Grand Park, squeezed between City Hall and other civic buildings downtown, is arguably the most beautiful new public space created in Los Angeles in many years. And since it opened in 2012, the people who run the park have been trying to encourage visitors to engage in a certain quiet and solitary activity--reading.
Toward that end, Grand Park has placed four small "lending library" bookshelves at different corners of the park. And Saturday, it will host the second annual Grand Park Downtown Book Fest.
"We think reading is one of the best ways to use Grand Park," said programming director Julia Diamond. "We want to say to people, 'It's a beautiful space, grab a book, cuddle under a tree and use this park in this personal and contemplative way."
The lending libraries have been gradually catching on, Diamond said, with people starting to contribute as many books as they take. Last year's first book fest drew about 1,500 people. Organizers hope to double the crowd this year with a packed, five-hour program that includes a pop-up bookstore, a stage with reading for kids, and a series of readings from some of the city's most beloved writers, including David Kipen, D.J. Waldie and Marisela Norte on the 75th anniversary of Union Station.
The emphasis, Diamond said, is on L.A. literary culture.
"There's a lot of book festivals, but we felt the need for a book festival that focuses on L.A., with L.A.-based artists and L.A.-based creators and L.A.-based community organizations," she said.
Local literary festivals are gaining steam. While the West Hollywood Book Fair has been going on for more than a decade, Pasadena Litfest launched in 2012, and in 2013 and North Hollywood hosted a lit crawl, which promises to return this fall. The pan-American book festival LeaLA, now 3 years old, focuses on Spanish-speaking reads and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, now in its 18th year, includes L.A. authors and bookstores alongside writers from around the nation.
The Grand Park festival's pop-up bookstore will feature more than two dozen bookstores, publishers and magazines, including the literary journal the Rattling Wall, the poetry publishers Les Figues Press and Red Hen Press and East L.A. bookstore Seite Books. The group Poesía Para la Gente will write "poems on demand" for visitors, and the nonprofit writing center 826 LA will invite people to add a line to "the world's longest story."
Book Fest will run from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday.