Former National Security Advisor amoung 33 notable writers to speak.

Story by David Bolling

The line-up of speakers scheduled to appear for the third annual Sonoma Valley Authors Festival, May 1-to-3, will include former National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, who was fired by President Trump in March of 2018 following a months-long campaign by Trump’s conservative advisors—including Steve Bannon, Breitbart News and far-right radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones—to remove him from office. McMaster is a retired three-star general, a West Point graduate who saw combat in both Gulf Wars  and was one of the most praised general officers in the U.S. military.

During the first Gulf War, in 1991, McMaster commanded Eagle Troop of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in an event that came to be known as the “Battle of 73 Easting.” During that battle, while outnumbered and encountering the enemy by surprise when McMaster’s lead tank crested a rise, the nine tanks of his troop destroyed 28 Iraqi Republican Guard tanks, without loss, in 23 minutes.

McMaster has been called “the architect of the future U.S. Army,” and now teaches at Stanford University while holding a fellowship at the Hoover Institution.

He is author of the award-winning book, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies that Led to Vietnam. His next book, Battlegrounds, covering his time in military service and in the White House, will be released this spring. He has published scores of essays, articles, and book reviews on leadership, history, and the future of warfare in many publications including Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.

McMaster’s Authors Festival appearance will be reprised on the evening of Monday, May 4, when the general addresses the Sonoma Speaker Series at Hanna Boys Center.

Other authors confirmed for the 2020 Authors Festival are:

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan

For the past 30 years, Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about the places where the human and natural worlds intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the environment. His bestselling books include The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifest, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals; which was named one of the 10 best books in 2006 by The New York Times and the Washington Post. He also wrote Food Rules, offering this simple and ideal eating plan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Next came Cooked, in which Pollan focused on cooking food and drink with the four classical elements: fire, water, air, and earth, and which was made into a popular Netflix miniseries. His most recent bestselling book, How to Change Your Mind, is a stimulating blend of science, memoir, travel writing, history, and medicine. Pollan has been honored with countless international prizes and awards, was chosen one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2010.

Doris Kearns


Doris Kearns

Doris Kearns Goodwin is world-renowned for her five-decade career as a presidential historian and bestselling author. Her seventh book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, was an instant New York Times bestseller. It provides an accessible and essential road map for aspiring and established leaders in every field.

Goodwin is also the author of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, and No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, for which she was awarded the

Pulitzer Prize.

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, was a New York Times bestseller and won the Carnegie Medal. Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners has acquired the film and television rights to the book. Spielberg and Goodwin previously worked together on the Academy Award-winning film Lincoln, based in part on Goodwin’s award-winning Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. She is seen frequently on all the major networks and shows including Meet the Press and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.


William Brangham

William Brangham is an award-winning international correspondent who has covered stories as diverse as the severity of America’s opioid crisis, the threat of climate change in Antarctica, as well as a profile of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. He is a producer for the highly rated radio program, PBS NewsHour, and occasionally fills in as anchor of the broadcast.

Brangham’s reporting on the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015 helped the NewsHour win a Peabody Award. The next year, he reported a six-part series on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, which won an Emmy among other awards. In 2018, Brangham worked on an investigative series about sexual assault and retaliation in the U.S. Forest Service. The day after that series aired, the head of the Forest Service suddenly stepped down, and that reporting won an Emmy award and was nominated for a Peabody Award. In 2019, Brangham reported a four-part series about climate change in Antarctica, and also launched the NewsHour’s first-ever original podcast series, “The Last Continent,” which was about his Antarctica reporting.

Brangham has a deep, personal connection to Sonoma, since he is the son of notable civic leader and developer Suzanne Brangham.

William Brangham
Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende, novelist and philanthropist, is one of the most widely read authors in the world and has sold more than 74 million books. Born in Peru and raised in Chile, she won worldwide acclaim in 1982 with the publication of her hugely popular first novel, The House of the Spirits. Since then, she has authored more than 23 bestselling and critically acclaimed books. Her forthcoming novel, A Long Petal of the Sea, will be published in January 2020. 

Allende devotes much of her time to human rights causes, including a charitable foundation she founded in honor of her late daughter, Paula, which has awarded grants to more than 100 nonprofits worldwide, delivering life-changing care to hundreds of thousands of women and girls. In addition, more than 8 million viewers have watched her TED talks on leading a passionate life. Her honors and awards are legion, including 15 honorary doctorates, induction into the California Hall of Fame, the PEN Center Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Allende the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and in 2018 she received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation.

Other notable speakers will include:

Wade Davis, internationally acclaimed anthropologist, writer, filmmaker, photographer and author of 22 books, including Magdalena: River of Dreams, due in April.

Jeffrey Rosen, author of Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and the Law.

Erik Larson, author of numerous bestsellers, including Devil in the White City, which intertwines the stories of the Chicago 1893 World’s Fair and one of America’s worst serial killers; it spent six years on The New York Times bestseller list and was short-listed for the National Book Award.

Dave Eggers, bestselling author of the award-winning memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; along with The Circle, The Monk of Mokha, Zeitoun, What is the What, as well as books for young readers. He is the founder of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house that produces books, a hugely popular humor website, and a literary journal.