Things to Do

Ibram X. Kendi, Mo Willems, and Other Picks From This Weekend’s National Book Festival

Every event is streaming for free. What should you check out?

Photograph by Jeff Elkins

The National Book Festival will look a little different this year. For the first time since it launched in 2001, the entire festival will be held virtually, so book lovers can watch panels, Q&A sessions, readings, and other events from the comfort of their couches this weekend. More than 120 authors, poets, and illustrators are slated to appear at the festival, which begins Friday and ends Sunday evening. Things will wrap up with a televised broadcast on PBS. Hosted by Hoda Kotb, the special will feature Madeleine Albright, Melinda Gates, Salman Rushdie, and Amy Tan, all of whom will participate in earlier festival events as well.

The whole event is free and open to the public, with everything being streamed through the Library of Congress website. You can register for live events here. There are tons of great authors to check out, but here a few that we’re especially excited about.

Ibram X. Kendi and Saeed Jones panel discussion

NPR correspondent Michel Martin will moderate a conversation between How to Be an Antiracist author Kendi and Jones—winner of the 2019 Kirkus Prize in nonfiction for his memoir, How We Fight for Our Lives—on race and power in the United States. Jones will also participate in a live Q&A on Sunday at 11 AM. Available Saturday. 

Peter Baker, Susan Glasser, and George Packer panel discussion and live Q&A

Judy Woodruff will moderate a conversation between the New York Times‘ Peter Baker, the New Yorker‘s Susan Glasser, and the Atlantic‘s George Packer about behind-the-scenes figures in American political life. Baker and Glasser’s new book, The Man who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III, launches at the festival. Interview available Saturday, Q&A streaming Saturday at 4 PM. 

Colson Whitehead interview and live Q&A

Library of Congress literary director Marie Arana will interview Whitehead about his Pulitzer Prize winning latest novel, The Nickel Boys, which is about two boys sent to a reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. Interview available Saturday, Q&A will stream Saturday at 11 AM. 

Mo Willems interview and live Q&A

The award-winning author of modern kid classics like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus will be launching two new books at the festival: An Elephant and Piggie Biggie! Volume 3, and Unlimited Squirrels: I Want to Sleep Under the Stars. He will be interviewed by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. Interview available Friday, Q&A streaming Sunday at 10 AM. 

Jason Reynolds interview and live Q&A

The DC-based YA author recently co-wrote Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You with Ibram X. Kendi. It’s an exploration of racism in America for teens and young adults. Interview available Saturday, Q&A streaming Saturday at 2 PM.

Gail Collins and Megan Twohey panel discussion

Collins talks to Twohey, the New York Times reporter who—along with Jodi Kantor—broke the Harvey Weinstein story. (Twohey and Kantor also co-wrote She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story that Ignited a Movement.) Collins and Twohey will appear together for a roving conversation on women, aging, and the #MeToo movement. Collins will also participate in a live Q&A at noon on Sunday. Available Saturday.

Sandra Cisneros interview

The author of The House on Mango Street will discuss her life as well as her new book, A House of My Own: Stories from My Own Life. Available Saturday.

Jesse Dougherty interview and live Q&A

Dougherty, a Washington Post sports reporter, will talk about his recent book Buzz Saw: The Improbable Story of How the Washington Nationals Won the World Series. Interview available Saturday, Q&A streaming Saturday at noon. 

John Grisham interview and live Q&A

The mega-selling writer will appear several times throughout the festival—first in an interview with Marie Arana about of his most recent novels, then in a live Q&A on Saturday at 1 PM, and finally on Sunday in the festival’s PBS special. Interview available Saturday. 

Chelsea Clinton interview and live Q&A

The former First Daughter is launching her new book, She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians Who Changed the Game, a follow-up to her popular first book, at the festival. Interview available Friday, Q&A streaming Friday at 11 AM.

Madeleine Albright interview and live Q&A

Festival co-chair David Rubenstein will interview the former Secretary of State on her new book, Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st-Century Memoir. Interview available Saturday, Q&A streaming Saturday at noon.