The National Book Festival is still a go this year—just in COVID-19 style.

For 20 years, the annual National Book Festival event has attracted thousands of literacy lovers to participate in book signings and panel discussions at the Washington Convention Center. This year, all of that will still happen—just virtually.

national book festival

Courtesy of The Library of Congress

During the weekend of September 25–27, virtual stages at loc.gov/bookfest will offer on-demand videos, live author chats and discussions, options to personalize your own journey through the festival with particular themes, and book-buying possibilities through the festival’s official bookseller, Politics & Prose, with a limited number of commemorative book plates signed by authors.

The festival will end with a special two-hour program broadcast on PBS, Celebrating American Ingenuity. On Sunday, September 27, from 6 to 8 p.m., bibliophiles can tune into their local PBS station, or stream the program on the PBS app. Interviews with two dozen big-name authors, including the 2020 recipient for the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, Colson Whitehead, philanthropist Melinda Gates, and race scholar Ibram X. Kendi, will be featured.

In this powerful and inspiring program, a variety of best-selling authors will join thousands of book lovers across the country to celebrate American ingenuity—what it means to them, how it fires their minds and imaginations, and why books are so important to us in these times. 

“The 2020 National Book Festival will reach an even bigger audience of book lovers during these challenging times, thanks to our collaboration with PBS and public broadcast stations across the country to present this television special,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “We are thrilled to showcase how our national library embraces all subjects in its unparalleled collections as we celebrate American ingenuity this year.

The new TV-based experience is made possible from a collaboration with PBS Books, an initiative with Detroit Public Television, according to a statement from the Library of Congress.

“We are delighted to be partnering again with PBS and the Library of Congress, our nation’s beloved monument to letters and literacy,” said Rich Homberg, president and CEO of Detroit Public TV. “We have had the privilege of covering the National Book Festival since 2015, and now we have the opportunity to produce a prime-time special connecting people who write great books with the people who love to read them.”

New to this year’s festival is an opportunity for festivalgoers to take a deeper dive into timely topics engaged by many books across the festival’s stages. Attendees are invited to follow three newsworthy threads that weave through the festival and offer a more profound appreciation for the subjects. They are:

  • “Fearless Women” – books by and about strong women and resolute trailblazers.
  • “Hearing Black Voices” – books that showcase Black voices across all genres, affirming their contributions to American culture.
  • “Democracy” – books that assess the state of democratic principles here in America and around the globe.

Another new feature added to the 2020 festival is a new virtual stage called Family, Food, and Field, which will include authors whose books cover such topics as food, home, sports, television and current issues, such as the "Me Too" movement. More information on the authors whose books are part of these timely topic threads will be found on the festival website in the weeks before the event.

In addition to watching the event, you can also follow the festival on Twitter (@librarycongress) with hashtag #NatBookFest,and subscribe to the National Book Festival Blog at loc.gov/bookfest/.

Do you consider yourself a book worm? Do you plan to virtually attend the festival? Let us know in the comments what your all-time favorite book is!