Conversations with Veronica Roth, author of Divergent, and Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs and Steel

More about the L.A. Times Festival of Books, the largest book festival in America.  It was held last weekend on the campus of the University of Southern California.  I have posted photos from the event on my other blog,  LACityPix.

Line of people to hear VEronica Roth

The line for people who wanted to see Veronica Roth speak but did not have tickets. Ticket holders were in another line that stretched almost completely around the building.

Along with literally hundreds and hundreds of other people, mostly women, I attended the interview–which the Festival called a ‘conversation’–with Veronica Roth, author of ‘Divergent’.  She turned out to be taller and younger than I had imagined.   She wrote Divergent while she was still in college and stated, among many other things, that the book is NOT an anti-evolution tract.  This anti-evolution idea apparently has been making the rounds in academia.  (I guess academics have to come up with this stuff to keep their jobs!)  After she spoke, she signed books–but the number of books she would sign was limited: one per person and a green ticket was required.  Given the huge fan base she had at the Festival, she probably could have spent all afternoon  and into the evening signing.

I also joined hundreds of people, mostly men, to hear what Jared Diamond, the author of ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’ talk about his new book, ‘The World Until Yesterday.’  He seemed to be more concerned about falling in his shower than anything else.  He’s 76 years old and this is important to him.

And finally…

I had conversations with two very knowledgeable ‘book people’ both of whom were trying to make new lives for themselves as the independent bookstore world is collapsing.  One formerly owned a bookstore on the East Coast; the other had worked in a now-closed bookstore here in L.A.   Both seemed unsure about what lies ahead of them and both were volunteering to work in booths at the Festival.  It was clear that it was difficult to let go of something they love.

One told me that Book ‘Em, a mystery book store not far from my home, is going out of business.  That means there are only two remaining bookstores in Pasadena: Vroman’s, which was founded in 1894, and Distant Lands, a travel bookstore.  Borders closed a couple of years ago.  Cliff’s Used Books shut its doors last year.  And a few weeks ago Barnes and Noble abandoned Pasadena, leaving a gaping hole on Colorado Blvd., the main shopping street in the city.  Even though I am an independent author who publishes e-books, I am sorry to see this happen.

Penguin's mobile book shop

Penguin Publishing’s mobile book shop at the L.A Festival of Books.

Given the way we Americans love to reinvent things, not all indie bookstores are gone, however.  A new trend is the mobile book store that goes from Book Festival to Book Festival around the country. I love this!  When I was a child, libraries across the nation sponsored Book Mobiles to bring books to far flung areas of rural America.  Now, instead of being sponsored by public libraries, the new mobile book sources are privately operated.  And instead of lending books, they are selling them.

At the L.A Times Festival of Books, one example was Mrs. Nelson’s Book Festival, a blue truck loaded with books, that goes from place to place.  Sorry, but the photo I took of it wasn’t good, but this traveling book shop looked very similar to the Penguin mobile book shop.  Only blue instead of orange.  And Mrs. Nelson’s mobile book shop had book signings, which Penguin did not.  I hope that these ‘book trucks’ become as popular as the gourmet food trucks that are now found all over the place in L.A. and other big cities.


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