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Book ’em: Fans, families flock to nation’s largest literary festival

USC’s University Park Campus hosts some 150,000 visitors to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

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Carol Martin had one word to say when asked if she’s a fan of author Michael Connelly.

“Huge,” said Martin, who lives in West Covina.

Martin was standing behind USC’s Bovard Auditorium, clutching The Wrong Side of Goodbye, the latest of his Harry Bosch detective series.

“I’ve read them all,” she said, which means she’s read at least two dozen of his books.

Carol Martin holds up signed copy of book

Carol Martin shows off her new, signed Michael Connelly book. (USC Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

She was waiting, behind dozens of others, for it to be signed by Connelly. An orange Post-it was stuck inside with a suggested inscription: “Dear Carol, Thank you for being such a loyal reader.”

Martin was one of the roughly 150,000 people expected at USC over the weekend for this year’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the largest literary festival of its kind in the U.S. The event allows literary lovers to hobnob with Joyce Carol Oates, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and George Saunders; admission was free, though some conversations had a small fee.

Saturday was Martin’s first time at the festival. Her daughter, Jeanine Blanchard MA ’99, PhD ’10, knew it’d be something her mom would enjoy.

“I think it’s awesome. And it’s very cheap. You know much it cost us to go in there? A dollar!” Martin quipped about the tickets to hear Michael Connelly chat alongside Daniel Pyne, the showrunner of the Amazon show Bosch, adapted from Connelly’s best-selling novels.

Indeed, the festival feels like too good a deal.

‘At last …’

Actor Bryan Cranston discussed his book A Life in Parts, but also dished some fun facts – like how he came to USC’s chemistry department and followed professors around when he got the role of Walter White in AMC’s Breaking Bad. 

“Chemistry professors say, ‘At last a chemistry professor on television – we have arrived! Science!’” he joked to the audience outside Leavey Library.

There was the opportunity to hear from Cleve Jones, Ron Kovic, L.A. Kauffman and Wesley Lowery, who have written on pivotal moments in U.S. history – from Harvey Milk and the Vietnam War to Ferguson.

Festival of Books crowds

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books attracted festivalgoers of all ages to the USC University Park Campus. (USC Photo/David Sprague)

Lindy West spoke to roughly 350 festivalgoers – largely women – about being a provocative female writer in the age of the Internet.

“I just find the more people shut me up, the louder I want to be,” said West, author of Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman.

From near and far

The festival, marking its 22nd year overall and its seventh on the USC University Park Campus, is a big deal outside the city, too.

For the third year in a row, Ginger Meurer came from Las Vegas with her husband and four kids in tow. She sees it as a long-lasting tradition.

Her son Adam, 7, was waiting to have his book Dragons Love Tacos signed by author Adam Rubin. His suggested inscription? “Adam loves tacos! Get it?”

“I enjoy children’s books and picture books. It’s one of the lasting mediums digital won’t take over,” she said. “It’s not the same in a Kindle. You need to see it.”

She also shared another reason she loves them – it’s a way to trick your 7-year-old kid into curling up next to you.

Just another good reason to buy a book.

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Book ’em: Fans, families flock to nation’s largest literary festival

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