By Sean D.

For 10 days this September, the Library of Congress will host an event celebrating books. Traditionally held over a much shorter span of time, the National Book Festival is back for its 21st year and, like many large events, has gone digital in the age of COVID.

This year’s festival runs from September 17-26, but an introduction video hosted by LaVar Burton will go live on PBS on September 12. Readers can build their own experience by going to the Festival Information page to find listings of authors and events. Some events will be recorded, while others will air live.


Begun in 2001 by then First Lady Laura Bush, the National Book Festival is an annual event hosted by the Library of Congress. In recent years, the event has hosted dozens of novelists and hundreds of thousands of attendees.

The National Book Festival can find its early roots in the Texas Book Festival, also founded by Laura Bush. The First Lady had worked as a librarian and worked with others to create an event celebrating writers from Texas, to support their libraries and share their love of reading. Texas’s first event took place in 1996.

Held September 8, 2001, the first National Book Festival hosted 60+ authors and almost 30,000 attendees. The original event budget was $1.2 million. By 2013, attendance at the event had climbed to over 200,000 people in attendance and, as a result, the venue for the event had to be changed.

Laura Bush (center), Dr. James Billington and others open the first National Book Festival Sept. 8, 2001, outside the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Photo by Yusef El-Amin


Traditionally, the event took place outside on the National Mall, however, once the numbers reached a certain point the cost to repair the lawn after each event became too much. As a result, the Library of Congress’ project manager for the event decided to move the event indoors.

Organizers added more unique events to the Festival because of this move. Cooking events, evening sessions, and book-based movie screenings have been featured in recent years. It has also evolved into a family-friendly event with many Children’s authors and characters in attendance. It is not every day you might get a chance to go on the Magic School Bus.

This year’s festival

This year’s author presentations include Isabel Allende, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael J. Fox, Kristin Hannah, and over 100 more.  The schedule of events page of the Festival includes different ways to limit your results so all ages and interests can maximize the personalization of their experience.

Learn more:

Sean D.

Sean D.

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