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National Book Festival Finds Perfect Audience in D.C.'s Literary Set

Authors, poets and scholars — even former members of Congress — will travel once again to one of the nation’s most well-read areas this weekend.

The Library of Congress’ 13th annual National Book Festival, which kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday and continues through Sunday, is free and open to the public. More than 200,000 people attended last year, and this year’s event includes presentations and book signings from novelist and poet Margaret Atwood, author and book critic Marie Arana, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch, and Khaled Hosseini, perhaps best known for his debut novel, “The Kite Runner.”

The event will feature 112 authors and focuses on this year’s theme, “Books That Shaped the World.” Jennifer Gavin, who oversees the festival, said the Library of Congress focused on presenting a much broader variety of literature this year, including divisions devoted to veterans history and regional collections and pavilions for graphic novels and science fiction on Sunday.

Former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has spoken at the festival twice, will be on hand at 10 a.m. Saturday to discuss her new book ,“Unflinching Courage: Pioneering Women Who Shaped Texas.”

“The National Book Festival is a treasure,” the Texas Republican said. “It’s so vibrant and exciting to see so many people who love books and the variety of kinds of books that they showcase. I think it’s great that the Library of Congress has made this available for the people in Washington who are so curious about learning.”

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award recipient A. Scott Berg speaks at noon Sunday about his newest book, “Wilson,” a biography of the nation’s 28th president, Woodrow Wilson.

“Book festivals in general [are great] ... but when you do it in Washington, it takes on, I think, added meaning just being in the shadow of all of the monuments and all of the history,” Berg said. “As a writer, it’s exciting because most of us writers spend our lives locked up in rooms talking to nobody. For the public, I think it’s wonderful just that a city, that the capital of the United States, should be focused for a weekend on literature. It basically says that books matter, that writing that literature counts in American life. ... It brings everyone into a community in which they are all under one tent talking about this one great thing: literature, books of all kinds.”

Berg, who works without researchers or secretaries, spent 13 years researching and writing “Wilson,” which was released earlier this month.

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