(This article first appeared in the August 10, 2016 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
Celebrity and charity. The two words are synonymous with the East End during the summer season. Appearances carry a certain allure with bold face names being tied to individual events. In a competition of the causes, it can be difficult to decide where to lend one’s time on a given weekend.
For the avid reader, the winner is Authors Night.
The chance to spy countless celebrities at an event is not unusual in The Hamptons. But at Authors Night, guests get an opportunity to truly meet them up close while supporting the East Hampton Library.
Honorary Authors Night co-chairs this year are Eric Ripert, Christie Brinkley, Robert A. Caro, Dick Cavett, Mary Higgins Clark, Nelson DeMille, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
Now in its twelfth year, Authors Night, held this Saturday from 5 PM to 7:30 PM under the tent at 4 Maidstone Lane in East Hampton Village, allows literati and casual readers alike to exchange words with their favorite authors and the chance to get a personal inscription as a memento of the experience.
New writers arrive each year, adding to Authors Night’s unique charm. But while each genre is equally represented, it’s the familiar faces that sell out first. Repeat authors this year include Robert A. Caro, Nelson DeMille, and Dick Cavett.
Despite the beach reading vibe of summertime, here on the East End, the most popular books are about timely topics headlining the news.
Sheila Rogers, East Hampton Library Board President and Authors Night Committee Chair, noted, “People want to know the latest information and authors are coming to provide that information. We have serious readers and an intellectual group of people who want to hear about things firsthand if they can.”
Rogers loves the conviviality of Authors Night, especially the chance for attendees to interact with authors they admire. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity to meet someone you’ve read and followed for so many years.”
Those who want to prep for those meetings can find a list of authors, their biographies and books on the library’s website, then go in feeling confident and in the know.
Reads to keep an eye out for are Michael Weiss’s ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, Steven Lee Myers’s The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin and Christopher R. Hill’s Outpost: Life on the Frontlines of American Diplomacy: A Memoir. Or, for those interested in a more humorous spin on politics, Ted Rall’s Trump: A Graphic Biography.
Ina Garten’s most recent cookbook, Make it Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, is expected to be a big seller as more and more people are experimenting in the kitchen.
You don’t have to write a cookbook to enjoy a good meal. After the book signing cocktail reception, guests can continue on to intimate dinner parties held at private homes of library supporters. Each private dinner features a selected author as the star. Those who dine can expect an evening of anecdotes, readings, and an overall insight into the author themselves. For those passionate about a particular work or writer featured, this is the perfect opportunity to connect on a level that’s rarely available.
Authors Night raises around $300,000 — ten percent of the library’s budget – each year. Dinner party hosts underwrite one hundred percent of the event.
Proceeds from the fundraiser help support an array of programs at the library. Publishing houses donate about 100 copies of each book for Authors Night and all purchases go directly to the library.
At first, the rise of the digital age seemed to toll a death knell for books. Surprisingly, book sales are actually increasing year to year.
The library has embraced technology, offering WiFi to visitors, downloadable e-books, movies and music, and even e-readers. Much of the library’s treasured Long Island collection is digital and keyword searchable.
“We were worried for a while,” Rogers acknowledged, adding, “People have settled back, those who really like books still check out their books. Those who want to read them online can do that.”
Emphasizing the library’s philosophy of encouraging feedback from the public, she explained, “We’re undertaking a long range planning exercise hoping to engage the community to make the library better in whatever ways we need to.
The library is a community center, not just a narrow window of books . . . we’re so much more than that.”