Singer Meghan Trainor, Oscar-winning actor Laura Dern, California representative Katie Porter and former Georgia lawmaker Stacey Abrams are among the authors set to appear at this year’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.
On Wednesday, The Times unveiled its lineup for the annual literary celebration, scheduled for April 22 and 23, which will feature more than 500 writers, musicians and artists spread out across USC’s 226-acre campus.
Following last year’s return to a fully in-person festival after the pandemic forced such events to go virtual in 2020, organizer Ann Binney, associate director of events at The Times, said this year’s festival will be “striving to bring it even further back into normalcy and making it even better than it was last year.”
To that effect, the festival will feature its typical programming, with varied high-profile public figures and celebrated authors headlining events, but also new offerings, such as a partnership with Apple TV+, which will present a screening of an episode of its new mystery thriller series “The Last Thing He Told Me,” starring Jennifer Garner and based on the novel by Laura Dave.
Both Garner and Dave will be on hand to discuss the series and book on the festival’s main stage.
As part of The Times’ “Ideas Exchange” series, Dern and her mother, actor Diane Ladd, will talk about their upcoming book, “Honey, Baby, Mine: A Mother and Daughter Talk Life, Death, Love (and Banana Pudding),” a collection of their conversations together.
In addition, Grammy-winner Trainor, who is expecting her second child this summer, will present her debut book, “Dear Future Mama: A TMI Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Motherhood from Your Bestie.” After a panel discussion, the “Made You Look” performer will be on hand to sign copies of the book.
Other notable figures set to participate include folk music icon Joan Baez, Broadway royals Leslie Odom Jr. and Idina Menzel, singer-songwriter Margo Price and actor Judy Greer. Porter, who is running for a California U.S. Senate seat, will discuss her memoir, “I Swear: Politics Is Messier Than My Minivan.” Abrams will share her new semi-autobiographical children’s book, “Stacey’s Remarkable Books,” a followup to her New York Times bestseller “Stacey’s Extraordinary Words.”
“She was a writer before a politician — a romance novelist,” Binney said, referring to the romantic suspense fiction Abrams wrote under her pen name, Selena Montgomery. (More recently she wrote a legal thriller, “While Justice Sleeps,” under her own name.) “She’s been in this world for a long time.”
Headlining the festival’s L.A. Times Book Club event is Gabrielle Zevin, who will discuss her hit novel, “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow.”
Other celebrated authors on the schedule include Roxane Gay, Adriana Trigiani, Walter Mosley, Jane Smiley, Anna Todd, Lois Lowry and Kate DiCamillo. Dozens of panels will also host Rebecca Makkai, Dave Eggers, Jess Row, Andrew Sean Greer, TC Boyle, Susan Straight, Tess Gunty, Pico Iyer and Fatima Asghar, among many other literary authors.
Another stage will feature the ongoing Times series Ask a Reporter, in which reporters, editors, photographers and podcasters talk about their work and answer reader questions. Staff set to appear include Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida as well as Laurie Ochoa, Samantha Melbourneweaver and Gustavo Arellano, who will be hosting a live taping of The Times podcast series “Masters of Disasters.”
To kick off the festival, the Times will hold a ceremony to hand out Book Prizes for a dozen literary works. The Times will also present the Robert Kirsch Award, for a body of work focused on the American West, to James Ellroy, who is best known for his L.A.-based crime novels such as “L.A. Confidential” and “The Black Dahlia” — both part of his bestselling L.A. Quartet.
Ellroy also has written an investigative memoir, “My Dark Places,” as well as dozens of novels, many of them adapted into films, graphic novels and podcasts. He will join fellow crime novelist Michael Connelly during the festival for a conversation about their work.
The Freedom to Read Foundation, recipients of the Times’ Innovator’s Award, will also take part in the festival. The nonprofit’s work includes protecting the public’s right to access information in libraries and helping provide legal counsel to librarians fighting to preserve their 1st Amendment rights.
A representative from the nonprofit will be in conversation with PEN America and several young adult authors whose books have been banned in multiple states. Bans on books in school districts across the U.S. saw an unprecedented surge in 2022, according to a recent PEN America report.
Their work has “always been important,” Binney said, “but is increasingly important when we’re talking about books and education.”
A further sampling of the 550 participants is listed below:
Annette Chavez Macias
Father Greg Boyle
Holly Goldberg Sloan
J. Ryan Stradal
Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
Lan Samantha Chang
Lynn Steger Strong
María Amparo Escandón
Rabbi Naomi Levy
Robin Coste Lewis
The Lady Gang
Tracey Rose Peyton