Thousands turn out for L.A. Times Festival of Books


Charles McKay makes a detailed spreadsheet of the authors he wants to hear during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, typing in his first and second choices and getting tickets ahead of time.

Jerry Oborn, from San Diego, said she goes about it another way: “I just wander around.”

But McKay and Oborn both said they finish the festival the same way - with a long list of new books to read.


MORE: The L.A. Times map of literary Los Angeles

“It takes us months to get through all these books by authors who inspired us,” said McKay, who lives in the South Bay.

McKay and Oborn were among 150,000 people expected to attend the 18th annual book festival this weekend at USC. Under clear and hot skies Saturday, visitors listened to poetry, watched cooking demonstrations, danced to local bands and shopped at dozens of makeshift bookstores. They also attended panels on a variety of topics, including Hollywood, crime, graphic novels and political cartoons.

Introducing the festival Saturday morning, L.A. Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein said, “This is our gift to the city.” And he invited visitors to come see some of the day’s speakers -- Margaret Atwood, Kevin Starr and Daniel Handler, also known as Lemony Snicket.

McKay said he has been attending the festival for four years and loves hearing the authors’ back stories and learning about them as real people.

“It’s amazing how great the authors are,” he said. “In an hour, it gives you a flavor of their journey.”

The festival took place one day after the L.A. Times book prizes were awarded.

MORE: Jacket Copy, The Times’ books blog

Ben Fountain, who won the fiction award for “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” read from his book, which he described as an anti-war novel. “I don’t see how you could write a war novel and not have it be political,” he said.

Fountain said that when he started writing, he didn’t know where the story would go or how it would end.

“That’s where the discovery happens,” he said. “You go by instinct and intuition.”


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