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Booknotes logo C-SPAN 200.jpg
Genre Talk show
Presented by Brian Lamb
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 16
No. of episodes 801
Running time 60 minutes
Original network C-SPAN
Original release April 2, 1989 (1989-04-02) – December 5, 2004 (2004-12-05)
External links

Booknotes is an American television series on the C-SPAN network hosted by Brian Lamb, which originally aired from 1989 to 2004.[1] The format of the show is a one-hour, one-on-one interview with a non-fiction author.[2] The series was broadcast at 8 p.m. Eastern Time each Sunday night,[3] and was the longest-running author interview program in U.S. broadcast history.

Background and production


Booknotes debuted on April 2, 1989. The first guest was former United States National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, discussing The Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the Twentieth Century.[4] The fifth anniversary was marked on April 10, 1994 with a special two-hour show featuring over 50 of the 300 authors previously featured on the program.[5] For the tenth anniversary of Booknotes in 1999, Brian Lamb compiled and edited an anthology of stories on 78 people who influenced American history from the 18th century to 1999. Titled Booknotes: Life Stories, each contributed story was written by a well-known biographer.[6]

After 801 interviews, the final broadcast aired December 5, 2004.[3] Lamb's guest was Mark Edmundson, author of Why Read?, professor of English at the University of Virginia and a contributing editor at Harper's Magazine.[7] The show was intended to end with the 800th episode, but due to a miscalculation, the final program was actually the 801st.[7]

Booknotes segments continue to be re-aired on C-SPAN's companion network C-SPAN 2, during Saturday Book TV broadcasts,[8] while C-SPAN 3 airs repeat segments every weeknight at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. All 801 transcripts are available online[1] and the 801 shows can be viewed online via the Booknotes website.[9] Lamb's own copies of the Booknotes books, most of which contain his personal marginalia, are housed in the rare books collection of George Mason University.[10]


The Booknotes concept grew out of a one-off interview special with Neil Sheehan, author of A Bright Shining Lie, in September 1988.[6] The interview itself resulted from Lamb having viewed a short commercial television interview with Sheehan and wanting to hear more.[6] According to Lamb, a strong viewer response to the program led to the decision to start producing a weekly author interview program.[3]


Each Booknotes episode devoted one full hour to an interview with the author of a recently released non-fiction book.[2] In order to avoid duplicate appearances by any one author, each guest appeared only once on the program,[3] thus allowing for over 800 different authors to be interviewed every week over a fifteen-year stretch. The hour-long interviews explored authors' work habits, thoughts and lives, while also covering the intentions of their book and how, or if, these were achieved.[1][2]


Research for the interviews was simple: producers identified subjects, arranged for them to appear and Brian Lamb would then read the book in the week prior to the interview.[6] One reason for discontinuing the series, according to Lamb, was the time constraints imposed by reading an entire book every seven days.[3]

The set where Booknotes was recorded was similarly basic, comprising a black backdrop, two armchairs and a coffee table.[8]


In February 2003, Lamb was awarded the National Humanities Medal.[11] In November 2007, Lamb received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work on C-SPAN.[12] The American Historical Association awarded Lamb the 2004 Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Wilson Award "for extraordinary contributions to the study, teaching, and public understanding of history."[13]


Notable guests appearing on Booknotes to discuss their published writings have included Hillary Clinton, Pat Buchanan, Colin Powell, Frank McCourt and David Crosby.[1] A number of former presidents have appeared on the program, including Richard Nixon on February 23, 1992, Jimmy Carter on February 19, 1995 and Bill Clinton on December 15, 1996.[4] In addition to the U.S. presidents who were interviewed for Booknotes, former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also appeared on the program.[5]

While the majority of Booknotes subjects have been authors of books on history, politics or public policy, exceptions included the violinist Isaac Stern, who discussed his memoir, My First 79 Years, on the program on January 23, 2000.[3]


Including Booknotes: Life Stories, four books have been drawn from the series, with content either comprising original material or taken directly from transcripts of Booknotes interviews.[7] Booknotes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing and the Power of Ideas is a compilation of short monologues taken from the transcripts of Brian Lamb’s best interviews.[2] The other two books are Booknotes: On American Character and Booknotes: Stories from American History.[14]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "'Booknotes' Afterword". The Boston Globe. 19 August 2004.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Ellen Emry Heltzel (17 August 1997). "Books On TV, and a Host Who Listens". The Sunday Oregonian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Frank J. Prial (4 December 2004). "After Many Million Pages, 'Booknotes' Ends Its Run". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 November 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Dave Wilcox (September 16, 1998). "Books on TV: a time line". Fort Worth Star-Telegram.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Frazier Moore (9 April 1994). "'Booknotes' Series Marks 5th Chapter With C-SPAN Special". Chicago Tribune.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "There's no time for TV for C-SPAN founder Lamb". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 25 May 1999.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Tony Biffle (5 December 2004). "The Last Author Of One Last Book For One Final Hour". The Sun Herald.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 ""Booknotes" was benefit for books". The Advocate. 11 December 2004.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Booknotes archive". C-SPAN. Retrieved 19 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. John Kelly (21 September 2011). "In Brian Lamb's 'Booknotes' marginalia, a record of our time's serious thoughts". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "National Humanities Medal". 2002 Annual Report. National Endowment for the Humanities Official site. Retrieved 15 November 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Citations Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom". The White House: Official Site. 5 November 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. see announcement
  14. "Booknotes Books". C-SPAN. Retrieved 19 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links