21st Annual ‘Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books - Event Coverage

Beneath a broken canopy of threatening rain clouds and rays of sunlight, square white tent peaks dotted the manicured green lawns of the urban campus, and it felt like the opening of a sweeping English novel as the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books got underway Saturday morning, April 9. Held at the University of Southern California campus, this cultural zeitgeist is touted as the largest of its kind in the U.S, annually attracting 150,000 visitors over the two-day event. In addition, on Saturday evening, the event hosted the 36th Annual Book Prizes with honors going to novelist James Patterson, among others.

As promised, Saturday was a mixed bag of rain, sunshine, and even gusts of wind that was more reminiscent of winter rather than springtime in Southern California. Attendees were not daunted, seeking haven under vendors' tents and outcroppings from various buildings while it rained and then being mindful of the puddles afterwards as vendors removed tarps protecting their myriad of books.

The festival's program boasted 300 exhibitors and 600 authors. Books ranged the spectrum – children, young adult, fiction, poetry, religious, travel, and many others – and there was something to pique any avid reader's interest. Given that the exhibitors were dispersed across the campus grounds, crowded spots tended to gather around author signings and tables with free items. For those who frequent the comic book conventions, there were some familiar exhibitors, such as Chris Ayers' The Daily Zoo, Valiant Comics, and Stranger Comics for instance; however, it was a cornucopia of independent presses and bookstores such as Mysterious Galaxy, Vroman's Bookstore, and Skylight Books, just to name a few.

Music played and readings were performed at any of the ten stages around campus and featured the Trojan Marching Band, gospel choir, classical, rock, and everything in between. Panels were held throughout the day, as well, and people could attend those for a nominal fee, although the festival was a free event. For attendees who wanted a souvenir of the day, there were several merchandise tents hocking t-shirts, book totes, lunch boxes, mugs, and umbrellas. Stations of food trucks could be found at various points on campus, offering sweet and savory goodies. Parking, either on campus or at nearby parking lots, ranged from $12 - $25.

The 130+ acre campus is a picturesque locale for this annual event, which was only marred by the less-than-ideal weather on Saturday. The buildings were gorgeous and lofty, and Tommy Trojan stood just a bit taller amongst the crowds rambling the criss-cross avenues of the campus.


*Click here for a photo gallery from the event.  All photos by Michele Brittany.

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