Library of Congress hosts National Book Festival with Michael J. Fox, Lupita Nyong’o

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the National Book Festival (Part 1)

The Library of Congress hosts the National Book Festival this Friday through Sept. 26.

You can create your own experience with a series of virtual events over 10 days.

“Last year was our first attempt at a fully virtual festival,” festival director Jarrod MacNeil told WTOP. “This year, we have a number of ways to engage. … We have NPR podcasts, interviews with Washington Post Live, videos on demand and live Q&As. … We are having daily live sessions where you can ask authors your own questions.”

The theme of this year’s festival is an escapist idea: “Open a Book, Open the World.”

“We’ve all been dealing with the pandemic,” MacNeil said. “What do we do to escape? That is open a book, open the world. … When you step into the bindings of a book, you can be transported to a fantasy world, you can be transported back in history, or you can be transported to a place where you’re having self-reflection, so we thought it was a really great theme for this year.”

This year features a star-studded lineup of guest authors, including actor Michael J. Fox, who explores Parkinson’s disease in “No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality.”

“Michael J. Fox will be discussing what it means to live with a disease,” MacNeil said. “How he can appreciate life more now, how appreciates his family more, how he appreciates his dog more and the value of life. For a time there, he was doing an injustice to himself and others because he wasn’t living his life to the fullest. It’s an amazing interview, but more so, it’s an amazing book.”

Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o will discuss her new graphic novel “Sulwe.”

“We had the pleasure of recording her while she was in Africa,” MacNeil said. “Everyone knows her from ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Black Panther,’ ’12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Us.’ She is an absolute rock star when it comes to movies, but her graphic novel is about a young girl. It’s called ‘Sulwe,’ it’s been on the New York Times bestseller, a graphic novel that talks about her perspective as a child.”

Fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg will discuss her book “Own It: The Secret to Life.”

“She’s a fashion designer, a philanthropist, the founder of a fashion empire, people really admire her for all of her successes,” MacNeil said. “Her whole perspective is ‘Own It.’ It’s the secret of her life, whether it’s good times or bad times, you have to own it. Be happy in who you are. Be happy in the challenges you receive. If you get knocked down, own it and pick yourself back up.”

Kacen Callender will discuss National Book Award winner “The King and the Dragonflies.”

“We really wanted to kind of branch out and start inviting authors that can give you different perspectives, that have different focuses,” MacNeil said. “So, having a fiction writer that is able to go back to that ‘Open a Book, Open a World’ and open that fantasy is really quite amazing.”

Nobel Prize recipient Kazuo Ishiguro will discuss his new sci-fi book “Klara and the Sun.”

“What a master,” MacNeil said. “‘Klara and the Sun’ is his New York Times bestseller that is out this year, and it is absolutely amazing. … The Nobel Prize committee described him as ‘a great emotional force.’ … It is a must-read. You have to dive into it, and it takes a little piece of you because it is something that you have to invest in. It pulls on you.”

“The Hate U Give” author Angie Thomas will discuss her follow-up novel “Concrete Rose.”

“‘Concrete Rose’ is an extension of her first novel ‘The Hate U Give,’ and it really goes back into where the characters would be and dives into the Black Lives Matter movement,” MacNeil said. “She originally had no intention of writing a second novel to ‘The Hate U Give,’ but her fans, her family and the people around her said, ‘You have to explore these individuals.'”

You can see highlights from all of these conversations in a PBS special hosted by LeVar Burton (“Reading Rainbow”) on WETA this Saturday at 7 p.m. and watch the full videos online.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the National Book Festival (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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