Library of Congress National Book Festival

In an effort to “create great content”, I have been searching for bookish things to do around DC. At the same time, I am a baller on a budget and would like things to be free or cheaper. Enter the Library of Congress National Book Festival

Two friends and I decided to hit the DC Convention Center last Saturday, and check out the festival. Started in 2001 by then-first lady Laura Bush, the Library of Congress National Book Festival is an annual event that brings together best-selling authors and bookworms for author talks, panel discussions, book signings and tons of other activities. The authors scheduled for 2018 had me like


The festival also had books for sale (including some that weren’t yet released), booths for major literary brands, and a CSPAN mini-studio where authors were interviewed throughout the day.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor greets crowd at National Book Fest
Justice Sotomayor working the crowd at the 2018 Library of Congress National Book Festival

“I am only where I am because of books!” 

– Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was at the festival to promote her new children’s book, Turning Pages: My Life Story /Pasando páginas: La historia de mi vida. Listening to Justice Sotomayor discuss the challenges she faced growing up to become the first Latina (and only 3rd woman) appointed to the Supreme Court was very inspiring. Justice Sotomayor wrote this book to help kids understand and face challenges as well as share her love of books. She stated that it’s extremely important to her that her books are published in England and Spanish, at the same time. I loved her insistence that access to her books in Spanish is not an afterthought but a priority. And if you are trying to learn Spanish (or “re-learn” Spanish like I am), she says that reading her books will help, and to “buy both!” Supreme Court Justice, Sales Lady Extraordinaire. After her interview with the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, Justice Sotomayor answered questions from the audience, and walked around while answering them, shaking hands and taking photos with her fans. She appreciated that everyone came out to see her speak, and thought it wasn’t fair that the people in the back of the auditorium couldn’t see her, so she went about fixing that.

“You have to read a lot. Especially as the president.”

Justice Sotomayor with some not so subtle shade
Amy Tan
Author Amy Tan at 2018 national book festival
Author Amy Tan taking questions from the audience

Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club, was the session in between Justice Sotomayor and Madeleine Albright. While I am aware of The Joy Luck Club and it’s importance as both a book and film, I had never read any of Tan’s work. That will change in the very near future. Tan was promoting her memoir “book about writing” Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s MemoirListening to Tan describe events in her life, from the deaths of her brother and father in rapid succession, her mother’s subsequent struggle with mental health and then with Alzheimer’s, to being in NYC walking home from the CNN studios on 9/11 and watching the WTC towers fall, was fascinating. She uses all of these experiences to inform her writing. I didn’t intend to attend this interview, but I am so glad I did.

Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright and David Rubenstein at the National Book Festival
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright is one of my personal heroes, and my primary motivation for attending the National Book Festival. I am a foreign policy junkie, and as a former Ambassador and Secretary of State, Albright has had my dream career. The opportunity to see her speak was worth navigating huge crowds (not my fave) and dealing with out of control children. Albright, promoting her newest book, Fascism: A Warning, was interviewed by gazillionaire financier/philanthropist and National Book Festival Co-Chair, David Rubenstein. They kicked off the interview by chatting about how Albright had come straight from attending Senator McCain’s funeral, and a little bit about her friendship with the late senator. Rubenstein then asked questions that led Albright through her childhood as a diplomat’s daughter and refugee, and her career as a journalist, congressional aide, White House Advisor, ambassador, professor, and 64th Secretary of State. Her story is riveting and awe-inspiring, and she had very humorous anecdotes that she sprinkled throughout the interview. They ended with a discussion on fascism in history, and how there are current leaders today that exhibit the tendencies of fascist regimes. Not exactly a shocker, but Albright is really frickin’ smart and I learned a lot during her interview.

Tips to Survive a Book Festival
Library of Congress National Book Festival haul
Book Haul from the National Book Festival

