LeVar Burton to Host TV Special Featuring Library of Congress National Book Festival on PBS

LeVar Burton will host the special "Open a Book, Open the World: The Library of Congress National Book Festival" premiere Sept. 12, 2021 on PBS. Photo: Robyn Von Swank
LeVar Burton will host the special "Open a Book, Open the World: The Library of Congress National Book Festival" premiere Sept. 12, 2021 on PBS. Photo: Robyn Von Swank

“Open a Book, Open the World” premieres Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021

Television viewers can see an inspiring introduction to the 2021 Library of Congress National Book Festival and its exciting lineup of authors, poets and writers in a one-hour special this September on PBS.

“Open a Book, Open the World: The Library of Congress National Book Festival,” hosted by LeVar Burton, will premiere Sunday, September 12, at 6pm ET (check local listings) on PBS, PBS.org, and the PBS Video app. The program will offer a timely celebration of the power of books and discussions on some of the big topics of the day.

“Books open the world to us, fuel our imaginations and show us our common humanity, especially as we confront huge challenges in society,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “We’re proud to collaborate once again with PBS and public television stations nationwide to celebrate the power of reading from our national library.”

Burton, a longtime champion of reading, will host from his public library in Los Angeles with Hayden appearing at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The show will feature 20 of the nation’s leading literary voices discussing their newest books and speaking to the festival theme, “Open a Book, Open the World.”

“I’m proud and honored to join Dr. Carla Hayden to explore the National Book Festival,” Burton said. “A good book can take you on a journey. After the last year, we’re all ready to plot a new course, and books can be an amazing compass. Join me for the National Book Festival as some of our nation’s leading literary voices bring us a sense of renewal, discuss their newest work and open up a whole new world of possibilities.”

Authors featured in the special are:

  • Michael J. Fox, actor, film producer and activist, on his book “No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality.”
  • Tana French, American Irish writer known as the “First Lady of Irish Crime” on her book “The Searcher.”
  • Diane von Furstenberg, world-renowned fashion designer and entrepreneur, on her new book “Own It: The Secret to Life.”
  • Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corp. and founder of Breakthrough Energy for clean technologies on his book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need.”
  • Roxane Gay, essayist and novelist, on her co-authored book “The Sacrifice of Darkness.”
  • Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, discussing her book “On Juneteenth.”
  • Amanda Gorman, author of “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country,” on how books have opened the world for her.
  • Adam Grant, organizational psychologist, on his book “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.”
  • Yaa Gyasi, PEN/Hemingway Award-winning novelist, on her book “Transcendent Kingdom.”
  • Mishal Husain, BBC News anchor, who wrote “The Skills: From First Job to Dream Job―What Every Woman Needs to Know.”
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Nobel Prize-winning novelist, on his book “Klara and the Sun.”
  • Chang-rae Lee, PEN/Hemingway Award winner, on his book “My Year Abroad.”
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia, novelist in several genres, including horror and noir, on her books “Mexican Gothic” and “Velvet Was the Night.”
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, on his book “The Committed.”
  • Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar-winning actress and activist, on her children’s book, “Sulwe.”
  • Christopher Paolini, fantasy and science fiction writer, on his book “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars.”
  • Sarah Pearse, novelist of horror, on her debut book, “The Sanatorium.”
  • Angie Thomas, writer of international bestsellers for young people, on her book “Concrete Rose.”
  • Martha Wells, Hugo and Nebula award-winning writer, on her book “Fugitive Telemetry.”
  • Isabel Wilkerson, historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, on her book “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.”

Full interviews with each author will be featured in on-demand videos through the National Book Festival website at loc.gov/bookfest and will be released September 17.

The 2021 virtual festival will invite audiences to create their own festival experiences from programs in a range of formats and an expanded schedule over 10 days, from September 17-26. Festival content will be available online through videos on demand, author conversations in real time and live question-and-answer sessions, as well as a new podcast series with NPR, the national television special with PBS and some in-person, ticketed events at the Library. Local libraries, community centers and attendees are also encouraged to host watch parties and other community events in their local areas.

To create the broadcast, the Library is collaborating with PBS Books, a national programming initiative produced by Detroit Public Television. PBS will distribute the one-hour National Book Festival broadcast to public television stations nationally.

“Books have been a lifeline for so many of us during this most difficult year. They have offered us an escape from the pandemic but also advice on how to cope with its challenges,” said Rich Homberg, president and CEO of Detroit Public TV. “We are delighted to be working once again with the Library of Congress, the National Book Festival and this incredible lineup of authors to celebrate our love of all things literary.”

The National Book Festival is made possible by the generous support of private- and public-sector sponsors who share the Library’s commitment to reading and literacy, led by National Book Festival Co-Chair David M. Rubenstein. Sponsors include: Festival Vice Chair the James Madison Council; Charter sponsors The Washington Post, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities; Additional generous support from the Library of Congress Federal Credit Union, Tim and Diane Naughton and Capital Group; Presenting Partner NPR; and Media Partner The New Republic.

Follow the festival on Twitter @LibraryCongress with hashtag #NatBookFest, and subscribe to the National Book Festival Blog at loc.gov/bookfest.


Source: Brett Zongker, US Library of Congress

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