It was a television institution.
Airing every Sunday night at 8:00 PM from 1989 through 2004, C-SPAN’s Booknotes gave its viewers an insider’s look at a recent non-fiction book and its author. Brian Lamb, the network's CEO, was the program's host. His guests were historians, scientists, politicians, world leaders, and others who came to discuss their recent books with Lamb and his audience.
Guests on the program ranged from the relatively unknown to the quite famous. There were individuals who, although experts in their particular fields, might not have enjoyed universal name recognition. Some who appeared on Booknotes went on to produce additional works, which won them national acclaim. Others were already household names: Hillary Clinton, David McCullough, Tom Brokaw, Mikhail Gorbachev, Clark Clifford, Sandra Day O'Connor, Betty Friedan, and David Crosby to name a few, as well as former presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.
Booknotes was C-SPAN's original author interview program. It focused on then-current non-fiction works in categories such as history, biography, politics, the military, diplomacy, and science. Booknotes gave authors an opportunity unmatched anywhere else in the television industry to talk at length about themselves and their books to an educated reading audience. Indeed, guests who appeared on the show still recall the experience as a positive and beneficial one for both the author and the reader.
The program stayed faithful to its promise of "one author, one book, one hour" every week for sixteen years. Each Sunday night Brian Lamb and a non-fiction writer would discuss the writer's most recent work. But the discussion did not end there. Lamb asked the author about their research, their personal and family life, how and where they wrote, and who influenced them. The George Mason University Libraries are currently preserving and archiving books, papers, and photographs pertaining to Booknotes as well as other materials of significance in the history of C-SPAN.