First Northwest Book Festival Brought Readers by the Thousands

As part of 40 Years of Washington Stories this week, we look at the Studs Terkel-approved Northwest Book Festival, held in Seattle in 1995.

A Program and hand-bound book from the 1995 Northwest Book Festival. Over 23,000 people attended the event.

A program and a hand-bound book produced as part of the 1995 Northwest Book Festival. Over 23,000 people attended the event.

Humanities Washington is celebrating our 40th anniversary with 40 Years of Washington Stories. Each week on Spark, we’ll offer a snapshot from our past, sharing forty years of stories that have helped shape the humanities in Washington state.

Among the 23,000 people crowding into Seattle’s Pier 48 for the first annual Northwest Book Festival in 1995 was American author and historian Studs Terkel. “I’ve attended lots of these book events,” said Studs, “and as far as I’m concerned, yours and San Francisco’s are the best.” Besides headliners like Terkel, the festival included hundreds of booksellers, multiple panel discussions, a chance for kids to bind their own books, and two novels written collaboratively by attendees over the course of the festival. One of these, titled Love and Lust in Lynwood, featured such overwhelmingly romantic lines as “Dang, Anna, I’ve missed you. … Have you lost weight, or is that my astigmatism?”

Organized by the Seattle Times, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and Humanities Washington, the festival was held free and open to the public. By the end of the weekend, however, organizers had received over $28,000 in donations from attendees to organizations dedicated to fighting illiteracy.

The Northwest Book Festival served as a place for the varied members of the region’s rich literary culture to meet, mingle and celebrate. The festival has gone through major changes over the past two decades, but the latest iteration of the festival, Northwest Bookfest, will be held in November in Kirkland.

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