If there were any doubts remaining about the Los Angeles Times’ decision last year to move the Festival of Books to the USC campus from UCLA, where it had been held for 15 years, they were dispelled this weekend by the enormous crowds of readers, booksellers, publishers, and authors that gathered outdoors on the grounds of USC near downtown Los Angeles. Total attendance was estimated at more than 100,000.
According to Sherry Kanzer of Kinokuniya Bookstore, which had a big presence at the festival, the only thing that could have made the event more successful was having the new Red Line train stop, which sits directly in front of USC, open this weekend rather than next. “It would have been nice,” said Kanzer, “but we’re still way up over last year, and last year was great in the new location.” Nearly 400 authors and 300 exhibitors were on hand, including Mysterious Galaxy, which has stores in San Diego and Hermosa Beach. Owner Terry Gilman was especially pleased with the non-stop line of customers waiting to purchase books in her booth. “It’s busier this year by a mile – by 18 miles, in fact,” she said while ringing up the cash register. “This is our 16th year at the festival, and our sales this weekend are the best we’ve ever had.”
Elsewhere at the festival there was evidence that most of the organizational issues of 2011 were remedied, and a large police and security presence was on hand in response to the drive-by killings of two USC students near campus ten days ago. It was standing room only at most of the over 150 panel discussions, some of which will be covered tomorrow; bustling crowds of families enjoyed the children’s area where possibly the longest line for the weekend’s book signings went to Judy Blume; and the predicted heat wave never materialized.
The festival also presented the 32nd annual Book Prizes, awarding Clarence Darrow:Attorney for the Damned by John A. Farrell (Biography), Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Current Interest), and Luminarium by Alex Shakar (Fiction), among many others. The full list of winners can be seen here.