Fall for the Book Spreads Out Across the Region

Posted: September 12, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski and Art Taylor

The annual Fall for the Book Festival will round out its first decade Sept. 21-26, hosting nationally and internationally known literary figures, including Chinua Achebe, Michael Cunningham, Sue Miller and C.K. Williams, and scholars such as historian Michael Beschloss, who headlines a day-long symposium of scholars focused on the legacy of Abraham Lincoln.

Fall for the Book logo

“The overall goal of Fall for the Book, aside from giving readers a chance to meet the rock stars of writing, is to serve as a reminder of the importance of reading, overall,” says festival director Bill Miller. “That’s why Fall for the Book always has brought writers of distinction from a wide variety of fields and topics — literature, yes, but also popular genres as well as the world of ideas — politics and government, science, history, Internet innovations and many others.”

As part of its mission to introduce area readers to the world’s finest living writers, the festival, which is based at Mason’s Fairfax Campus, is also expanding the scope of its offerings this year, partnering with businesses and organizations throughout the region to host events across Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

“Since soon after Fall for the Book began, the goal has been to spread it out so that people throughout the region would have more ready access to the riches that Fall for the Book offers,” explains Miller. “It has taken us a while to lay the ground work for this sort of move, but that’s what we’re trying to do this year and what we hope to do more and more of in future years.”

Two novelists have earned the festival’s top awards in 2008. One is Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, author of “Things Fall Apart” and winner of this year’s Mason Award, which celebrates an author whose body of work has made extraordinary contributions to bringing literature to a wide reading public. The other is Michael Cunningham, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Hours” and recipient of this year’s Fairfax Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Literary Arts.

Additional headliners include Pulitzer Prize-winning poet C.K. Williams; novelists Charles Baxter, Ethan Canin, Frank Delaney and Sue Miller. Nonfiction authors include essayist and critic Sven Birkerts, award-winning science writer Michael Sims, and memoirists such as Honor Moore, Scott Huler, Nani Power and former Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton.

In addition to Beschloss, the special day-long series of events commemorating the upcoming bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth will feature Daniel Mark Epstein, Andrew Ferguson, Joshua Wolf Shenk and James L. Swanson.

The festival also features several political commentators and analysts, including Time Magazine’s Amy Sullivan, author of “The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats are Closing the God Gap”; Michael Hais, co-author of “Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics”; and Northern Virginia’s own Fred Hitz, former statutory inspector general of the CIA and author of “Why Spy? Espionage in an Era of Uncertainty.”

While many events will take place at the Fairfax Campus, the week-long schedule also spans nearly 30 additional locations in a dozen cities throughout the region — from a reading by children’s book author Jerdine Nolan in Bowie, Md., to an appearance by poet Jon Pineda in Arlington, Va., to a talk by novelist and legal scholar Garrett Epps in Sterling, Va.

And Fall for the Book continues its annual Middle School Reads and High School Reads programs in Loudoun County with young adult authors P.W. Catanese and Chris Crutcher, respectively.

For a complete schedule of events and locations, see www.fallforthebook.org. All events are free and open to the public, with the exception of a Business Alliance Breakfast on Thursday, Sept. 25.

Write to at