Washington, D.C. — Book lovers of all ages came together by the tens of thousands to celebrate reading and meet their favorite authors Saturday at the 19th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival, held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Thousands more watched the festival’s Main Stage streamed live on the Library’s YouTube platform.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg drew a record-setting crowd of more than 5,000 people on the Main Stage at the festival, who cheered and applauded her rock-star persona. Interviewed by NPR’s Nina Totenberg, the 86-year-old justice shared highlights from her life before and after her appointment as the second woman on the high court.
Just eight days earlier, the Supreme Court announced that the associate justice had undergone treatment for a malignant tumor on her pancreas that had been discovered in July. Addressing the often raucous crowd, she addressed her health and immediate future on the court. “How am I feeling? Well, first, this audience can see that I am alive,” she said to huge cheer, “and I’m on my way to being very well. The term – we have more than a month yet to go. I’ll be prepared when the time comes.”
An unprecedented 20 new books were launched at the festival, including Sharon Robinson’s “Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963”; Victoria “V.E.” Schwab’s “Tunnel of Bones”; Cece Bell’s “Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot!”; Fred Bowen’s “Speed Demon”; Linda Sue Park’s “Nya’s Long Walk: A Step at a Time”; Sherri Duskey Rinker’s “Three Cheers for Kid McGear!”; Jennifer Swanson’s “Save the Crash-Test Dummies”; Jon Scieszk and Steven Weinberg’s “AstroNuts Mission One: The Plant Planet”; Alexandra Horowitz’s “Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond”; Mitali Perkins’ “Forward Me Back to You”; Pamela Paul and Maria Russo’s “How to Raise a Reader”; and Amy Gutmann and Jonathan D. Moreno’s “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die.”
On the festival’s Fiction Stage, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden awarded the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction to acclaimed writer Richard Ford, author of “Independence Day” — the first novel to win both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. The prize, one of the Library’s most prestigious awards, honors an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished for its mastery of the art, originality and imagination. Ford, in accepting the award before a packed auditorium, said that to make his work have lasting impact, he often chose to write in first-person narration with present-tense verbs.
Closing the festival, Hayden announced the 20th National Book Festival will be held Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020.
On Friday, the Librarian announced the winners of the 2019 Library of Congress Literacy Awards, honoring organizations for their exemplary, innovative work to confront illiteracy, raise reading levels and promote reading. The top prizes were awarded to: ProLiteracy Worldwide of Syracuse, New York; American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults of Baltimore; and ConTextos of Chicago.
Next Year’s Festival Set for Aug. 29, 2020, at Washington Convention Center