Monday, February 6, 2012

Counting Down to the Tucson Festival of Books

Elmore Leonard was on the cover of the New York Times Book Review this morning, and my happy thought was, "Oh, he'll be in Tucson at the Festival of Books next month!" And so will an astonishing number of authors we love to read, but rarely get to hear: Larry McMurtry, Richard Russo, Sebastian Junger, Alice Hoffman, Pete Dexter, Richard Peck, Terry Brooks, Iris Johansen, T.C. Boyle, Diana Gabaldon, John Sandford, Michael Palmer, Pam Houston -- the list goes on for nearly 400 names, and is as wonderful as it is astonishing. Imagine, they'll all be here, in Tucson, on the UA Mall for two very memorable days, the 10th and 11th of March.

With so many great authors at our very own literary miracle in the desert, readers who love books and the folks who write them will want to make a plan to see their favorites. My plan includes checking in on some of the most interesting women writing today, like Susan Casey, who'll be on hand to talk about her recent best-seller, The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean. U of A alum Casey embedded herself with scientists and extreme surfers around the world to learn about monster waves, the unimaginably gargantuan ocean behemoths that swallow up ocean-going vessels and coastal cities. Once the stuff of sailors' legends, these waves are now a reason for concern about the planet. Casey's narrative will mesmerize and terrify you, and will certainly make you think twice before signing on for an ocean cruise.

Susan Orlean is another reason I'm glad the Book Festival's in our backyard. Like Casey, New Yorker staff writer Orlean is peripatetic and curious about everything, seeking out the offbeat and the underside and delighting readers with what she finds. To sample her great travel writing try My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere. Her more recent outing, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, is an intriguing look at the German Shepherd dog who became Warner Bros. unlikely Number 1 box office attraction.

Also high on my list is Lisa See, who writes brilliantly descriptive historical novels. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, an older title and one of my favorites, vividly recounts the lives of two friends imprisoned by the strict code of conduct imposed on women in 19th century China. It includes one of the most chilling descriptions of foot binding you'll ever read.

So many authors, so little time! Who do you want to see? Visit the Tucson Festival of Books website to see the schedule and make your plans now. As always, the Festival is free and so is the parking -- there's no reason to stay away, and hundreds of fascinating reasons to go.

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