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Festival of Books brings together Betty White, Scooby-Doo and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

By Hayley Fox
Published: Monday, April 23, 2012, at 10:06AM
Hayley Fox/blogdowntown

The Festival of Books attracted more than 100,000 people to USC this weekend.

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books drew more than 100,000 people to the University of Southern California this weekend. The expansive event took over the college campus with book sale booths, author tents, performance stages and panel discussions between an assortment of literary and journalistic powerhouses.

The campus was crowded but not stifling -- and the weather was an ideal sunny and cool. The children's area surrounding the Target stage was bustling on Sunday, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar talking about his kids book, "What Color is My World?" and the Scooby-Doo booth (complete with Mystery Machine van) causing a traffic jam with its popularity.

Betty White spoke on the L.A. Times stage and attracted hundreds of onlookers craning their necks to see and hear her talk about her book, “Betty and Friends: My Life at the Zoo.”

Other festival hits included a large tent by the USC stage that sold graphic novels and comic books, and another which sold baby onesies and toddler tees with slogans on them such as "future writer" or screenprints of classic novel covers like "Charlotte's Web."

Panels ranged in topics from fiction and history to D.I.Y tactics and comedy writing. A lively discussion titled "Food Writing: American Potluck" was moderated by Pulitzer-Prize winning food critic Jonathan Gold and included food writers Gustavo Arellano, Aaron Bobrow-Strain and Jennifer 8. Lee. The three debated the idea of "authentic" ethnic foods in the U.S. and covered everything from the evolution of white bread to the universal disappointment in Tex-Mex cooking.

But one of the most lauded sessions was also one of the most contemplative; "Final Choices: Extending Life or Prolonging Death?" was moderated by the Times' own seasoned columnist, Steve Lopez. The discussion revolved around end-of-life choices and hit particularly close to home for Lopez, who recently chronicled his personal struggle with his father's death in articles for the L.A. Times.

This was the festival's second year at USC after moving to the new location from across town in Westwood at UCLA -- where it was held for the first 15 years.

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