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L.A. Times Festival of Books promotes active readers

Brenna von den Benken
Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California celebrated the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, one of the Southland’s most cherished and engaging weekend celebrations, with its 16 anniversary on April 30 and May 1 at USC’s University Park Campus.

Angelenos of all ages interested in famous authors, celebrity appearances, speaker panels, superstar chefs and local musicians dwelled at the celebration’s debut in downtown, with a successful increased attendance due to USC’s central location, proximity to public transportation, abundant parking and newly enhanced campus facilities.

“We are thrilled that the Festival has a new home here,” President of USC C. L. Max Nikias said. “The Times Festival of Books is known for sparking just the right kind of intellectual curiosity and energy that is at the heart of USC’s mission.”

The Festival is a great fit for USC’s world-class faculty authors and writing programs, as well as for their literacy work in the community, according to Nikias.

USC and the Los Angeles Times are two of the oldest institutions in Los Angeles, and their joint effort for this event helped boost the intellectual life of Southern California.

The festival hosted panel discussions, musical performances and exhibitions featuring their faculty and programs, held at locations across campus.

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books was created in 1996 to promote literacy, celebrate the written word, and bring together those who create books with the people who love to read them.

Between 130,000 and 140,000 people attend the event annually.

The festival was comprised of seven outdoor stages in the center of USC’s campus surrounded by hundreds of exhibitors and a variety of dining options.

Dozens of indoor venues hosted lively panel discussions on everything from the Middle East and the economy to the bright lights of Hollywood.

Event highlights include the Target Children’s Stage, which featured appearances by Mo Willems Jamie Lee Curtis Mallory Lewis and Lambchop The Okee Dokee Brothers and R. L. Stine the Cooking Stage showcasing Duff Goldman from “Ace of Cakes” and master chef Thomas Keller the YA Stage with such Young Adult luminaries as Gayle Forman Judy M. Blundell and D.J. McHale and The Times editorial staff also made appearances on the Los Angeles Times Stage and Pavilion.

Celebrities such as Rainn Wilson, best known for the television series, “The Office,” and 1980s pop sensation Rick Springfield were among the many popular appearances at the festival.

“When I heard that my favorite author Ned Vizzini was going to make an appearance, I freaked,” attendee Valerie Bueno said. “There was just so much gathered intellectual energy floating about in the atmosphere, it felt somewhat illegal.”

“It was a great the opportunity to discover new favorites and reconnect with cherished classics,” attendee Alyssa Reyes said. “The diversity of knowledge was victorious.”

Brenna von den Benken can be reached at

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