According to a recent feature in New York magazine, the book business is in a free fall. That, combined with the imminent departure of the Bush administration, might spell the end of the National Book Festival. Launched by Laura Bush in 2001, the fest is now a beast—more than 70 authors will be reading and signing books on the Mall—and it’s a beast with issues. Independent presses are mostly relegated to the cramped “Pavilion of the States” tent, signing lines are oppressively long, and the available Mall food makes gnawing on your C-SPAN2 tote bag a more appetizing option. But the fest does snag a lot of authors who are hard to catch, especially now that publishers can’t finance tours. So skip the pundit-heavy history tent and make a point to catch Neil Gaiman, James McBride (pictured), and University of Maryland–based poet Stanley Plumly.
THE NATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL RUNS FROM 10 A.M. TO 5:30 P.M. ON THE NATIONAL MALL BETWEEN 3RD AND 7TH STREETS NW. FREE. (202) 707-1550.