Back in the day when I owned a television set, Sunday evenings at eight o'clock would find me watching Booknotes, hosted by Brian Lamb on C-Span.
I have a huge crush on Mr. Lamb. I could be president of his fan club. He introduced me to so many authors and non-fiction books from 1989 to 2004 when he spent an hour with one author, one book. He sat in his chair facing his guest. They were separated by a small coffee table. The backdrop was a black curtain. No distractions.
He asked his succinct questions and then shut up. He let the interviewee talk and never interrupted or tried to prove how smart he was. (Although I think he is brilliant.) I knew, that unlike some other interviewers, he had actually Read the Book.
When Mr. Lamb retired from Booknotes in 2004, he began a show called Q&A in which he interviews not only authors but other "interesting people," journalists, corporate leaders, film directors, editors, and, in 2005, President George W. Bush. This program is shown on Sundays at 8 p.m. on C-Span.
I have two books that have been culled from Booknotes interviews: Stories from American History - Leading Historians on the Events That Shaped Our Country (2001) and American's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas (1997).
The first holds eighty diverse tales told by current historians including a look at, among others, The Cuban Missile Crisis (Donald Kagan), The Roosevelt Dynasty (Peter Collier), The Harlem Renaissance (Emily Bernard), and Modern Presidents' Mothers (Bonnie Angelo).
In the second book, Mr. Lamb has compiled answers from his guests to such questions as "Where do you write?" "Do you use a computer?" "How did you research this?" "Why are these folks in your dedication?" He gets answers to these and other questions about the writing process from 120 authors including David McCullough, Thomas Friedman, Shelby Foote, Betty Friedan, bell hooks, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Margaret Thatcher.
In the introduction to each book, Mr. Lamb writes a bit of the behind the scenes look at Booknotes including the time 10,000 viewers sent self-addressed envelopes to C-Span for the giveaway of 500 brass bookmarks celebrating the program's fifth anniversary.
All 10,000 of them got their bookmark, because, as he wrote, "How can you turn away friends?"
Mr. Lamb retired as founding CEO of C-Span last year, and he donated his entire library from the Booknotes program to George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He still conducts the Q&A program interviews. The videos and the transcripts of the Booknotes interviews (here) and the Q&A interviews (here) are available online.
Thank you, Mr. Lamb!