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AmericaL.A. Times Festival of Books lineup: Don Lemon, Douglas Stuart, Zooey Deschanel...

L.A. Times Festival of Books lineup: Don Lemon, Douglas Stuart, Zooey Deschanel and more

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The 26th Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Stories & Ideas released its lineup Tuesday for the literary celebration’s second pandemic edition.

The virtual event, running April 17-23, will feature more authors (about 150) and more online events (more than 30) than October’s monthlong virtual event. Authors, moderators and guests will include Zooey Deschanel, James Patterson, Chang-Rae Lee, Lulu Miller, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Richard Thompson and Nikky Finney as well as Meena Harris, niece of Vice President Kamala Harris.

For the record:

2:17 PM, Mar. 23, 2021An earlier version of this story said that Julie Tanous will talk about her debut cookbook “Food Between Friends” with coauthor Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Tanous will not be in the panel.

The festival will kick off April 16 with the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes’ virtual awards ceremony and celebration.

Writers, poets, artists and storytellers will discuss a myriad of topics — including race, identity and immigration; crime fiction; sci-fi; and romance — during author panels and readings. Deschanel will chat with Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz about their new book, “Wow in the World: The How and Wow of the Human Body”; Brandon Hobson and David Heska Wanbli Weiden will talk about novels of the Native American experience; Patrik Svensson will join others in a conversation about the natural world; and Mark Harris, Glenn Frankel and Melissa Maerz will discuss film director Mike Nichols’ vast body of work, the making of “Midnight Cowboy” and the history of “Dazed and Confused.”


Unlike last year, when in-person April programming was postponed and condensed after COVID-19 shutdowns, this year’s virtual event is truer to the traditional IRL literary celebration.

“This year, we obviously started from nothing,” said Ann Binney, special projects coordinator for The Times. “We sort of went back to our process for the physical festival.”

That entailed putting out a call for author submissions to a huge database of publishers. They received hundreds. With a small team of Times colleagues, including deputy managing editor Julia Turner and books editor Boris Kachka, they sifted through and discussed submissions to craft the panels.


“We included a lot of Book Prize finalists and then filled out panels with people who were pitched from publishers,” said Binney. “We wanted to include all of the Book Prize finalists, but we couldn’t; we just don’t have the number of panels to include everyone.”

Also back this year is a virtual edition of the unofficially named L.A. Times Stage, the place where — in pre-pandemic times — celebrity authors with recently released books would have one-on-one conversations with an interviewer. “We sort of replicated that this year, and it’s our ‘main stage,’” said Binney. Harris, Don Lemon and Thompson are among the guests who will grace that virtual venue.

“During an unprecedented year that tested humanity’s adaptability, it shouldn’t be surprising that, as sales numbers show, people turned to books more than ever to make sense of the world,” said Kachka. “The Festival of Books too has adapted to serve that need. With a year of experience behind us, the Times team has worked to create an event as rich, varied and communal as a virtual festival can be. I hope our readers agree.”


More details can be found at latimes.com/FestivalofBooks and on the festival’s social media pages on Facebook and Twitter as well as The Times events Instagram.

Here’s a peek at this year’s highlights:

  • Hosts of the No. 1 kids podcast, “Wow in the World,” Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz, will chat with actress Zooey Deschanel about their new book, “Wow in the World: The How and Wow of the Human Body.”
  • Hannah Gómez will moderate a young-adult fiction panel on race and identity with Dean Atta, Morgan Parker, Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam.
  • Douglas Stuart and Andrew O’Hagan talk about friendship and Scottish fiction with Times entertainment industry reporter Anousha Sakoui.
  • James Patterson will discuss his new Audible original drama, “The Coldest Case.”
  • Meena Harris, niece of Vice President Kamala Harris, will read her children’s book “Ambitious Girl.”
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson will talk about modern California food and his debut cookbook, “Food Between Friends,” cowritten with Julie Tanous.
  • S.A. Cosby, Danielle Evans, Nikky Finney and Robert Jones Jr. will have a conversation on writing about the Black experience across different genres.
  • Novelists Chang-Rae Lee, Imbolo Mbue, Sanjena Sathian and Meng Jin will talk about writing internationally focused fiction with Times book editor Boris Kachka.
  • Singer-songwriter Richard Thompson will discuss his new memoir with music journalist R.J. Smith and perform two songs.
  • Don Lemon, CNN anchor and author of “This Is the Fire,” will discuss America’s history of racism and game out solutions with Times TV reporter Greg Braxton.
  • Authors David Heska Wanbli Weiden and Brandon Hobson will discuss the Native American experience and honor the legacy of Robert Kirsch Award honoree Leslie Marmon Silko.
  • Mark Harris, Glenn Frankel and Melissa Maerz will join moderator Elvis Mitchell for a conversation about Mike Nichols, “Midnight Cowboy” and “Dazed and Confused.”
  • Jonathan Meiburg, Jonathan Slaght, Lulu Miller and Patrik Svensson will explain their books about unique animals and the natural world.
  • Kristin Hannah and C Pam Zhang will chat about popular fiction with Times columnist Patt Morrison.
  • Authors Eloisa James, Vanessa Riley, Erica Ridley and Amalie Howard will talk about historical romance with moderator Elle Jackson.


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