Texas Book Festival!

I haven’t gotten much reading done for the past few days because I went to the Texas Book Festival this weekend! I’ve lived in Austin for 11 years and only recently have I been making an effort to go out and about and participate in Austin life (I had this crazy notion for years that I wouldn’t be in Texas for long…a crazy notion I still maintain which is why it’s CRAZY).

Amanda from The Zen Leaf organized a blogger meetup on Saturday. I was the only lazy one that didn’t take picture so I’ll just list the awesome bloggers that I met. All their blogs are great and some are new to me!
We met for lunch on Saturday and then Iliana and I headed over to the Vintage Anchor event that featured authors Abraham Verghese and J. Courtney Sullivan. Vintage Anchor gave out a tote bag that included a few books. I was purchasing my copy of Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (Westerfeld’s event was happening at the same time…argh) so I showed up right before the Vintage Anchor event and missed the tote bag. Iliana, being the super nice person she is, gave me her tote bag and one of the books! A children’s librarian that I sat next to offered me a book from her tote too! Texans are so nice!

Iliana gave me A Saint on Death Row by Thomas Cahill and the librarian (whose name I didn’t get) gave me The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam. The talk was called Writers on Reading and was VERY interesting. Dr. Verghese was extremely interesting and funny. He’s an infectious disease physician so I definitely want to read his novels now! I also found out that he helped my sister-in-law’s uncle some years ago when he was ill. How cool! After the event, I went and had my copies of Leviathan and Behemoth signed by Scott Westerfeld who was EXTREMELY cool and nice. The line was about a block long for his signing but it went very fast. I loved Leviathan and will probably read Behemoth in the next week or two. I can’t wait since Leviathan ended a little unresolved.

Sunday, I went to the festival by myself. Iliana was at the Justin Cronin event, but I hid myself in a corner since I had to leave before the end of Cronin’s talk to go to another event so I didn’t see her. Justin Cronin was speaking in the Texas Legislature’s Senate Chamber so the room was fairly big which accounted for me not being able to find Iliana. He read from his book, The Passage and then answered some questions from the moderator. I was sad that I had to leave because he was talking about some really interesting things—I left as he was talking about how talented a writer Stephen King is.

So after Justin Cronin’s talk, I headed to a book that I found through the Texas Book Festival schedule. I admit that I hadn’t heard of it before I saw the book on the schedule, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to go. The book is called Escape from Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War by John D. Lukacs. I read about the Davao prison break in The Pacific by Hugh Ambrose earlier this year, but when I saw this book, I wanted to read it because I figured it would be a more focused and complete account of the story than the one Ambrose wrote about in his book since his was focused on five different stories. The talk was extremely interesting and I wish it would have been able to go on longer than it did.

The last event of the day was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who also spoke in the Senate Chamber. She was awesome. She was so intelligent, well spoken, funny, and had such a sense of self that I was blown away. I am one of the few people (or at least it feels that way) that hasn’t read Adichie’s work so I bought two of her books and waited in line to have her sign them. I can’t wait to read them. They sound so fantastic. She talked a lot about how she views Nigeria and Africa and encouraged people to read more African authors. She even talked about some authors that wrote about Africa that she didn’t care for. She also talked about how she never worried about race until she moved to the U.S. and then was identified as black or African (but generally not Nigerian). She was quite matter of fact about said it was just something she had to adjust to, but I found that statement really telling about race relations in America. It was really sad that that people come to this country not thinking about the color of their skin but are forced to think about it once they are here. I have to say that she was a woman that knew exactly who she was (Dr. Verghese also had this quality) and so she did not seem bothered by this revelation.

One funny little note about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was that she commented about doing the talk in the Senate Chamber. She looked around the room, appeared a little amazed and said something like (and I’m paraphrasing), “I’ve never done one of these in a Senate Chamber before. While we are here we should change some laws!” It got us all laughing and clapping since a lot of the attendees were sitting in the chairs at the desks of the Senators. It did look a little like it might be a legislative session!

I did a bad thing during the talk. While the talk was going on, I was IM’ing Amy from Amy Reads because she is a BIG fan of Adichie. So it wasn’t the most polite thing to do, but I didn’t feel like it was so bad because it was nice to be able to share what was happening with Amy as it was happening. I actually told Miss Adichie this when she signed my book and she laughed about it and said that Amy deserved a smiley face in the book I purchased for her. I’ll let Amy show it on her blog when she gets it in the mail!

In all, I had a lot of fun at this event and really enjoyed meeting all the bloggers from around the state (and they really were from all over—Beaumont, Houston, and Dallas are not short drives!). I also met a bookseller from Odessa at the Justin Cronin event. I was so surprised that so many people came from all over the state! I will definitely go back next year! We’re pretty lucky in Austin because one of the local bookstores, Book People, often has author events as well. However, I’m going to be on the wagon when it comes to book buying because I have managed to acquire MANY books this month so I need to concentrate on reading them for a bit!
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