It is the most literary day of the commonwealth's year, and it doesn't come courtesy of an Amazon.com smiling box.
The 32nd annual Kentucky Book Fair will be held Nov. 16 at the Frankfort Convention Center. In the spotlight will be authors including Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville men's basketball coach and author of The One-Day Contract: How to Add Value to Every Minute of Your Life; Sue Grafton, back with her signature detective Kinsey Milhone in W Is For Wasted; and poet, novelist and agrarian essayist Wendell Berry with his 2013 book of poems, The Country of Marriage.
Grafton and Berry are both Kentuckians, although their perspective on the state is quite different. Grafton lives in Louisville and is a graduate of the University of Louisville, while Berry has long lived in rural Henry County and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky, although his teaching has taken him around the world.
Grafton said via Facebook that she likes doing book signings in Kentucky because she sees so many friends, even though extended book tours can be rough.
"I do enjoy book tours once I switch from my private person to my public self," she said. "Crossing the country takes incredible energy and endurance. I sometimes wish I could just transmogrify myself from place to place. ... The good news is that I get to read all I want between signing books and checking in and out of hotels."
And there is that question about the alphabet that she is so often asked.
"I've been asked at least a gazillion times what I'm going to do when I've finished Z Is For Zero. Most of the time the person inquiring will say, 'Do you plan to do double letters. AA like aardvark?' Or someone will suggest the Greek alphabet. I keep in mind that this particular person has never asked that particular question before so there's no reason to be impolite. I've noticed that people worry about what to say to an author, wanting to be clever. I point out that I'm not all that clever myself. I was in a line once waiting to have a cookbook signed by (chef) Jacques Pepin and I was beside myself, so I know how it feels.
"I have no clue about the end of the alphabet," Grafton said. "I'm still struggling to find a storyline for X, sweating bullets at this point. My practice is to face one day at a time, solve today's problem, and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow."
Connie Crowe, manager of the book fair, said the event "is just a love of literacy and a celebration of Kentucky's literary world — which is so much more rich than people probably give it credit for outside the state."
"There are so many other ways to read now, I think what we do is pretty remarkable, and the fact that we are able to get 4,000 people to agree with us," Crowe said.
Richard Taylor, a previous Kentucky poet laureate and owner of Poor Richard's book store in Frankfort, is the veteran of many Kentucky Book Fairs.
"The book fair is an opportunity to bring the Kentucky writing community, and actually beyond, face to face with their readers and in that effort, bestow some benefit on Kentucky libraries, which are currently in peril, in terms ... of revenue to support," Taylor said. "I see it as an opportunity to promote literacy in a state which values its writers, an event that can help close the gap between readers and nonreaders in this state."
While many Kentuckians use online retailers for their discounts and Kindles and Nooks for their ease of delivery, the Kentucky Book Fair remains one event of statewide resonance where the emphasis remains on print and paper.
One of the fair's longtime vendors is the Monterey company Larkspur Press, which emphasizes the tradition of letterpress printing by setting all its work in metal type and printing it mainly on a hand-fed traditional letterpress.
"We're all interested in checking the inroads of the Internet and just in selling, and the book fair is one way to do that, despite the fact that it's only one day a year," Taylor said. "I think it starts making people think of books as gifts."
IF YOU GO
The 32nd annual Kentucky Book Fair
When: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Nov. 16
Where: Frankfort Convention Center, 405 Mero Street
More information: Kybookfair.blogspot.com
Limited times for book signings: Rick Pitino: 1-3 p.m.; Sue Grafton: signing after 10 a.m.; Christy Jordan: signing after her 10:30 a.m. presentation; George Ella Lyon: not available 11:45 a.m.-1 p.m.
Kentucky Book Fair Fast Facts
Authors each year: between 150-200
Attendance: usually between 3,000 and 4,000
Record number of books sold: 11,000 in 1996
Record in gross sales: $170,000 in 2006
Sales over 31 years of its history$2.6 million, the profits on which are donated to mostly school and public libraries in Kentucky.
Sue Grafton A-Z
The Kinsey Milhone mysteries from A to W:
"A" Is for Alibi (1982)
"B" Is for Burglar (1985)
"C" Is for Corpse (1986)
"D" Is for Deadbeat (1987)
"E" Is for Evidence (1988)
"F" Is for Fugitive (1989)
"G" Is for Gumshoe (1990)
"H" Is for Homicide (1991)
"I" Is for Innocent (1992)
"J" Is for Judgment (1993)
"K" Is for Killer (1994)
"L" Is for Lawless (1995)
"M" Is for Malice (1996)
"N" Is for Noose (1998)
"O" Is for Outlaw (1999)
"P" Is for Peril (2001)
"Q" Is for Quarry (2002)
"R" Is for Ricochet (2004)
"S" Is for Silence (2005)
"T" Is for Trespass (2007)
"U" Is for Undertow (2009)
"V" Is for Vengeance (2011)
"W" Is for Wasted (2013)
Pitino's 'One-Day Contract'
Excerpt from Rick Pitino's book (with Eric Crawford), The One-Day Contract: How to Add Value to Every Minute of Your Life, St. Martin's Press, $25.99) on coaching at what he calls "the Roman Empire of college basketball, the University of Kentucky," in his first chapter, which is on humility:
"Over the course of that time, I developed a feeling that much of that success was about me and what I was doing. It was difficult not to feel that way. There's no question when you coach at Kentucky, you fall into a trap of thinking you're much better than you really are, because of the adulation and attention. It is constant and seems to come in a never-ending supply. I did not know it in the midst of it, but that arrogance, that thinking of yourself as the best, is one of the biggest reasons successful people stumble and fail."
Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.