Tucson Festival of Books 2016: A Guide to Must-See Authors

Over 100,000 book lovers will descend on the University of Arizona for the Tucson Festival of Books.EXPAND
Over 100,000 book lovers will descend on the University of Arizona for the Tucson Festival of Books.
Courtesy of Tucson Festival of Books

It’s spring break in Tucson, and while students are off to exotic locales for a week of drunken debauchery, bookworms from across the country are descending on the University of Arizona for a different kind of party.

The annual Tucson Festival of Books runs Saturday and Sunday, March 12 and 13, bringing hundreds of authors, and more than 100,000 visitors to the campus for a weekend of writing workshops, discussion panels, autograph sessions, and all manner of book geekery, no matter what your reading taste. Past guests have included Amy Tan, Noam Chomsky, Dave Barry, and Scott Turow.

This year is no different, featuring a host of authors who regularly hang out on top of bestseller lists. But the sheer volume of events can be overwhelming. So here are 10 authors who will make the trip down Interstate 10 worthwhile.

Sci-fi author and activist Charlie Jane Anders.
Sci-fi author and activist Charlie Jane Anders.
Tristan Crane

Charlie Jane Anders
Appearing Sunday only

A longtime geek and queer culture commentator, Anders is the editor-in-chief of io9.com. In addition to her regular columns on the sci-fi website, she has written for such diverse publications as McSweeney's, Salon, The Wall Street Journal, and Mother Jones. Anders also hosts the monthly San Francisco reading series, Writers with Drinks and is a tireless advocate for transgender rights. The winner of the 2006 Lambda Literary Award for her literary debut, Choir Boy, Anders has branched into science fiction in recent years with the Hugo Award-winning novelette, Six Months, Three Days. Her debut sci-fi novel, All the Birds in the Sky, came out in January. The story of a pair of childhood friends who pursue magic and science respectively, then come together as adults to save the world has garnered universal acclaim.

Fantasy legend Terry Brooks.EXPAND
Fantasy legend Terry Brooks.
Michael Clinard

Terry Brooks
Appearing Saturday and Sunday

A bestselling author since the mid-1970s, Brooks gave up a law career to pursue his writing dreams. The decision paid off, as he ushered in the modern age of BFF (big fat fantasy) novels with his Tolkien rewrite, The Sword of Shannara. Over the past 40 years, the post-apocalyptic fantasyland has gone through numerous iterations over 28 books, including the recent “Defenders of Shannara” trilogy, whose finale, The Sorcerer’s Daughter, hits stores in May. Brooks even dabbled in the Star Wars universe, penning the novelization The Phantom Menace.  And a new generation is discovering his magical world, thanks to MTV’s Shannara Chronicles TV show, which adapted his 1982 classic The Elfstones of Shannara for the Teen Wolf set and premièred in January.

Jeffery Deaver
Appearing Saturday and Sunday

Deaver's mysteries and short fiction have won numerous awards, including the Nero Wolfe Award and multiple Ellery Queen awards. A former journalist and folksinger and avowed James Bond fan, Deaver was inspired to pursue a writing career after reading Ian Fleming's From Russia With Love. And in 2011 he got the opportunity to contribute to 007’s legacy with the novel Carte Blanche. He's one of only two American authors to write the iconic British spy. The author of more than two dozen thrillers in multiple series, Deaver is best known for his “Lincoln Rhyme” novels, which focus on a quadriplegic forensic examiner in New York. The bestselling mystery series kicked off with 1997’s The Bone Collector, which was made into a hit movie starring Denzel Washington as Rhyme. The 12th entry in the series, The Steel Kiss, hits stores on Tuesday, March 8. 

Jared Diamond
Appearing Saturday only

A popular biologist and geographer, this UCLA professor won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997 with his treatise on European colonization and conquest, Guns, Germs and Steel. That book, which also spawned a 2005 PBS miniseries, propelled Diamond into the ranks of celebrity scientists like Oliver Sacks and Stephen Hawking, making him an in-demand lecturer and popular TED speaker. A recognized polymath, Diamond has also written on diverse subjects like anthropology and human physiology. His most recent book, 2012’s The World Until Yesterday, examines life in primitive societies and how their practices can improve our modern life. Other works include The Third Chimpanzee, which examines how evolution shaped society, Collapse, which details the diverse reasons that societies fail, from warfare to climate change, and the self-explanatory Why Is Sex Fun?

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