Texas Book Festival: 2015


Last weekend, the Texas Book Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary. This free event was started by Laura Bush back when George W was governor. She is still the honorary chair. Authors at this year’s festival included Margaret Atwood, John Sununu, and Lemony Snicket.


Centered around the Texas State Capitol, the book festival also took over nearby churches, venues, and streets. This year there were several improvements in the layout of the outdoor spaces. The children’s area was moved to a more prominent spot on Congress Avenue. The huge vendor tents were reorganized with two aisles to reduce congestion. I especially liked the new 11th Street location for the C-SPAN tent because it was quieter and easier to hear the speakers. And I bet the C-SPAN folks were happy to have the picturesque capitol building in the background of their photographs.


For the first time in many years, I could only attend the festival on Sunday. Most of my time was spent in the C-SPAN tent, except for occasional forays to the cooking and vendor tents…


Give Us the Ballot: Ari Berman investigated recent setbacks in voting rights in his new book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. He explained that he became interested in this topic back in 2011, when states started implementing more and more voting restrictions. He explained the Voting Rights Act of 1965, why updates were needed in the 1970s, and how a 2013 Supreme Court decision allowed states such as Texas to implement recent voter id laws.


Silicon Valley ATX: The title of this session seemed confusing (it wasn’t really about technology in Austin), but both authors were interesting.

Best known for creating the phrase, “The Internet of Things,” Kevin Ashton discussed his new book, How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery. He noted that creativity is usually the result of one thing leading to another and that all people have an innate ability to be creative.

Ashlee Vance has written Elon Musk: Telsa, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. As a technology reporter in Silicon Valley (CA), Ashlee first did a cover story on Elon Musk. He followed that with a book proposal that Elon rejected. Ashlee wrote the book anyway, and Elon eventually cooperated to some extent. Ashlee said that he admires Elon’s vision and attention to details.


In-between sessions, I paid a quick visit to the nearby Cooking Tent and watched a demonstration sponsored by Food52. After pondering roasted sweet potatoes for a few minutes, I headed back to the C-SPAN tent.


Who is “LBJ” to You?  I didn’t quite understand the title of this session either (Did “You” refer to the authors?), but the LBJ connection between these two was quite apparent.

Betty Boyd Caroli said that her book, Lady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage that Made a President, will be released on October 27. While doing research, Betty was surprised to learn how much Lady Bird had contributed to LBJ’s presidency. She noted that Lady Bird was the first First Lady to employ a large (20+) staff, including her own press secretary (Liz Carpenter).

Mark Updegrove, Director of the LBJ Presidential Library, spoke about last year’s Civil Rights Summit, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He shared photographs from the summit, noting that four presidents had attended: Barak Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter. The LBJ Library has now published a book about the event: Destiny of Democrary: The Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library.

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