Texas Book Festival: 2018

The 2018 Texas Book Festival was bigger and better than ever. This free annual event benefits Texas libraries. The Festival was primarily held in the Texas State Capitol and under large tents in the surrounding streets. Some of the more popular sessions were located in the nearby Paramount Theater and First United Methodist Church. Once again, the CSPAN tent was set up on 12th Street with a view of the Capitol building in the background. The Children and Young Adult tents stretched southward on Congress Avenue for several blocks. The weekend weather was beautiful. The Festival was crowded on Saturday, but not so much on Sunday. Here’s who I saw at this year’s Texas Book Festival:

Crimes of the Century
Moderator: Scott Montgomery

Authors Steven Saylor and Lou Berney both write historical thrillers. Saylor has been writing a series of crime fiction novels that are set in ancient Rome. His latest book, Throne of Caesar, is about the assassination of Caesar. Saylor said that he loves all aspects of research and writing. Berney’s book, November Road, is set around the JFK assassination. His biggest challenge was writing in the voice of 1963.

Presidents of War with Michael Beschloss
Moderator: Mark Updegrove

Author Michael Beschloss’ latest book, Presidents of War, is focused on wars with large numbers of casualties. He said that Lincoln was the best president during war time: “We should want a war president like Lincoln because he understood the cost of war.” He commented that, while FDR could have done more about the Holocaust and Japanese American interments, he was generally honest with the public. Beschloss felt that Woodrow Wilson was one of the worst presidents of war. He lamented that Truman set a bad example when he did not request a War Declaration for Korea because no subsequent President has requested one.

Earth and Beyond: A Conversation with Scott Kelly
Moderator: Mark Bailey

Scott Kelly’s memoir is called Endurance: My Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery. Even though he was not a good student, Kelly was inspired by the book, The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe to become an astronaut. His twin brother and fellow astronaut, Mark, was a more motivated student. Scott lived at the International Space Station for a record 340 days. He said that he developed “baby feet” not walking on them due to weightlessness. Upon his return to earth, scientists were surprised that his DNA had actually changed. What is it like to blast off? “You put a lot of faith in people you never met.”

Polar Adventures with David Grann
Moderator: John Pipkin

David Grann is the author of Killer of the Flower Moon. His newest book, The Whitest Darkness, is about Henry Worsley, who was successful in his 2008 quest to march to the South Pole. However, he died while trying to walk alone across Antarctica in 2015. Grann wryly noted that Worsley’s hero was Ernest Henry Shackleton who famously said, “Better a live donkey than a dead lion.” when failing to reach the South Pole. Grann said that he is drawn to writing about losing causes and people who are very different from him.

Ticker: The Making of the First Artificial Heart
Moderator: Kate Roderman

Mimi Swartz began the conversation by giving two answers: “I don’t know if Beto is going to win.” and “I don’t know why Trump doesn’t have a heart attack.” Her latest book, Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart, follows five surgeons in Houston who researched and improved techniques for heart surgery. She explained that heart surgery is relatively recent procedure which only started during World War II. Heart transplants are now fairly routine. Due to the enormous waiting list for human hearts, research has now been focused on creating an implantable artificial heart. Human trials with a new implanted heart should start this year.

A Baker’s Journey Cooking Demonstration

Martin Phillip demonstrated how to make ginger scones. His book is called Breaking Bread: A Baker’s Journey Home in 75 Recipes. No samples.

Into The Animal Kingdom: The Photography of Randall Ford
Moderator: Scott David Gordon

Randall Ford has a business degree from Texas A&M, but photography has always been his passion. He is a freelance photographer who works with advertising agencies. He began photographing animals with an assignment for dairy cows. Most of the animals in his current coffee-table book, The Animal Kingdom, came from zoos and animal sanctuaries. His goal was to beautify the animals using glamour shot techniques. His photographs will be on display December 6-13 at the Davis Gallery in Austin.

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