Smithsonian Libraries 50th Birthday: A Tribute from Great Authors!
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Smithsonian Libraries being united under one umbrella.
To celebrate this event in an exciting and original way, I invited famous authors to say “Happy 50th Birthday” to the Smithsonian Libraries, and asked each to speak for a few minutes about why he or she loves libraries.
My wonderful ‘film crew’ were the co-producers of the late-great Sirius XM Book Channel: Kim Alexander and Maggie Linton. This year, we three together have had so much fun (and so many surprises) being first to hear the spontaneous recollections and heartfelt tributes of so many individual authors to their love of libraries.
I hope you enjoy these as much as we do! -Katherine Neville
New York Times bestselling author R.L. Stine has sold over 400 million books. Stine created his world-renowned “Goosebumps” series in 1992, followed by a Goosebumps TV show, which became the #1 kids’ show in America for three years in a row (now seen on Netflix) and a major motion picture starring Jack Black in 2015. There are now over 130 titles in the “Goosebumps” series.
Stine tells us about an early memory of a librarian who guided him from comic books to the novels that “turned [him] into a reader… and changed [his] life.”
The brilliant and talented Lee Child wishes the Smithsonian Libraries a Happy 50th Birthday and shares his beautiful childhood memories of spending time in libraries. Lee Child is the #1 New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of the Jack Reacher thrillers (of his 23 Jack Reacher thrillers, 13 have reached the New York Times #1 position).
Child shares his earliest memories of the “little wooden hut” that was his first childhood library, and then the clever system they established in their home that allowed his family to carry home plenty of books each week.
Maggie Linton, Rita Dove, Kim Alexander, and Katherine Neville
The next featured author in our celebration of the Smithsonian Libraries’ 50th Anniversary is the brilliant and talented Rita Dove. Dove is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet and author and has served as United States Poet Laureate, special consultant in poetry for the Library of Congress, and Poet Laureate of Virginia.
Dove tells us about her early memories in libraries, wandering through the stacks: “…and to this day, if I go in to a library, my heart kind of starts to just open up, and I feel like I’m at home, I’ve come home, and my home is the world.” -Rita Dove
Margot Lee Shetterly
The exceptional Margot Lee Shetterly is the next author to be featured in our Smithsonian Libraries’ 50th Anniversary Author Series. Shetterly wrote the #1 NY Times Bestselling book (which inspired the movie) “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.”
Shetterly is also the founder of “The Human Computer Project,” which aims to collect the names and accomplishments of the women who worked at NASA and NACA as computers, mathematicians, scientists and engineers from the 1930s to 1980s.
Next, my good friend and bestselling novelist David Baldacci shares his 50th birthday wishes for the Smithsonian Libraries and why he loves libraries.
David discusses the amount of time he’s spent poring through library records for research, his personal efforts to build a public library in his community, and why libraries are a crucial “bastion of Democracy.”
The brilliant Annette Gordon-Reed, winner of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, is the next author featured in our 50th Anniversary Celebration for the Smithsonian Libraries.
“Libraries brought a new world to me, they opened up so many vistas of opportunity. They made me dream about becoming a lawyer. They made me dream about becoming a writer. The books that I found there told me how to do those kinds of things, and they transported me.” -Annette Gordon-Reed
As the first author ever invited to the Smithsonian Libraries Board, I’ve now served for almost 8 years! In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Libraries joining under one umbrella, I’m asking 50 authors to say Happy Birthday to the Libraries and share their thoughts on libraries, here’s mine!
My friend, fellow author, and fellow board member of the Smithsonian Libraries, Steve Berry, shares his birthday wishes for the institution. Steve also describes why libraries are important to him and his writing practice. Steve also led a tour of the Smithsonian Castle and was interviewed with me on Author Imprint, with our colleague Jeffery Deaver.
“Libraries, for me, also hold a special place, it’s where books first came alive…” -Steve Berry
Next in our series is my wonderful friend and colleague Jeffery Deaver. Jefferey and I are among the initial 32 sponsoring founders of International Thriller Writers and have worked together in a variety of colorful venues. Jefferey talks about growing up as a ‘nerd’ and his love of libraries.
We also were recently interviewed with our friend Steve Berry (also an ITW founder) by Maggie Orton of Author Imprint, in which we discuss the Smithsonian Libraries Adopt-a-Book program, the difference between mysteries and thrillers, and more.
Walter Mosley is the author of more than 43 critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 23 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation, among other publications. Mosely is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy, Grandmaster of Mystery Writers of America and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Carmen Agra Deedy
The marvelous Carmen Agra Deedy, NY Times bestselling children’s book writer, shares her earliest memories of reading stories and spending time in libraries. We met with Carmen in the reading room of the Cullman Library (Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History), which houses the Smithsonian’s collection of rare books about anthropology and the natural sciences.
“[The library] became not just a sanctuary, but a place where I could feed an insatiable hunger, to know everything I could know, to learn everything I could learn… I’ve loved libraries ever since.” -Carmen Agra Deedy
Adriana Trigiani is beloved by millions of readers around the world for her novels. Her recent novel, Kiss Carlo, was a The New York Times bestseller. Trigiani’s books have been translated in 36 countries around the world.
Trigiani shares her first memories of getting her library card, waiting for the Book-Mobile to come down the mountain, and all the librarians she met and was guided by along the way.
“Libraries are everything to me. I think I described it in Big Stone Gap, the Book-Mobile, like it was a magical coach that was bringing knowledge and wisdom and any questions you have, answered, in books.” -Adriana Trigiani
New York Times bestselling author David Morrell wrote “First Blood,” the award-winning novel in which Rambo was created. Morrell was a Co-Founding President of International Thriller Writers.
An Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity nominee, Morrell is the recipient of three Bram Stoker awards and the prestigious Thriller Master award from the International Thriller Writers organization. His latest novel is the highly praised Victorian mystery/thriller, “Murder as a Fine Art.”
New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham has written more than a hundred novels. She’s a winner of the RWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Thriller Writers’ Silver Bullet. She is an active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America. Graham has written over 200 novels and has 60 million books in print.
Both a novelist and a historian, Daniel Stashower is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for “Teller of Tales”—his biography of Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle—and for his editing of “Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters” with frequent collaborator Jon Lellenberg. Stashower’s work on Conan Doyle has also secured him the Anthony Award for Best Critical Work and two Agatha Awards for Best Nonfiction, from the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention and Malice Domestic.
Donna Lucey is a New York Times bestselling author and scholar. She is the recipient of two NEH grants and was a 2017 writer-in-residence at Edith Wharton’s The Mount.
Donna authored the bestseller “Archie and Amélie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age.” Her latest book, winner of the Art in Literature Award, is “Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas.” Previous works include “I Dwell in Possibility: Women Build a Nation, 1600 to 1920” and the award-winning “Photographing Montana 1894–1928: The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron.”
Gayle Lynds is the New York Times bestselling author of ten award-winning international espionage novels – spy thrillers. Lynds was a Co-Founding President of International Thriller Writers. Her latest, “The Assassins,” won the Founder’s Award for Best Novel from the Military Writers Society of America. Publishers Weekly lists her book “Masquerade” among the top ten spy novels of all time.
James Rollins is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of international thrillers, translated into more than forty languages. He is the author of thirteen thrillers in the popular Sigma Force series, including “Sandstorm,” “The Skeleton Key,” and “The Demon Crown.” In each novel, acclaimed for its originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets—and he does it all at breakneck speed and with stunning insight.
Jan Karon is the New York Times bestselling author of the Mitford novel series featuring Father Timothy Kavanagh, an Episcopal priest, and the fictional village of Mitford. Set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Karon’s Mitford books include “At Home in Mitford” and “Light from Heaven.” The Father Tim Novels include “Home to Holly Springs” and “In the Company of Others,” set in County Sligo, Ireland. There are over 40 million Mitford and Father Tim novels, childrens books, and CDs in print. In 2015, Karon was awarded the Library of Virginia’s Literary Lifetime Achievement Award.
photo: Kim Alexander
Immediately after we filmed my marvelous friend Brad Meltzer for the Smithsonian Libraries, his latest book hit #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list. More news from Brad, his delightful children’s book series is being turned into a TV show.
The marvelous Louis Bayard wishes the Smithsonian Libraries a happy 50th anniversary and shares why he believes libraries are “a distillation of the democratic experience.”
Louis Bayard is a New York Times notable author and has been nominated for both the Edgar® and Dagger awards. He is also a nationally recognized essayist and critic whose articles have appeared in publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.
Next up wishing the Smithsonian Libraries a happy fiftieth is the wonderful Raymond Benson. Benson shares his earliest memories in his hometown library in Odessa, Texas – including a presidential handshake!
Since his first book was published in 1983, Jon Land has written twenty-eight novels, seventeen of which have appeared on national bestseller lists. He began writing technothrillers before they were popularized by Tom Clancy, and his strong prose, easy characterization, and commitment to technical accuracy have made him a pillar of the genre.
The marvelous Lisa Gardner sends the Smithsonian Libraries her best birthday wishes and shares how libraries were a crucial element of how she became a published author. Lisa Gardner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty novels, including “Look for Me” and “The Neighbor,” which won the International Thriller of the Year Award.
New York Times bestselling author Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 37 languages, with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her eighteen novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated “Cop Town.”
Marcia Talley is the Agatha and Anthony award-winning mystery novelist of “Daughter of Ashes” and thirteen previous mystery novels featuring Maryland survivor and sleuth, Hannah Ives. A former librarian, she has also written numerous short stories and two collaborative novels. Marcia is past President of Sisters in Crime International, serves on the board of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, and is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association (UK) and the Authors’ Guild of America.
James Grady is a New York Times and #1 International best-selling author of thriller, police procedural, and espionage novels. He is most well-known for “Six Days of the Condor,” which was adapted to film as “Three Days of the Condor” starring Robert Redford in 1975.
Henry Wiencek, a nationally prominent historian, journalist, and writer, is the author of several books, including “The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White,” which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1999, and, most recently, “Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves.” Wiencek’s work has encompassed historically significant architecture, the Founding Fathers, various topics relating to slavery, and the Lego company.
Smithsonian Libraries and Me:
Eight years ago, I became the first author ever invited onto the Smithsonian Libraries’ Advisory Board. (We have 21 fabulous libraries, with millions of rare books – all hidden within each Smithsonian Museum and Research Center, from the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in NY, all the way to our Tropical Research Center at the Panama Canal. All these libraries and their books belong to us, the American People.)
I soon invited onto our board my friend, and library-loving author, Steve Berry, former co-president of the organization that we both helped found: International Thriller Writers. Over these past six years, Steve, his wife Elizabeth, and their ‘History Matters’ foundation, have raised money and visibility for the Smithsonian Libraries in myriad creative ways. (Steve wrote a book, The Lost Order, set in the Smithsonian Libraries and and they led a fundraising tour through the secret passages of the Smithsonian Castle.)