The Library of Congress National Book Festival is an annual literary event that brings together best-selling authors, poets and illustrators with thousands of readers for book talks, panel discussions, book signings and other engaging activities. Over the course of its 20-year history, the Festival has become one of the most prominent literary events in the nation.
The National Book Festival was founded in 2001 by Laura Bush and then-Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. The first Festival was held Sept. 8, 2001, with Mrs. Bush serving as its honorary chair, a position she held through 2008.
Over the years, the Festival has evolved immensely, becoming the nation’s premier literary event. It began on the Library of Congress grounds and in its buildings on Capitol Hill, expanding soon thereafter to the lawn of the Capitol and then to the National Mall. The Washington Convention Center has hosted the event in recent years, and now, in 2020, the Festival is going virtual. Attendance has skyrocketed from 25,000 in 2001 to more than 200,000 in 2019. Author involvement in the festival has also increased dramatically: While roughly 40 authors participated in the first festival, the 2015 National Book Festival featured more than 175 authors.
The festival is funded by private donors and corporate sponsors who share the Library’s commitment to reading and literacy. Since 2010, National Book Festival Co-Chairman David M. Rubenstein has been the festival’s lead benefactor.
Authors Louis Bayard, Maureen Corrigan and David Ignatius join Library staff and volunteers to tell the story of the festival, its origins and how it has grown and changed throughout the years. This video was produced as a special project by Daniel Baxter and Kellie Shanaghan, two students who participated in the Library of Congress Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program in 2018, the 18th year of the National Book Festival.
More about the Festival
- “The Joy of the Written Word: Library & First Lady Host First National Book Festival,” Library of Congress Information Bulletin, October 2001
- “David Rubenstein Donates Additional $5 Million to National Book Festival,” Press Release, Sept. 22, 2013