suppose. After some serious eyebrow raising over the book prices (no wonder I buy nearly everything from Amazon), we both decided not to purchase anything and headed off to the next part of the event.

horse lover 1177 war

Sandra Day O’Connor interviewed her brother, the rancher, and his co-author on their book The Horse Lover at 11:50am, which was the first actual event we attended. Apparently, I didn’t read the paragraph for Mrs. Day O’Connor carefully enough because I actually thought that she was going to be speaking. She did give a little intro and an anecdote on her life growing up and how the family ranch came to be called “The Lazy Bee” but other than that, Alan had the reins. Which was definitely interesting. It was compelling to hear him talk of the wild horses and his life among them. Made me want to uproot and move to South Dakota to help.

After a delicious but far overpriced lunch, we listened to Eric Cline discuss his new book 1177, including the trailer for it (which we also watched). His book discusses the collapse of society at the end of the Bronze Age. There are lots of writings and archeological digs that were mentioned plus many more names of people that I couldn’t hope to remember, given their unique nature. And he really had me hooked into his concept and theory. So much so that he has definitely been added to the TBR list. The thing I liked best about Eric was his insertion of jokes, both onto his slides (which were barely visible to most of the room, unfortunately) and into his presentation. He kept me awake and alert which is a definitely plus in my book!

Next up was a delicious and highly talented chef by the name of Cathal (pronounced ka-hal) Armstrong, who hails from Dublin and has his main restaurant here located in Arlington. It’s called Restaurant Eve and I can’t wait to visit! We watched him prepare his chicken stew and listen to the story of how it came to be named “President Obama Stew”. He made me laugh, awed me, and titillated my senses. It’s really too bad he’s married. But I will be picking up a copy of his cookbook, My Irish Table, which I suspect will help to keep me warm during the fall and winter…meals.

The Library of Congress Pavilion was then presenting on the Magna Carta and its importance on modern law. Plus discussing a preview of an upcoming showcase for one the original copies on loan from London in November! It’s actually the same copy that we borrowed for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. If you don’t know what the Magna Carta is, then go back to school or just click this link. The document is also currently on display in Boston if that is closer for you to see. I, for one, will definitely be in live to see it when it arrives. Maybe I can even go to the gala…*sighs hopefully*

Not long after, my colleague and I separated, he was ready to move on to a different event of the day but I had one last presentation in mind to attend. Ian Morris was going to be discussing his book War! What is it good for? and that definitely sounded like something I wanted to hear. Morris discussed the merits and detriments of war and how the chances of violent death have actually drastically deteriorated in the last 10,000 years (although according to the news, it may not look it). His topic was controversial, prompting lots questions after, but it was worth listening to. War isn’t all bad and in some cases might benefit the greater good. It gets a little sticky but I enjoyed hearing the discussion.

I just realized how insanely long this post is but I feel it’s necessary. I love to document all the fun (and bookish) things that I do and I think you all probably find it interesting as well. At least, I hope you do. After Morris’ event, I did leave the Book Festival, but I did so with a smile on my face and aching feet. A sign of a good day. And for that, I am thankful. Here’s the maybe seeing some of you next year. Until then, keep on reading!

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