Every spring, the USC campus is filled with food trucks, performances and one other distinguishing presence: book nerds. On April 22 and 23, community members, authors, and students will gather for the Los Angeles Festival of Books.
With its post-pandemic debut last year, the L.A. Festival of Books presented by the L.A. Times is returning once again to the USC campus with several guest speakers, including Leslie Odom Jr., Laura Dern and Meghan Trainor.
“There are just so many things, there’s so many students and so many different interests,” said T.C. Boyle, distinguished professor emeritus of English. “Of course if you have favorite authors, it is so interesting to see them. We all want to have some insight into the person who created this, who turned us on and touched us deeply.”
The festival, which started in 1996, has been held on USC’s campus since 2011, previously being hosted at UCLA.
It was started with a simple goal: “Bring together the people who create books with the people who love to read them,” according to the festival’s website. The festival will take place on April 22 and 23, with nearly 250 events scheduled across the two days.
“It’s much more a community based thing here at USC because all the people from the neighborhood come … and it’s all very exciting,” Boyle said. “It’s a great thing. I go to a lot of book festivals around the world, and this is the best and my favorite.”
The weekend kicks off at 10 a.m. on Saturday with a performance from the Trojan Marching Band. Some of the other event highlights for the weekend include a panel with the executive editor of the L.A. Times Kevin Merida.
There will also be a conversation with Matthew Perry about his new book, “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” and a panel with Jeff Pearlman and Jason Reid about their respective books about athletes.
Pearlman has written several best-selling books about the NFL, NBA and MLB, and Jason Reid recently wrote “The Rise of the Black Quarterback: What It Means for America,” which was released in August 2022.
Emily Starr, a USC sophomore studying political science and Spanish, was a volunteer at the festival last year.
Starr was in charge of welcoming people in as they entered. As a self-proclaimed avid book lover, Starr recounts loving the events that took place last year and walking around the book-filled campus.
“It was really fun how many families were there, and there are specific sections for different interests which I thought was really cool,” Starr said. “It just feels like one massive Barnes and Noble but in a really fun and interactive way and you get to meet the authors and I think it’s just a really cool space.”
Adam Rosen, USC’s vice president of cultural relations and university events, has been attending the festival for nearly 13 years. Rosen’s main role in coordinating the festival specifically is to work with the L.A. Times and decide on appropriate dates to hold the event.
For people who have never attended the festival and plan on doing so this year, Rosen would advise to see everything it has to offer from different authors there, celebrity guests and booths.
“There’s so much in the booths, and it changes every year,” Rosen said. “Depending on where your interests are, whether it’s comic books, graphic novels or fiction, there’s so much tucked into every corner of the university.”
In the time the festival has been held at USC, the community on campus and in the surrounding area have embraced the event as an annual tradition. Rosen says the festival has become so well-known that it draws crowds from outside of L.A. that include people from San Diego, Santa Barbara and even overseas.
“I think the reason that the university really wanted to hold the festival here was to bring in the community,” Rosen said. “There’s so much you can do at the festival and so much that is tied to what I think we as a university stand for when we talk about learning and literacy.”