Hong Kong Book Fair looks to top one million visitors

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The Independent Culture

The annual Hong Kong Book Fair has evolved into a social phenomenon, attracting streams of crowds through its doors, courting some controversy and even - in more recent years - attracting a selection of the heavyweights of the world literary scene.

It's no idle boast that it has become one of the largest events of its kind in Asia - and a rival to the likes of the massive Kolkata Book Fair in India in terms of attendance and the Frankfurt Book Fair in terms of books featured.

And the 22nd Hong Kong Book Fair - to run from July 20 to 26 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre - is this year setting its sights on topping one million visitors.

The 2010 edition of the book fair attracted more than 900,000 people through its doors and a record 510 exhibitors from 22 countries and regions.

This year organizer the Hong Kong Trade Development Council is promising 300-odd cultural events under the theme "Reading the World, Reading as Self-Discovery" to go along with forums and book-signing events - which in recent years have attracted unwanted attention as they have featured scantily clad "pseudo" (or amateur) models promoting their risqué photo albums.

But the HKTDC has been working overtime to make things a little more serious. And to that end it is again hosting a forum chaired by local author and entrepreneur Sir David Tang. For this year's event he will be joined by authors Tom Parker Bowles and Nicholas Coleridge, critic and essayist AA Gill and historian and broadcaster David Starkey.

Tang and Parker Bowles gave a little taste of the topics they will cover in a webcast released Tuesday ( http://www.youtube.com/hktdc) - and the food critic was effusive in his praise for the city he will soon be visiting. "Hong Kong is arguably the greatest food city in the world. It is certainly the best Cantonese food in the world, and I'd say with New York and London now in terms of spread," Bowles said.

Other highlights of the event will be appearances/talks by poet Wendy Cope, local author Justin Hill and the University of London's Julia Lovell.

22nd Hong Kong Book Fair
July 20-26
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre