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Indiana Historical Society Holiday Book Fair: what sells?

Festival of Trees - Revision 01The first weekend in December is always reserved at Hawthorne Publishing for the Holiday book fair in downtown Indianapolis. The Indiana Historical Society has recently combined this much-anticipated book event with a Christmas tree extravaganza which fills almost every room at the facility on Ohio street with sparkling trees of red and green but also magenta, purple and snowflake white.

This year’s fair was not held as it is usually in the Lilly auditorium, the large atrium-like room in the center of the building. Instead, the trees occupied the space, delighting a thousand or more visitors that day. Families could look at Christmas trees and then go upstairs and get a great read on Indiana history.

The Author Fair at the Society was originated some fifteen years ago to honor the best books in the Hoosier state. Authors submit their recent publications and a literary jury judges them and selects about 60 to “Hi, ho, come to the fair.”

The Author Fair this year was upstairs in the William Henry Smith library. Books and exhibits had been moved out by volunteers in a matter of hours and tables set up for the authors whose new book for the year had been selected from three times that many applicants from Indiana. Qualifications were connection to the Hoosier state of the title or the author him/herself, contribution to Hoosier history, and general interest and quality of the book.

Curiosities-xlMy own new book A Cabinet of Curiosities from the Civil War in Indiana: Interesting, Moving and Sometimes Odd Stories from the Human Side of the War was there, and I sat with it at a table near the back of the library in a room along with other war history books.

Sports books are always particularly featured; fans who wanted to read about Bobby Knight or the Pacers in some form lined up to get their books autographed and purchased right on the spot in a larger central room. Clearly, basketball and football books were the most popular titles in this sports-interest state. But it was also obvious from the never-ending line of history buffs who filtered through the book fair that many folk in Indiana care about the state’s history itself.

It is reassuring to know that the purpose of my new book, to stimulate interest and memory of the Civil War especially in the small towns of Indiana is bearing fruit, not necessarily because of my own efforts. A certain group of people are always drawn to the dramatic and all-encompassing history of the great conflict which sent 200,000 Hoosier men to the eastern and western theaters of war and  killed 20,000 of them. The stark human drama is irresistible to dedicated buffs and citizens in general.

DreamDivided1My series of books on the Civil War just about sold out. Some people from Wabash Indiana came to the table to say they had driven to the Author Fair particularly to get other books; they had heard me speak in Wabash and bought the new book and now wished to get my other titles The Dream Divided and Gallant Fourteenth: The Story of an Indiana Civil War Regiment. Many people were also visiting a neighboring table for the book about a Confederate Bulldog (Butler University student) and Andrea Neal’s book Road Trip: A Pocket History of Indiana. Children’s books with vivid, well designed covers were popular.

After they filled their carry-alls with history books, the families could visit Santa over near the room where microfilm is usually available for research.

The transformation of the usually staid rooms and files of Indiana’s long-time advocate for and preserver of our Hoosier history was spectacular and joyous.

Nancy Baxter, Hawthorne Senior Editor

You may order Nancy Baxter’s books on Indiana history by clicking back to the website.