The Library of Congress National Book Festival: Celebrating American Ingenuity

Inspiring Program “Celebrating American Ingenuity” Hosted by Hoda Kotb aired Sept. 27, 2020

The 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival included two new entry points for audiences across the country for the first time — a national television special on PBS stations and an interactive experience online for the festival’s 20th year.

PBS stations broadcast “The Library of Congress National Book Festival: Celebrating American Ingenuity,” a two-hour program featuring some of the nation’s most renowned authors and literary voices, on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. The television special was hosted by Hoda Kotb of NBC News’ “TODAY.” It is available for on-demand streaming online and through the PBS app.

“The 2020 National Book Festival will reach an even bigger audience of book lovers during these challenging times, thanks to our collaboration with PBS and public broadcast stations across the country to present this television special,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “We are thrilled to showcase how our national library embraces all subjects in its unparalleled collections as we celebrate American ingenuity this year.”

The broadcast followed a weekend of virtual festivities online accessible at loc.gov/bookfest, including on-demand videos, live author chats and discussions, options to personalize your own journey through the festival with timely topics and book buying possibilities. See the full festival lineup.  

To create the broadcast, the Library collaborated with PBS Books, a national programming initiative produced by Detroit Public Television. PBS, the Library’s broadcast partner for the popular Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, will distribute the two-hour National Book Festival broadcast to PBS stations nationally.

“We are delighted to be partnering again with PBS and the Library of Congress, our nation’s beloved monument to letters and literacy,” said Rich Homberg, president and CEO of Detroit Public TV. “We have had the privilege of covering the National Book Festival since 2015, and now we have the opportunity to produce a prime-time special connecting people who write great books with the people who love to read them.”

In this powerful and inspiring program, a thrilling diversity of best-selling authors joined thousands of book lovers across the country to celebrate American ingenuity — what it means to them, how it fires their minds and imaginations and why books are so important to us in these times. The 2020 National Book Festival broadcast featured a variety of presentations and interviews by two dozen of the nation’s most beloved literary voices, all brimming with insight as they welcome us into their work spaces to give us a glimpse of their minds and hearts.

The broadcast featured an impressive group of authors, including the following:

  • Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and 2020 recipient of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction Colson Whitehead.
  • Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
  • National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reynolds.
  • NBC News “TODAY” co-host Jenna Bush Hager.
  • Master of the legal thriller John Grisham.
  • Melinda Gates, philanthropist and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham on civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis.
  • A conversation between longtime friends Ann Patchett, whose recent novel, “The Dutch House,” is a Pulitzer finalist, and two-time Newbery winner Kate DiCamillo, whose recent book is “Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem.”
  • Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie.
  • Graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang.
  • Fantasy novelist Leigh Bardugo.
  • Haben Girma, disability rights advocate, author and the first deaf-blind graduate of Harvard Law School.
  • National Book Award-winning novelist James McBride.
  • Ann Druyan, Emmy Award-winning writer, producer and director specializing in science.

Additional luminaries included in this celebration of reading are:

  • Laura Bush, co-founder of the National Book Festival in 2001.
  • Current U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and former U.S. Poets Laureate Tracy K. Smith, Juan Felipe Herrera and Robert Pinsky.
  • Sarah Broom, whose debut memoir caused a literary sensation.
  • Tomi Adeyemi, recipient of the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.
  • Kali Fajardo-Anstine, National Book Award finalist.

Throughout the program, the writers Walter Isaacson, Sandra Cisneros and Amy Tan offered thought-provoking commentary on how “American Ingenuity” has led this nation though the best and worst of times and how that spirit has helped guide our journey toward a more perfect union.

The National Book Festival broadcast is made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Wells Fargo, the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts and other generous underwriters.

Follow the festival on Twitter @librarycongress and @pbsbooks with hashtag #NatBookFest.