Is your book club this fancy?

Some events in the new Politics & Prose literary series will be held in the Crystal Room of the Willard InterContinental Hotel. (Courtesy of Mary Kay Zuravleff)
Some events in the new Politics & Prose literary series will be held in the Crystal Room of the Willard InterContinental Hotel. (Courtesy of Mary Kay Zuravleff)

For almost 10 years, the Hay-Adams author luncheons have been the most elegant literary events in Washington. From the glass-lined top floor of the Hay Adams, well-heeled readers have listened to world-famous writers while enjoying meals inspired by their books.

But now comes some serious competition from another storied hotel near the White House. Politics & Prose has announced a partnership with the Willard InterContinental to offer a new literary series that combines famous authors and sumptuous food, and the opening line-up should attract considerable interest.

Among the offerings: On May 18, mothers and daughters can enjoy tea in the Crystal Room with Cokie Roberts as she talks about “Founding Mothers,” her picture book on the female patriots of the American Revolution. (One signed copy of the book and a pair of tickets: $110.). This fall, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will talk about her memoir, “My Beloved World.” (One signed copy of the paperback and a ticket for lunch in the Willard Room: $90.)

The management of the Willard approached P&P owners Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine with the idea of a partnership, and Washington novelist Mary Kay Zuravleff (“Man Alive!”) designed this new author series for the bookstore. “It offers something for everyone,” Zuravleff says. “The literary and historical pedigree of the Willard is astonishing, as is the architecture.”

(Courtesy of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)
(Courtesy of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

Indeed, the 150-year-old hotel has hosted such luminaries as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain — a friend of Henry Adams, whose house used to sit where the Hay Adams hotel is now.

The Willard-P&P literary series begins on Sunday, May 3, with an afternoon tea hosted by Linda Przybyszewski talking about her book “The Lost Art of Dress.” (Each $75 ticket includes tea, treats and a signed copy of the book.) Przybyszewski is reportedly making her own hat for the occasion, but guests are under no such obligation.

For readers who crave a little more testosterone in their books, David Baldacci will host a luncheon on June 7 to talk about his new military thriller, “The Target,” which publishes Tuesday. (Tickets for lunch and one signed copy of the book: $85.)

While the Hay-Adams author luncheons are held on weekdays, these new Willard events are scheduled for weekends, which may draw a different clientele. (Not everybody can get off for two hours in the middle of a Wednesday — nice as that would be.)

Those prices may sound rich, but given the setting, they’re pretty reasonable. I suspect the Willard isn’t making much, if any, profit on this series; it’s just a good way to show off the facility and keep the brand polished. For reservations to any of these events, contact Politics & Prose at 202-364-1919.

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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