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8 authors coming to the National Book Festival tell us the best thing they read this year

David Baldacci, Roxane Gay and Diana Gabaldon (Alexander James/Jay Grabiec/Herald Scotland)

The National Book Festival: the one day a year when a serious reader’s biggest problem isn’t that overflowing stack of books to get to. During the 10-hour event, more than 100 authors, illustrators and poets will give talks and sign their books. It’s a lot to take in, so we won’t judge if you’ve been busy finessing an Excel-sheet game plan (Elizabeth Strout or Don Winslow at 10 a.m.?). To help with your prep work, we chatted with seven of this year’s featured authors — including David Baldacci and the “Outlander” series’ Diana Gabaldon — about their talks and the books they’ve loved in 2017.

Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW; Sat., 9:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m., free.

Diana Gabaldon
The author of the “Outlander” series jokes that she could come up with several “decent-sounding ideas” for her talk, like “How to Write Books and Stay Both Married and Sane” or “How to Go From Being a Scientist to Being a Novelist, and Why Anybody Would Want To.” “The thing is, no matter what I start out talking about, it’s not going to end up that way,” she says. “Stuff changes when you engage with it. This is why I don’t plan books out ahead of time — total exercise in futility.”
Favorite 2017 book: Gabaldon calls it a tie between Christopher Brookmyre’s “The Last Hack” and Adrian McKinty’s “Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly.”
See her: 11:25 a.m.-12:25 p.m. (signing: 1-2 p.m.)

Marie Lu
Lu, the best-selling author behind the YA fantasy trilogy “The Young Elites” and the YA “Legend” series, will be promoting the YA/sci-fi book “Warcross,” which goes on sale Sept. 12. “I’m excited to be part of what’s become such a wonderful literary tradition,” she says of the festival, “and share my journey and love for books during a time when reading is more important than ever.”
Favorite 2017 book: Julie C. Dao’s fantasy debut, “Forest of a Thousand Lanterns,” about a teen who must embrace her inner darkness to become the Empress of Feng Lu. “Dao has a tremendous talent for creating intricate worlds and complex characters,” Lu says.
See her: 11:40 a.m.-12:20 p.m. (signing: 1-2 p.m.)

Matthew Desmond
Desmond, a professor of sociology at Princeton, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction for “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.” “Evicted” follows eight families residing in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Milwaukee, including Arleen Bell and her two sons. “I’ll be sharing Arleen’s story about what it’s like to try to raise two boys when 88 percent of your income is going to rent,” Desmond says. “I’ll conclude by arguing that without stable shelter, everything else falls apart, and offer some solutions about what we can do to address this crisis.”
Favorite 2017 book: Desmond says George Saunders’ “Lincoln in the Bardo,” Roxane Gay’s “Hunger” and Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West” all “shook me for different reasons.”
See him: noon-12:45 p.m. (signing: 1-2 p.m.)

Nicola Yoon
“I’m gonna talk about love, which is, like, my reason for existing,” Yoon says with a laugh. “Love and finding it and cute boys and that sort of thing.” A film adaptation of Yoon’s debut YA book, “Everything, Everything,” was released in May, and on a recent August day, she had just purchased a DVD of the movie. “My [5-year-old] girl wants to watch it again, but it’s kind of a grown-up movie — there’s a lot of kissing in it,” Yoon says, adding that there was a bigger lesson for her daughter than just the smooching. “[She] got to see that you can write something and it can become a book, and then it can become a movie — she got to see that you can make things.”
Favorite 2017 book: “We Are Okay” by Nina LaCour. “It’s lyrical, and it sneaks up on you,” Yoon says. “I read it on a plane and I cried in front of strangers. I’m a very private person, but I couldn’t help it.”
See her: 12:30-1:25 p.m. (signing: 2-3 p.m.)

Megan Abbott
Abbott is the author of eight crime novels, including last year’s psychological thriller “You Will Know Me,” which delves into the world of teenage gymnastics. The festival first-timer will take part in a conversation with NPR’s Elizabeth Blair. “I’m guessing we’ll talk about books exploring the dark corners of female experience and the mysteries of family and maybe about the recent explosion in women-centered crime fiction,” Abbott says.
Favorite 2017 book: Edmund Gordon’s “The Invention of Angela Carter,” which Abbott describes as “a sumptuous and propulsive biography of a great, risk-taking, genre-defying writer whose work deserves a place on every bookshelf.”
See her: 2:35-3:20 p.m. (signing: 4-5 p.m.)

David Baldacci
Baldacci, who lives in Fairfax County, practiced law in D.C. for nearly 10 years before making writing a full-time gig. “I’ll share tales from the road and take questions,” says the best-selling author of more than 30 novels, mostly thrillers. His latest, “The Fix,” was released in April; his first novel, “Absolute Power,” was turned into a Clint Eastwood film. The literacy advocate (he co-founded the nonprofit Wish You Well Foundation) says the festival is “a great opportunity not only to meet readers but to catch up with writers you know and meet writers you don’t.”
Favorite 2017 book: Baldacci named a 2016 best-seller, “A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles.
See him: 3:20-4 p.m. & 6:30-7:30 p.m. (signing: 4:30-5:30 p.m.)

Roxane Gay
Gay says she’ll be reading from “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body,” which was released in June, and doing a Q&A about her work. In “Hunger,” she describes her rape as a young girl and her struggles with food, weight and self-image in her trademark arresting style. “I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe,” she writes. “I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble.”
Favorite 2017 book: The novel “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee, which follows four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family in Japan.
See her: 4-4:45 p.m. (signing 5-6 p.m.)

Gene Luen Yang
Graphic novelist Yang — the national ambassador for young people’s literature — is a former computer science teacher whose “Secret Coders: Robots & Repeats,” the fourth in a series of graphic novels geared toward kids, is out Oct. 3. “I’m going to be talking about the connections between coding and writing, and how these two subjects that seem very different from each other actually aren’t all that different,” Yang says. “In both disciplines, you take complex, vague ideas and break them into small, concrete pieces. In the case of writing, it’s sentences, and in coding, it’s lines of command. And each of these pieces have to follow a specific sequence or the whole thing isn’t going to work.”
Favorite 2017 book: “The Best We Could Do,” a graphic novel by Thi Bui that explores a family’s journey after fleeing to the U.S. from war-torn South Vietnam in the 1970s.
See him: 5:30-6 p.m. (signing: 4-5 p.m.)

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