An Interview with Juan Williams.

Abstract from Interview

1:32 – How did your book come to be on Booknotes? – Williams knows a number of people at C-SPAN as a Washington area reporter and had appeared on other C-SPAN shows. This combined with the fact that the book got some media attention brought his book to the attention of C-SPAN.

2:22 – How did you prepare for your appearance on the show? – The show was so different than any other appearance during this book tour. To prepare he took a lot of notes. Williams was in fear of Brian Lamb because he was so prepared for his interviews, so he wanted to be able to handle Lamb. He tried to create notes ahead of time about what he thought Washington area and C-SPAN viewers would be interested in to prepare for the interview. Based on this he focused on things like Marshall’s relationship with J. Edgar Hoover. 

5:32 – Do you think this type of perpetration was normal for interviewers and how did it change your interview experience? – Because Lamb is so well prepared Williams also wanted to be prepared in “academic terms to defend his thesis.” It was unlike any other interview and it changed his world-view. Williams would be afraid that as the author, coming off of years of research and publishing delays, that some of the details wouldn’t be readily available the way that it might be for a reader. He appreciated this preparation, but it was also a challenge.

7:16 – What do you remember most from your appearance on the program? – The nervousness of appearing on the show because of the serious audience of the program and he wanted to make a positive impression. Williams also knew Lamb and would occasionally see him out socially. 

8:30 – What are the benefits or potential drawbacks of longer-format interviews for the author and for the audience? – A potential drawback could be that not all authors are good at telling stories, as opposed to writing them. Because the format of this interview differs greatly from other types of book interviews the audience for the program was very different. Booknotes did not have to rely on current event hooks for the audience. 

10:55 – Do you believe the reading public finds the details about the practice of writing interesting? – Williams is not sure but he knows that other authors find them interesting. Williams discussed his process of writing and researching using three computers for different purposes – timelines, research, and writing.

13:19 – Were you surprised to be asked biographical questions and is this different from other interviews? – Not really because some interviewers are interested in the “celebrity” aspects of being an author. But the kind of biographical questions Lamb asked were distinct because they were getting at personal experiences and biases brought to the work.

14:42 – Were you surprised by any of Lamb’s questions? – Williams does not recall.

14:53 – Did your experience on the program change your impression of the show? – Williams had a greater appreciation for the authors who took the time to properly prepare for the show. 

16:04 – What do you think the benefits and uses of the Booknotes Collection might be? – People interested in specific topics covered within the books have the opportunity to see from Brian’s notes and the interviews themselves how a writer works and how a smart reader looked at the book when it was published. Through this you can see what people were looking for at the time.

18:02 – If asked back would you have appeared again on Booknotes? – Absolutely.

18:19 – Was there a difference in sales or national attention after your appearance on the show? – Williams does not know what impact the interview may have had. He did several interviews around this time and was not tracking sales thoroughly at the time. But his book did make the New York Times best seller list.

19:19 – Did your experience with the show cause you change any of your own approaches or assumptions regarding your research or writing methods? – Lamb focused in on the idea of Williams as the storyteller. Before this point Williams thought of himself as an outside, objective observer after having been trained as a journalist. Lamb’s questions about his biography made him realize that the audience wanted to know where he himself stood within the story.

21:34 – What have you been working on since this book and what works are you most pleased with? – Williams has written several books since this appearance and is pleased with them all.

24:15 – What has been the lasting impact of Booknotes? – “It is the best interview show television has ever seen.” Though other shows might get more attention from larger audiences, Booknotes was the best to reach a specific audience interested in serious topics, reading, and history. 

25:50 – Is there anything you would like to add? – It surprised Williams that Lamb did the interviews himself and the notion of “the life of a mind.” He was a major network executive but still took the time to read these books so in-depth.


Lindsey Bestebreurtje (Oral Historian), “An Interview with Juan Williams.,” One Book. One Author. One Hour., accessed December 6, 2022,



Output Formats

Dublin Core


An Interview with Juan Williams.


Lindsey Bestebreurtje (Oral Historian)


29 January 2015


Juan Williams is interviewed as part of the Booknotes Oral History Project on 29 January 2015. Mr. Williams discusses his appearance on C-SPAN's Booknotes program on 11 October 1998, where discussed his book "Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary".


Booknotes (Television program)
Lamb, Brian, 1941-
C-SPAN (Television network)


Booknotes Oral History Series. R0143 Box 02 File 08.


George Mason University Libraries


Copyright held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries.


Video recording