Sunday, May 20, 2012

Book Festivals for Freethinkers

By Gary Berg-Cross

The Baltimore-DC area gets its share of book festivals. The 2 day 2012 National Book Festival on the mall is coming up in September followed by the Baltimore Festival. There is the Virginia Festival of the Book. The Bethesda Literary Festival of 2012 was just held in April and yesterday I attended a grand, free 1 day book festival in Gaithersburg modeled after the National Book Festival with writing workshops, exhibitors, book sales, book signings, children’s entertainment and activities, blue grass music food vendors, and a Coffee House featuring poetry readings and musical entertainment. And yes there were authors. Both national and local authors there to speak under tents to answer questions and sign books. These covered a wide range of topics with a generous number of children's books, memoirs, historical novels e.g. on (J Edgar Hoover), mysteries (Tom Alngleberger), politics & news, sports, comedy, fiction, and non-fiction. The non-fiction category included its share of Science talks. I heard and saw Marc Kaufman’s slide presentation on astrobiology (“First Contact”). He was just one of many fine speakers and I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. What I didn’t find at the Gaithersburg Book Festival were any authors of works on atheism, non-believers, skeptics or secular humanists. To be fair I didn’t find philosophers either, but why not some of our fine “local” non-belief authors like Sean Faircloth or Rob Boston? They are great speakers and have presented to WASH chapters recently. And of course there were authors at the Reason Rally. Perhaps all it would take is a bit of
organizational effort to see if they are interested and then put a word in the organizer’s ear. Anybody out there know Founder and Chair Jud Ashman or the new owners at Politics and Prose that was the official Bookseller?

It’s something to think about for next year. I’m sure that if one of the national figures, like Sam Harris, has a new book there will a chance for one of the big venues, but I sure would like to have a secular voice heard at the local festivals. I imagine that we have enough organizational presence to make this a reality in the DC Baltimore area.

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