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A Record-Breaking Year: Top 10 Author Events of 2012

December 7, 2012

Whew! It’s been our busiest year ever for author events. The library hosted 84 authors and welcomed 14,000 audience members to these programs–record-breaking numbers by far. As we wrap up the last week of author event programming, we look back on this stellar year and, in the spirit of all the Best Book lists coming out for the holiday shopping season, present our TOP TEN AUTHOR EVENTS OF 2012!



Outstanding Missouri Ozarks fiction writer Daniel Woodrell was the Distinguished Litearary Achievement author for the 2012 Read St. Louis program. Woodrell discussed his latest short story collection, “The Outlaw Album,” and read from his highly-anticipated forthcoming novel. If you haven’t read Woodrell’s totally stunning “Winter’s Bone” (or seen the Academy Award-winning film), get to it immediately! Woodrell is one of the most atmospheric, character-driven, and lyrical novelists at work today. And he has a huge following of readers–everyone from suspense fans, to literature students, to rock stars, and presidents (Barack Obama included Woodrell’s “Bayou Trilogy” at the top of his summer reading list).



“Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President,” bestselling historian Candice Millard’s account of James Garfield’s unlikely rise to the presidency, assasination attempt and subsequent horribly botched medical treatment (his ultimate killer), was one of the most gripping non-fiction books of the year. Millard’s event at the library was our most well-attended and talked about history program of the year. We were all blown away by this vivacious author’s ability to bring to life this little-known moment from American history and make it so incredibly thrilling.



We’ve hosted great adult events and great teen events, but when internationally bestselling novelist Jodi Picoult visited the library with her 16-year-old daughter, Samantha Van Leer, to discuss their quirky and imaginative co-written fantasy novel, “Between the Lines,” we had the perfect combo event. Readers of all ages packed the library’s main reading room to meet the sensational Jodi Picoult, but the scene stealer of the evening was teen Sammy who was more poised and charming than some of the Pulitzer Prize-winning authors we’ve hosted.


Cohen 2

Anyone who has watched Andy Cohen’s late-night Bravo talk show “What What Happens: Live” knows this guest is pure fun! Cohen, a St. Louis native and the Executive Vice President of Programming for Bravo (and therefore the mastermind behind “Top Chef” and the Real Housewives franchise), discussed his memoir “Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture.” This was by far the most energetic, spectacular night of the year–and the first event ever where the hundreds of people lined up outside the library shared their favorite reality tv moments along with their bedazzled flasks of cosmopolitans.



Preschoolers, parents, and educators–especially librarians–can’t get enough of the hilarious picture books created by Mo Willems. The library first hosted Mo in 2008 and the event holds the record as the best attended children’s author event at the Library. For his 2012 event, we decided to partner with our neighbor MICDS and host the event in their spacious Danforth Chapel. The event “sold out” in days as families gobbled up the free tickets–and Mo certainly didn’t disappoint the hundreds of fans that came out to see him. He kept everyone–young and old–howling with laughter as he shared his new book, “The Duckling Gets a Cookie?!”–starring his most lovable character Pigeon–and several other books in his Elephant and Piggy and Knuffle Bunny series.



The biggest event of the year for Read St. Louis, our popular community reads program, featured Anne Lamott, the inspiring and often outrageous memoirist who shared her new book on entering the world of grandparenthood,”Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son,” co-written with her son Sam Lamott (who Lamott fans will remember as the star of Lamott’s perennially popular book about parenthood, “Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year”). Anne and Sam shared stories from their own family life, advice on raising kids, and most imporatantly, their reflections on loving through the chaos we often call family. This warm and entertaining evening was the most heartfelt and touching program of the year.



He was a role model to millions of baseball fans during his days as the ‘Iron Man’ of the Baltimore Orioles and now he’s a role model to millions of young readers as he pens fantastic kids’ books about the positive influence of youth sports. Baseball hall-of-famer Cal Ripken, Jr. inspired over 600 fans–young and old–with a discussion of “Cal Ripken Jr.’s All Stars: Super-Sized Slugger,” a book that closely draws on his own childhood experiences with bullying and how a great coach and a love of baseball carried him through to one of the most spectacular careers in sports history.



The library welcomed back one of our all-time favorite authors, comic genius and young adult fantasy writer Eoin Colfer. Eoin visited as the finale event for his “Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian” tour which concludes his sensationally popular series about teenage criminal mastermind, Artemis Fowl. As this was his fourth visit to the library, Eoin has built up a tremendous following in St. Louis and young readers turned out in huge numbers to say good-bye to their favorite character. In an interview in Publisher’s Weekly, Eoin said, “I think my absolutely favorite moment was the swell of emotion that rose up in the crowd at St. Louis County Library, where we said goodbye to Artemis for the last time.”


la russa

The award for BIGGEST event of the year goes to St. Louis sports hero Tony La Russa who visited the library to discuss his memoir, “One Last Strike: Fifty Years in Baseball, Ten and a Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season.” Shedding the gruff demeanor we often saw on the field, Tony was charming, funny, and eloquent as he shared his favorite baseball stories, highlights from the Cardinals unbelievable 2011 championship season, and his decision to retire. His memory and baseball knowledge are phenomenal, as he proved that he can recall every play and decision from his 50-year career.  He was also amazingly friendly with the over 900 fans–many of whom waitied until close to midnight to get their books signed and shake the hand of this baseball legend. And, of course, showing why St. Louis Cardinals’ fans are the best in the world, Tony was greeted with the longest standing ovation in library history!



And the award for best event of the year goes to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright! The library was beyond honored to host Sec. Albright for a discussion and signing of her memoir, “Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948.” Sponsored by our prominent Westfall Favorite Author Series, the program was an on-stage interview with St. Louis Public Radios’s Don Marsh. Albright shared personal memories of her childhood in war-torn Czechoslovakia and reflected on the intense emotions she experienced after learning as an adult that several of her relatives had died during the Holocaust. Sec. Albright also took questions from the audience about her illustrious career promoting human rights and peace and offered advice to young people hoping to make a difference in their own lives.


It was a huge challenge to narrow down this year’s events to just the Top 10! Honorable mentions go to the packed house events we hosted with top suspense writers Dennis Lehane and Daniel Silva, the unforgettable evening with  stellar debut novelist Amor Towles (“Rules of Civility”), and the events no one could stop talking about with non-fiction writers Amy Chua and Steven Pinker. Do you have any favorites not mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below.

And thanks to all our audience members who have made this the best year ever!

If you’d like to see more photos from these events and more, visit our flickr page.

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