Louis L’Amour, one of the most prolific and bestselling writers of all time, has been honored by the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress as its inaugural “Champion of the Book”—a unique designation reserved for those who have made an important contribution to the world of books.
The presentation was made by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington to L’Amour’s widow, Kathy, and their children, son Beau and daughter Angelique, at a special event celebrating the centennial of the birth and continuing legacy of the author on Tuesday, March 18. Co-sponsoring the event with the Library was Bantam Books, L’Amour’s publisher for more than 50 years.
“Louis L’Amour could not help sharing his love of books and reading,” said Billington. “Those who met him eventually realized that he was a one-man ‘center for the book.’”
L’Amour, an ex-boxer, merchant seaman, cattle-skinner and occasional silver miner, was born in Jamestown, N.D. in 1908. He is the only American-born novelist in history to receive both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. L’Amour’s tremendous body of work includes 90 novels; 29 short-story collections; two works of nonfiction; a memoir, “Education of a Wandering Man”; and a volume of poetry, “Smoke From This Altar.” More than 300 million copies of his books are in print worldwide. In 1983, L’Amour was recruited by then-Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin for the Center for the Book’s national advisory board, and also to “represent reading” on a 21-person committee the Library developed to predict and make recommendations about the role of the book in the future. L’Amour died in 1988.
Irwyn Applebaum, president and publisher of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group and one of L’Amour’s former editors, points out that “in many families, there is now a fourth generation of readers enjoying Louis L’Amour’s more than 120 books, all of which remain in active print.” This, Applebaum says, “is the most fitting tribute to his remarkable ability to make the American adventure come alive on the page.”
The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. The Center for the Book was created in 1977 to use these resources to stimulate public interest in books and reading. For information about its programs, publications and reading promotion networks, visit www.loc.gov/cfbook/
Bantam Books is a division of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group and Random House, Inc.