Five Must-See Authors at the Tucson Festival of Books

Take note, book nerds. The literary world is descending on Tucson this weekend, and it's bringing more than 400 writers and 250 exhibitors with it.

The fourth annual UA-sponsored Tucson Festival of Books is completely free (donations benefit literacy groups in southern Arizona) -- and completely overwhelming, offering a sprawling list of authors, ranging from literary stars (T.C. Boyle) to local ones (Tom Leveen), who are slated to speak, sign, or participate in more than 300 panels, workshops, or demonstrations over the course of two days.

Building a schedule around the authors can be daunting, but that's where we come in. Here are five don't-miss writers plucked from the list of hundreds:

5. Joshua Foer Younger brother to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close author Jonathan Safran Foer, journalist Joshua Foer made his literary debut in 2011 with Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, a nonfiction book that explores, among other things, his win at the 2006 USA Memory Championship. His appearance at the festival is a double nerd whammy -- one panel is with NPR and the other is with CSPAN Book TV. Sunday: Joshua Foer with NPR's Ted Robbins: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything Introduction by Terry Holpert 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Modern Languages building, room 350 All About the Brain panel and CSPAN Book TV live broadcast 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Student Union, Gallagher Theater

4. R.L. Stine He might not be in your Kindle library nowadays, but R.L. Stine is a living legend for children of the '80s and '90s. Who could forget the dog-eared pages of Say Cheese and Die! or Be Careful What You Wish For? Even if you were never a fan of the children's horror writer, Stine is a lesson in literary success. At one point, his Goosebumps series accounted for 15 percent of Scholastic's annual revenue. Saturday: Ghosts are My Life solo presentation 10 to 11 a.m., Education building, Kiva Auditorium Sunday: Fantasy: What's New and Who's Reading Now? panel 10 to 11 a.m., Koffler building, room 204 Both days: Solo presentation 1 to 2 p.m., Teen and Author Meting Place

3. Susan Orlean

Many know her as the (loose) inspiration for Meryl Streep's character in the bizzaro Charlie Kauffman/Spike Jonze comedy Adaptation, but Susan Orlean has been a journalistic force at the New Yorker and other magazines since the early '90s. Released last year, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend is her second full-length, single-story nonfiction book, following the life and cultural impact of the silver-screen German Shepherd who was adopted from a World War I battlefield. Sunday: Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend solo presentation 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., UA mall tent Dogs in America: Our Ever-Enduring Bond panel 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., Koffler building, room 204

2. Gene Weingarten Recently, a blurry photo taken from a subway security camera has made its way around Facebook, attached to a long caption detailing how dozens of D.C. pedestrians walked past a street musician without noticing he was acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell. The situation was actually orchestrated by Gene Weingarten at the Washington Post, and the humor writer won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for "Pearls Before Breakfast," his story on the experiment. Saturday: The Secret Rape of Sex and Death solo presentation 4 to 5 p.m., Arizona Daily Star Pavilion, UA mall

1. Richard Russo The winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (and University of Arizona alum) is known for honest and timeless prose, best demonstrated in his 2001 masterpiece Empire Falls. The new-classic novel follows the story of a recently divorced diner manager manager in a small Maine town. Russo later turned the narrative into an Emmy-winning HBO mini-series starring Ed Harris and Helen Hunt. Saturday: The Writing Life: A Conversation with Richard Russo 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Modern Languages building, room 350 Richard Russo and Pete Dexter, in Conversation 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., Student Union, South Ballroom Sunday: Uncle Edgar panel 10 to 11 a.m., Modern Languages building, room 350

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