Anderson Cooper kicked off the 2016 Public Library Association conference by going back to the place where his standout reporting made him a household name: New Orleans.

In the opening moments of his talk, Cooper took thanked librarians for the 2006 annual conference that the American Library Association held in New Orleans, the first conference to return to the battered city after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "In New Orleans,” Cooper said, “that's something they haven't forgotten. The Librarians coming back."

In a packed auditorium, Cooper’s wide-ranging conversation with Public Libraries' Brendan Dowling, centered mostly on the book he co-wrote with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt: The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss (HarperCollins). The book was officially published this week.

Cooper said that he had always fantasized that his father, writer Wyatt Cooper, who died when he was only ten years old, had left a letter for him. "As I grew older, at every life event, I wished for that letter," he said. This desire to leave nothing unsaid was the impetus for The Rainbow Comes and Goes.

The book, a series of emails between mother and son, began on Vanderbilt's first birthday and last for a year. It was the most important year of his life, Cooper said, changing what he knew about himself.

Cooper went on to regale the crowd with frank stories from his mother's "epic life," including her experiences during her notorious 1934 custody trial, her many well-known lovers, as well as her tremendous successes and tragedies, including the suicide of Carter, Cooper's older bother. He reminisced about his own unique childhood, including modeling at 11, and trips to Studio 54 with his mother and Michael Jackson.

While writing the book illustrated for Cooper how different he and his mother are (she's comfortable in chaos, he craves order and stability) it also pointed out their striking similarity.

"We both have this relentless drive to keep going," he said. His mother lived her life as though she was a bird on a tight rope, whereas he saw himself as a shark, always needing to move ahead to breathe.

The Public Library Association conference runs from April 5 to 9, in Denver, Colo., with some some 8,000 librarians, publishers, expected to attend.