Last month I had the distinct pleasure of attending my very first Book Expo America. Held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, Book Expo America is the largest book industry event in North America and one of the largest gatherings of English language publishers in the world. It was an impressive event to say the least. For three days in June, more than 1,000 vendors including such notable publishing houses as Random House, Penguin, Harper Collins & Macmillan invaded 3 levels of more than 760,000 sq. ft. of convention floor space. Those naysayers who believe the printed book is in danger of becoming obsolete should have witnessed the throngs of eager attendees patiently waiting in line to receive free autographed copies of books by such authors as Ian McEwan, Janice Maynard, Alan Furst, Junot Diaz, Amor Towles, Chris Bohjalian and Brenda Jackson just to name a few. As much as I love my e-reader, to my knowledge you can’t get an e-book signed by your favorite author (although, I am sure someone will create an App for that…hmmm).
The highlight of my visit to Book Expo America was listening to one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver (“The Poisonwood Bible”, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”), announce the 2012 winner of the Pen/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Established in 2000 by Barbara Kingsolver, the Bellwether Prize was created to promote fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relations. A $25,000 prize and a two year publishing contract with Algonquin Books are awarded biennially to an author for a previously unpublished novel. Ms. Kingsolver chose the amount of $25,000 because that was the amount of her first book advance which allowed her to quit her day job and concentrate fulltime on writing. Past winners include Hillary Jordan (2006 winner for Mudbound) and Heidi Durrow (2008 winner for The Girl Who Fell From the Sky). As an added bonus, both Hillary Jordan and Heidi Durrow spoke as well. This year’s recipient of the Penn/Bellwether Prize is Susan Nussbaum for her manuscript Good Kings, Bad Kings which will be published in the spring of 2013.
As the day came to a close, I gathered my rolling suitcase filled with a treasure trove of books of all shapes, sizes and genres and started my journey back to Penn Station. I thoroughly enjoyed Book Expo America 2012 with one exception: I could have used a bigger suitcase.
– posted by Lisa J., Readers’ Services