Craig Ferguson, host of The Late Late Show, author of the memoir American on Purpose (HarperCollins), and self-titled “illiterate boob” emceed the Author Breakfast on Saturday at the Javits Center’s Special Events Hall, which he jokingly likened to a “café in Paris.” Although the enthusiastic crowd came in off of 11th Avenue and not the Champs Elysées, and ate bagels, not croissants, the conversation among the nonfiction authors—which ranged from the reason writers tell stories to coming to terms with memory—was indeed heady, though lightened with Ferguson’s antics.

Tracy Kidder, author of Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness (Random), said the story, about a young medical student who escaped genocide in Burundi, was one he’d “always wanted to write.” He called the book “a page-turner with the heart in mind,” and mused about the nature of memory. “That sounds a lot better than my book,” quipped Ferguson.

Jeannette Walls began her talk about Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel (Scribner) by thanking readers, whom she said she owes for giving her the topic of Horses, which is about her grandmother’s life. “I’m just a woman with a story. But the telling of [my story] has changed my life. Readers have a passion for understanding themselves; that’s why they read biographies.” Ferguson, who’d already begun reading Horses, said “Jeannette’s book is better than mine—it doesn’t have me in it. There also seems to be an absence of fart jokes.”

Ben Mezrich, author of The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal (Doubleday), drew similarities between his previous book, Bringing Down the House, and his forthcoming work: both concern “geeky, gawky kids” who hit it big with a crackerjack gambling scheme and an outrageously successful social networking site, respectively. Ferguson ended things by noting he was in the wrong business.

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