Hundreds of people crowded into a gorgeously decorated Berkeley Main Library on Saturday night to toast local authors.

The honorees included Michael Chabon, Michael Lewis, Geoffrey Nunberg, Michelle Richmond, Alison Gopnik, Alan Black, Minal Hajratwala, Daniel Mason, Molly Katzen, Katie Hafner, Tamin Ansary, Andrew Beahrs, Sylvia Brownrigg, Ernest Callenbach, Novella Carpenter, Charlie Haas, and many more. Malcolm Margolin, the founder of Heyday Books, received the Fred and Pat Cody award for his outstanding contribution to the world of literature.

One of the most memorable parts of the evening came when Michael Lewis, the honorary chair, spoke about his feelings for libraries. He grew up without many positive associations, and his story of how he developed those negative thoughts was hilarious.

Lewis grew up in New Orleans, where he didn’t know any writers, or anyone who knew any writers.

When Lewis was six, his first grade class visited the local library, and the kids had to walk by a funeral parlor to get there. So Lewis thought libraries=death.  That feeling was reinforced when he walked into the library and met the very old and wrinkled librarians who had the children sit down on ladder back chairs to listen to a story. Lewis wanted to escape in the worst possible way and he noticed that there was a cutout in the back of the chair. He tried to push himself out the back of the chair. Lewis got stuck and while all his classmates got to return to school, the teacher had to take him somewhere to get cut out of the chair.

So for much of his life Lewis equated libraries with death and humiliation. Fortunately, Lewis told the crowd, his children love visiting libraries.

Geoffrey Nunberg and Michael Chabon were two of the honored authors

In another funny line, Lewis said one advantage to growing up in New Orleans was he didn’t meet a lot of people who had written books. In Berkeley, in contrast, it’s rare to meet someone who hasn’t written a book. So it’s easier to live in New Orleans where there are fewer people whose books you haven’t read, said Lewis.

The party was attended by Mayor Tom Bates, Council members Gordon Wozniak, Linda Maio, Skip Battle and Hilary Perkins, Marion Bundy, the co-owner of Mrs. Dalloway’s, Tom Leonard, the head of the UC libraries, and many others. The event is put on by the Berkeley Public Library Foundation. Linda Schacht Gage and Bill Schechner serve each year as the emcees of the event and they introduce each author to the crowd.

Tom Leonard, head of the UC Berkeley libraries, and his wife, Carol

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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