Wednesday, April 30, 2008

LA Times Festival of Books - 2008

This weekend was the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books down at UCLA. And I thought it was the perfect even to discuss around the watercooler this week.

I've been going every year since 2001, and I love it. In fact, it's the even I look forward to most in the spring.

It's billed as the largest book festival in the country. I don't know how they measure. All I know is, it really is huge. There are booths all over the campus, and keep in mind this is a huge campus. Okay, the booths are probably only on half, but it is quite large with hundreds of exhibitors.

As always, I went with my friends Angelique. We generally haunt the mystery bookstore booths, and this year was no exception. We got to catch up with old favorites Joanne Fluke and Laura Levine. In fact, I got Laura's latest, which isn't officially out for a month yet. Hailey Lind was there, so I got her second and third books signed. Fortunately, I ran into Lee Goldberg early on Saturday since I couldn't be there for his signing on Sunday. And I got to meet Deborah Turrell Atkinson. And if you are noticing a theme with some of the authors I've been reading lately, you'd be right. I always wind up with a list of books to get through before the festival.

In years past, the event has been so crowded it was hard to walk from one booth to another, much less browse a booth quickly. I might be wrong, but it seemed the festival was less crowded this year than normal. I'm guessing it was because of the heat. After a week in the high sixties, it started really heating up on Friday, and by Saturday and Sunday, it was in the high 90's. Believe me, it was hot! I took a water bottle with me and kept refilling it often.

The range of stuff you can find there is unreal. One booth was giving away free Bibles. And a couple rows down, you could get your free Koran for comparison. Yes, the self-publishers are there. And some authors get an entire booth to hawk their wears. Several travel bookstores show up. Borders is there. Barnes and Noble used to be there as well, but we haven't seen them for several years.

And they have panels on just about everything. Lots on mysteries, but some on biographies and autobiographies, true crime, modern culture, and Hollywood. To be honest, we normally don't attend the panels because we are too busy browsing the booths. The big name panels fill up fast. You should have seen the lines to hear Julie Andrews speak. If the free tickets were gone, I would have been tempted to go to that one myself.

And this isn't just for adults. There is a whole area dedicated to kids' books and authors. Bill Peet's son has been there for several years. And they have programs for the kids with speakers and popular characters. I don't know who was there this year, but Barney has been there in years past.

They even manage to keep the crazies to the side lines. The food service employees at UCLA seem to have an on-going issue with their pay, and once again they were out wandering around with their signs about how unfair they are being treated. But the back way to the student union (where we always go for a quiet, air conditioned lunch) is where to go if you want some good laughs. Angelique and I have dubbed it "Conspiracy Alley" and you've got just about everything there. Most of the people and their homemade signs are trying to point of the truth of what happened on 9/11. And there are the calls for impeachment. But I think I saw something about AIDS this year, too.

This year, I brought a lot of books with me to get signed and by lunch time I had seen most of those authors. So I took a trip to my car and dumped the books I no longer needed. My back is still thanking me.

Speaking of which, I was able to try out my new backpack. I love it. It looks like the right choice, and I'll be enjoying it for a long time to come.

Sunday, I went back after church to get another few autographs from authors who weren't there on Saturday. In fact, I got the inside scoop from Steve Hockensmith about his next book.

I can't believe it is over already. I'll start the countdown for next year now.


Audra Krell said...

Wow! This sounds like an amazing celebration of books. It would be dream come true for me to attend this! If all of our books go electronic, a festival like this will become a thing of the past....

Mark said...

That would be true, but I don't expect books to go completely electronic. I think there are too many of us old school people who like the real thing.