By Tessa Raebeck
With bookstores closing their doors nationwide, one event continues to honor the feeling of a hardcover in your hand and the smell of fresh pages, rather than the glare of yet another screen. The 10th Annual Authors Night at East Hampton Library gathers a collection of over 100 celebrated authors in all genres — and thousands of their books — under one tent.
The library’s largest fundraising event, Authors Night started in 2005 with a few local authors, and has quickly grown to include some of the top writers from around the world. In previous years, the number of participants swelled to several hundred, but the library has scaled back to around 100 to “keep the focus on quality rather than quantity,” PR representative Keri Lamparter said.
On Saturday, August 9 at 5 p.m. at Gardiner Farm in East Hampton, newcomers and longtime participants, writers of cookbooks and suspense thrillers, and winners of Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Awards will sign books and talk shop with an expected 2,500 attendees.
“It’s the hugest book singing you’ve ever seen,” Ms. Lamparter said.
James McBride will sign copies of “The Good Lord Bird,” a comedic novel about the life of notorious abolitionist John Brown that won the 2013 National Book Award.
“I wanted to do an event that was book related and not just a dinner party or not just a gala, to celebrate the library,” said Sheila Rogers, who started Authors Night 10 years ago and remains on board as an event co-chair (and is currently unable to put down “The Good Lord Bird.”) “and [also] really engage the authors that are in our community. Then we expanded to authors from all over the world.”
Most of the writers share a personal connection to the East Hampton Library and many of the books being shared Saturday were written in the library’s study carrels.
Landscape historian and Sag Harbor resident Mac Griswold did the research for her biography about the Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island, “The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island,” at the library.
Broadcast journalist and author Lynn Sherr, who has written several books on prominent female American figures like Susan B. Anthony, lives in East Hampton. She will bring her latest book, “Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space,” published this year, to Authors Night.
“With every book, she makes sure that the East Hampton Library gets a copy of her book—and we’re so happy to have her,” Ms. Rogers said.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner and part-time East Hampton resident Bob Caro, “the most wonderful author,” according to Ms. Rogers, is returning this year with a selection of his work. Best known for his biographies, the journalist and author will sign copies of “The Power Broker,” his 1974 biography of Robert Moses, who planned much of New York City, and “The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” a five-volume (four of which are written thus far) biography of the former president.
“They’re big books,” said Ms. Rogers, “they’re not a weekend read at the beach. You really learn something from these books and you learn something by going to a dinner party when he speaks, because he is probably the most knowledgeable person about Lyndon Johnson that exists on the planet.”
For an additional price, ticket holders can attend private dinner parties with a selection of authors at homes across the East End. With dinners at 32 private homes, it is “the largest simultaneous dinner party in East Hampton happening all at one time,” Ms. Lamparter said.
With every single book donated by its publishing company, the proceeds from Authors Night account for over 10-percent of the library’s operating budget.
“It’s really great because all of the proceeds go to the library and, obviously, the library is a non-profit and a really great cause,” Ms. Lamparter said. “And it also speaks to the literary tradition out here, the artists/writers literary tradition.”
“The most exciting thing,” added Ms. Rogers, “is really seeing how the writers feel about the event, how they love it, how important it is for them to get this exposure—to be part of it and to support the library. For me, it’s all about supporting the East Hampton Library.”
The book signing and cocktail reception will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Gardiner Farm, located at 36 James Lane in East Hampton. Tickets are $100. Dinner parties begin at 8 p.m. across the East End. Tickets include entry to the earlier book signing reception and range in price from $250 to $2,500. To purchase tickets and find more information, visit authorsnight.org/info.html.