  • Get there early. We arrived at 10am, and the place was already hopping. By the time we left at 3:30pm, we were basically forced to shove people out of the way to get out of the building. And this was with the exceptionally well run crowd control and organization by the LoC and their partners.
  • Have a plan of attack. Rookies that we were, when we arrived, we went to the exhibit hall and visited vendors and browsed the books for sale before heading to the main hall. If we’d been earlier, we’d have had better seats for Justice Sotomayor’s and subsequent presentations. If we’d been later, we likely wouldn’t have gotten in into the main hall. Luckily, once you were in, you could stay for all the following presentations (and if you are speedy, you can upgrade your seat in between sessions). But if you leave, you have to get in line again. Basically, once you were in, you had to stay in the room to guarantee you got to see the speakers you wanted (bathroom breaks with a hall pass were allowed). Sacrifices are a part of life, and making sure I got to see my girl Madeleine Albright meant I had to miss Ron Chernow’s panel. So pick your number one Must See presentation, and plan for that to knock out most of your day even if the presentation is an hour. And go to the exhibit hall early in the morning or at the end of the day. I’d recommend going at the end of the day so you can make a list of books you want to purchase as you hear authors speak (I wanted to add 3 Amy Tan book to my haul after I was “forced” to attend her presentation to see Madeleine, and wanted to get Justice Sotomayor’s book in English and Spanish to aid in my language learning).
  • Bring a Friend. Sure, having someone to hang out with and chat with is nice. But once inside the main hall, you could only leave and come back if you got a 15 minute “hall pass” to go to the bathroom. Having a buddy means you can hold seats without having to leave an item to hold a seat, and rotate bathroom and food runs. Or someone can do recon for better seats while someone else holds down the ones you have.
  • Bring a backpack and snacks. LoC put the fear of god in us about bag size and security, so I only took a small crossbody bag with “the essentials” (my planner, phone charger, wallet, chapstick and a cardigan #bitcheslovecardigans). This meant I didn’t have a bottle of water, snacks, or a comfortable way to carry my book haul. Apparently, backpacks were allowed, and so was bringing in your own food and beverage. Remember how you were barely allowed to leave the main hall once you got in? This meant I didn’t get lunch, and was so hungry by 3:30 that I had to leave to get food and ended up not staying for Doris Kearns Goodwin. So bring rations to get you through the day.
  • If you are interested in watching any of the interviews, the National Book Festival’s Facebook page posted a video of all the interviews consolidated.

    I really enjoyed my day out at the National Book Festival, and I am already excited for next year’s event. And with some experience under my belt, I will be better prepared for a day at the Convention Center.

    Have you ever been to a book festival?


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    The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
    Published by Harper on September 13, 2016
    Source: Purchased
    Buy on Amazon

    In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be "positive" all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

    For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. "F**k positivity," Mark Manson says. "Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it." In his wildly popular Internet blog, Mason doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected American society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up.

    Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—"not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault." Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.

    There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.


    Bottom Line, Up Front

    I found The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson to be brutally honest, yet hilarious. I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh take on the self-help genre. Instead of telling people they are special and talented, Manson argues that people need to be honest with themselves and be responsible for how they react to the things that happen in their lives. One of my favorite bits in the book is how we are responsible for everything in our lives. Maybe we don’t always have control of what happens to us, but we do control how we interpret and respond to it. I also enjoyed the numerous references to HBO’s The Wire.

    It took me a while to read this. Not because it wasn’t interesting, but because it led to some uncomfortable realizations. More than once I was like “holy schnikes! He’s describing me!” I will need to go back through all the passages I annotated and reflect on some things. If you looking for a different type of self-help book, I highly recommend The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.

    Yeah, But What’s the Writing Like?

    Manson is an excellent writer, and it shows in ‘Subtle Art’. His style is engaging, and funny, but very straight forward. He’s not going to sugar coat the fact that you may not be as talented and deserving of special things as you think you are, just because some inspirational teacher told you that you can be anything you want to be. That is false. I want to be a wizard, and yet that’s never gonna happen. Manson also weaves in funny anecdotes about people in his life who demonstrate the actions he’s currently discussing. No one is left unscathed. 

    Quotes/Favorite Parts

    “The key to a good life is… giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.”

    “If you feel crappy, its because your brain is telling you that there’s a problem that’s unaddressed or unresolved.”

    What are some of your favorite humorous self-help books that I should add to my TBR?

    Cat Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

    A Look Back: August 2018

    – This post may contain affiliate links. This just means that if you click a link and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Your support will help keep this blog up and running, thank you!

    It’s a bit weird writing this August wrap-up with only my introductory post published. But I felt like I had a lot to share and didn’t want to roll items into September’s wrap-up. So let’s get into it, shall we?

    August was a weirdly busy month for me. The first class for my second bachelor’s program ended, and I started my second class. My program is online, so there is a crap ton of reading smooshed into 8 week classes. So far, I am averaging reading 13 non-school related books a month in 2018, and I managed to keep up that pace in August. I’ll be interested to see if I maintain that pace through September and October as I am actually interested in the class readings this term, and will therefore, you know… actually read them.

    My petsitting schedule was insane, but I gotta make that money to keep my kitties supplied with high-quality cat nip, me supplied with books, and my travel fund flush for an upcoming 10 day trip to England. Luckily, they were all cat care, so there was plenty of time to read while dishing out ear scratches.

    This month, I read a total of 15 books, plus 1 DNF. My ARC backlist is obscene, so I focused on knocking some of them off my list (marked with * below), while not adding any more to my request queue (big fat fail). It’s good to have goals, but I’m not gonna beat myself up for not meeting it. Note, many of these titles will be mentioned in the first Rapid Reviews post next month.

