Los Angeles Times Festival of Books returns to USC campus this weekend

A festival of books banner hangs from a light pole.

(Gina Nguyen | Daily Trojan)

The largest book festival in the country, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, is making its annual return to the University of Southern California. The festival will run at the University Park Campus on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

All outdoor events are free. Indoor panel events will require tickets to be purchased beforehand. 

The Festival, which originally started in 1996 held at UCLA, began as a celebration of books and reading. In 2011, disagreements on how the Los Angeles Times and UCLA should share and reduce expenses led to the Festival being relocated to USC, where the Festival has been held ever since. 

“We’ve been super happy on the USC campus,” said Ann Binney, the associate director of events at the L.A. Times, in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “It’s a great location and accessible for people to come from all over the city and accessible by public transportation, which is wonderful. It’s an easily accessible campus once you’re on it and able to navigate it without lots of hills and stairs and so on.”

Last year’s festival was the first held in person since the pandemic, and despite a two-year move to online events, the festival was able to draw in a record 155,000 visitors. 

This year, participants can expect a similar or larger number of visitors, according to Adam Rosen, associate vice president of Cultural Relations & University Events at USC.

The Festival will feature over 500 authors, poets, celebrities, artists and musicians. Some celebrity guests include actors Laura Dern, Matthew Perry and Jennifer Garner, fashion designer Steve Madden, former Georgia Rep. Stacey Abrams, musician Joan Baez, singer Meghan Trainor and Broadway performers Leslie Odom Jr. and Idina Menzel. 

For several months leading up to the Festival, the L.A. Times worked with its contacts in the publishing industry to select a variety of contemporary authors and artists. 

“We have a whole new crop of authors,” Binney said. “Every year it’s new authors, new celebrities, because it’s all based on books that have just been recently published. So it takes a long, long time to put it all together.”

Scheduled events will take place at the multitude of stages set up around campus, including the L.A. Times Main Stage, L.A. Times en Español Stage, YA Stage, Poetry Stage, Children’s Stage, and USC Friends and Neighbors Stage. 

In addition to participating artists and authors, the Festival will include hundreds of exhibitor booths composed of small businesses, book publishing companies and various other foundations and merchants. 

This year’s Festival will feature a new food court area with food trucks, culinary-related booths and a photo booth. The new area also includes visiting departments from the L.A. Times including the food team, freelance team and art department. 

In partnership with the L.A. Times, who plans the event, USC works to integrate the local community into the Festival. 

“There’s so much happening on that side that is really engaging now, not only just businesses that are being brought in to the festival to get to people outside of the local area, but also bringing in the local community to see what else is here,” Rosen said. “There are lots of bookstores and presses that are based locally in Southern California and in L.A. as well that are here exhibiting.”

Annalee Newitz, a journalist and author, spoke of their background and how it led them to participate at this year’s event as a panelist on “Science Fiction: Alternate Worlds.” 

“I’ve always just been a super nerd, and I love science and tech, and I love science fiction, so I feel often like I’ve just been tricking people into letting me write things for money,” Newitz said. “The panel that I’m on this year at the L.A. Times [Festival of Books] is with several other science fiction writers who are also really into worldbuilding and all the intricate research that goes into building a fake world.”

According to Rosen, the Festival offers a wide range of activities that not only can satisfy avid readers but also the general student body and the surrounding L.A. community alike. 

“It’s really about exposing the community … to a festival like this that’s about literacy and reading and community,” Rosen said. “Whether it’s just the food trucks that are there over the weekend that they, too, can go out and participate in or being able to walk into the center of campus and grab a book or, you know, get free [samples] that are always being handed out or just experience the crowds … I think that environment is really exciting for the student population.”