Even as Washington digs out of snow, the Library of Congress is busy planning the National Book Festival for the golden days of fall.
The list of attending authors, which is still being developed, already contains some of the most popular and critically acclaimed writers in the world, including Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Salman Rushdie, Annette Gordon-Reed and Bob Woodward.
In its 16th year, the festival will again take place indoors at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. For the past two years, the mammoth bookfest ran during the Labor Day weekend, but this year, it will be several weeks later, on Sept. 24. Moving the festival away from that travel-heavy holiday may attract even more visitors. (Organizers stopped releasing attendance figures, but estimates in recent years have run as high as 200,000.)
Japanese illustrator Yuko Shimizu will design this year’s official festival poster. An instructor at the School of Visual Arts in New York, Shimizu has created advertisements for a variety of corporations as well as book jackets for Penguin, Scholastic and DC Comics. Last year, she illustrated Michael Cunningham’s “A Wild Swan: And Other Tales.”
To accommodate larger crowds at the most popular sessions, the organizers plan to add a Main Stage that can admit more than 2,000 people. Marie Arana, a senior adviser for special projects at the Library of Congress, said, “In previous years, we found ourselves oversubscribed for presentations by bestselling writers such as David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Kate DiCamillo and Buzz Aldrin, so we decided to create a special venue that will allow more people to see and hear them.”
The library also plans to add more time between sessions. “We want navigation to be easier,” Arana said.
As in previous years, the authors will appear in a variety of pavilions designed to appeal to book lovers of all ages: Children, Teens, Contemporary Life, History and Biography, Fiction and Mystery, Graphic Novels, Picture Books, Science, Poetry and Prose, and Culinary Arts.
Additional authors who have agreed to attend the festival include Kwame Alexander, Douglas Brinkley, Christopher Buckley, Newt Gingrich, Philip Glass, Winston Groom, James McBride, Jon Meacham, Ed Piskor, Michael Ramirez, Diane Rehm, Stacy Schiff and Luis Alberto Urrea.
Gene Luen Yang, the recently appointed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, will also speak at the festival.
The library staff will release the names of additional authors — more than 100 — during the next few months.
This will be the first National Book Festival not hosted by former librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who launched the festival with first lady Laura Bush in 2001. Billington retired in September.
Acting Librarian of Congress David S. Mao said, “The National Book Festival is a day for all to celebrate the joy and power of reading by connecting with their favorite authors and discovering new ones. No matter your age or favorite type of book, there is something at the National Book Festival for you.”
The festival, which will be held 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., is open to the public and free of charge. It is funded by the library, corporations and private donors, most notably Washington philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, co-chairman of the National Book Festival.
The Washington Post is a charter sponsor of the festival. Book World will publish its annual guide to the festival on Sept. 18.
Ron Charles is the editor of Book World.