    Mission: Impossible – Fallout

    As long as they keep making Mission: Impossible movies, I will keep seeing them in the movie theater. Fallout was so fantastic I have already pre-ordered the digital release to add to my library.

    Crazy Rich Asians

    I loved Crazy Rich Asians! So much, I am planning to see it again over the weekend. I am planning a book/movie post, so I will cover it a little more in depth then.

    Mad Men (Netflix)

    I watched the first two seasons of Mad Men when they aired while I was in college. I know a lot of people that love this show, so I am attempting to give it another go. I am not binging in the true sense of the word, as I have only made it through a season and a half in the month since I started. 

    Binge Mode: Harry Potter

    Binge Mode is one of my favorite podcasts, and when they announced they would be doing a deep (deeeeeep) dive into the world of Harry Potter, I immediately made “Reread HP (again)” a 2018 reading goal. I spent most of April and May listening to the Stephen Fry narrated audiobooks, a most excellent life choice if I do say so myself. Mallory and Jason take a week (or two for Books 4 and 5, so far) to discuss each novel and corresponding film, covering anywhere from 4-7 chapters an episode, which is released each day. BM:HP is a must listen for any Harry Potter (or Game of Thrones or pop culture) fan.

    Crimetown: The RFK Tapes

    As a history major, I found this podcast fascinating. It covers the information, investigation, trial, and conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. At about 45 minutes an episode, and a 10 episode series, it is very easy to binge this in a couple of days. I think I might be a Kennedy conspiracy theorist now (I am just kidding, but I definitely went down the wikipedia rabbit hole).

    Stuff You Should Know

    SYSK is a great podcast for just amassing random knowledge. Released once or twice a week, each episode is self-contained, so you can listen to the topics that interest you and skip that ones that do not. Some of my favorite episodes include ‘How Search and Rescue Work’, ‘How Tsunamis Work’, ‘SYSK Selects: Who Killed JFK?’ (remember my budding conspiracy theorist tendencies?), and ‘How Polar Bears Work’.

    This Gorgeous Cover of ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love’ from the Crazy Rich Asians Soundtrack

    • Obama’s Summer Reads – Obama’s recommended reads always end up on my TBR. I was super smug when he released the spring reading list, as I had already read several of them.

    How was your August?

    Welcome to I’d Rather Be at Pemberley!

    Welcome to my new little book nook on the internet, I’d Rather Be at Pemberley! Fellow Janeites will recognize the nod to the famous estate from Pride and Prejudice.


    I started this blog for eleventy billion reasons, but I’ll just name a few here:

    1. I read. Like, a lot. I met my original Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 75 books by May, and currently sit at 107 books read at the time of publishing. I updated my goal to 120 books for the year, but I think I will surpass that as well. However, I read at Mach speed, so I rarely process and think and reflect on what I read. I finish a book and move on to the next one. I’m hoping writing my about the feels I have on a given book will help in that arena.

    1a. While I do read a lot, a large majority of my time is spent with romance novels. I have zero shame about this and give zero fucks if you think that makes me a loser. But I do feel like I am missing out on great reads in other genres and want to branch out more. IRBAP will help keep me accountable.

    I’m also participating in the 2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge, and its already helped immensely.

    2. I like to write, but mostly about what I think about things, because my opinions are suuuuuuper important. But I also get asked for book recommendations quite often, and being able to point them to a central place would be nice. I hope I will become a better writer in the process. Additionally, it’ll be be awesome to shared thoughts on review copies of upcoming books that I’ve been given, or giveaways I’ve won.

    3. I want to create the type of book blog that I often wish I could read. That’s to say, I want to read a book blog where the discussion isn’t about life changing themes, or how a character is a metaphor for world peace, but whether the story was interesting, the writing was decent, and whether or not the characters were obnoxious. There’s nothing wrong with bloggers that write deeply analytical reviews of novels (I follow a bunch of them!), but sometimes I just want a down and dirty review about whether I should dedicate a few hours of my precious free time to a book. That’s what I hope to do here.

    4. My blog’s title does imply that I have a bit of a wanderlusty attitude. Given that I travel quite a bit, personally and professionally, there will be the occasional travel post that pops up here. But my main intent here is to share my thoughts on the books I read (or listen to!).

    I plan to post every Tuesday and Friday. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be finalizing the layout and some of the finer details. But there is never a perfect time to start these types of things, so I figured “Melissa, just fucking post something.” So it’s back to reading I go, and I’ll see y’all soon!

    What kind of content would you like to see on I’d Rather Be at Pemberley?