With the Tucson Festival of Books less than a month away, we are feeling all of those bookish vibes.
The festival this year spans the weekend of March 2-3, transforming the University of Arizona campus into a literary wonderland.
So obviously, we're not going to miss this opportunity to do some book club reading.
If you're a fellow bookworm, or just like talking about books, This Is Tucson has a digital book club on Facebook. Just search #ThisIsTucson Book Club. Sometimes we read books together. Sometimes, we offer recommendations from smart, Tucson book people. Over the summer, we tackled a This Is Tucson Summer Reading Challenge for Grown-Ups with 36 Tucson-inspired titles. It was awesome.
In anticipation of the Tucson Festival of Books, we want to try something new.
With dozens of authors descending on Tucson, we're challenging our fellow readers to pick a book — any book — by an author who is on the festival schedule. There are so many choices.
Read your book of choice before the festival, and then we'll all get together during TFOB to talk about the books we read — kinda like the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. We'll have details about that in the Facebook group.
Choosing a book by a festival author also means you can deepen the reading experience by going to see the author speak live.
You can access the master list of festival authors organized by genre here. If you don't have time to peruse those many names, we've picked 10 intriguing titles from award-winning festival authors (there are SO MANY award-winners at this festival).
Seriously, you should check out the full list. There are so many books we didn't list here that we are eager to read, plus, everyone has different tastes.
After you make your choice, head on over to the Facebook group and tell us what you're planning to read and why.
Note: Summaries and images come from the Pima County Public Library online catalog. This list is arranged alphabetically by author.
"All the Birds in the Sky" by Charlie Jane Anders
Winner of the 2016 Nebula Award for best novel, finalist for the 2017 Hugo Award for best novel
Rating: 3.58 stars on Goodreads
Summary: "Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families. But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's every-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages. A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse."
Author talks: "Nightmare Futures" 11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 2 in the Integrated Learning Center Room 150; "Putting the Science in Science Fiction" 4 p.m. Saturday, March 2 in ILC Room 150; "Workshop: Writing Believable Characters in Unbelievable Situations" 11:30 a.m. Sunday, March 3 in ILC Room 125; "The Writing Mountain: Personal Trials" 4 p.m. Sunday, March 3 in ILC Room 150.
"White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide" by Carol Anderson
Winner of the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism
Rating: 4.43 stars on Goodreads
Summary: "As Ferguson, Missouri, erupted in August 2014, and media commentators across the ideological spectrum referred to the angry response of African Americans as 'black rage,' historian Carol Anderson wrote a remarkable op-ed in the Washington Post showing that this was, instead, 'white rage at work. With so much attention on the flames,' she writes, 'everyone had ignored the kindling.' Since 1865 and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, every time African Americans have made advances towards full participation in our democracy, white reaction has fueled a deliberate and relentless rollback of their gains.
"The end of the Civil War and Reconstruction was greeted with the Black Codes and Jim Crow; the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was met with the shutting down of public schools throughout the South while taxpayer dollars financed segregated white private schools; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 triggered a coded but powerful response, the so-called Southern Strategy and the War on Drugs that disenfranchised millions of African Americans while propelling presidents Nixon and Reagan into the White House. Carefully linking these and other historical flashpoints when social progress for African Americans was countered by deliberate and cleverly crafted opposition, Anderson pulls back the veil that has long covered actions made in the name of protecting democracy, fiscal responsibility, or protection against fraud, rendering visible the long lineage of white rage ..."
Author talks: "Protecting the Vote" 10 a.m. Saturday, March 2 in Koffler Room 204; "Divides that Blind Us" 11:30 a.m. Sunday, March 3 in Student Union Gallagher Theater.
"A Well-Behaved Woman" by Therese Anne Fowler
Rating: 3.93 stars on Goodreads
Summary: "Marrying into the newly rich but socially scorned Vanderbilt clan, Alva navigates society snubs and dark undercurrents in the lives of her in-laws and friends while testing the limits of her ambitious rule-breaking."
Author talks: "Family Matters" 1 p.m. Saturday, March 2 in Modern Languages Room 350; "Bringing History to Life" 4 p.m. Saturday, March 2 in Modern Languages Room 350; "Self Reliance" 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 3 in ILC Room 141.
"Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude" by Ross Gay
Rating: 4.22 stars on Goodreads
Summary: "Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude is a sustained meditation on that which goes away — loved ones, the seasons, the earth as we know it — that tries to find solace in the processes of the garden and the orchard."
Author talks: "Dreaming Orchards in Poetry and in Prose" 1 p.m. Saturday, March 2 in the Student Union Kiva; "Finding Your Joy" 4 p.m. Saturday, March 2 in ILC Room 130; "Workshop: Writing Pearls of Poetry" 1 p.m. Sunday, March 3 in ILC Room 151.
"Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir" by Jean Guerrero
Winner of the 2016 PEN/FUSION Emerging Writers prize
Rating: 3.84 stars on Goodreads
Summary: "... Here is the haunting story of a daughter's quest to understand her father, to save him from his own demons and to save herself from following his self-destructive path. Marco Antonio was born in Mexico but as a teenager migrated with his large family north to California, where he met Jean's mother, a young Puerto Rican woman just out of med school. Marco was a self-taught genius at fixing and creating things — including a mythology about himself as a shaman, a dreamcaster, and an animal whisperer, rather than the failed father, husband, and son he feared he was. Before long Marco goes on the run from his family and responsibilities — to Asia, to Europe, and eventually back to Mexico — with long crack and whiskey binges, suffering from what he claimed were CIA mind control experiments. As soon as she's old enough, Jean follows.
"Using her skills as a journalist, and her lifelong obsessions with the fuzzy lines between truth and fantasy, Jean searches for explanations for her father's behavior other than schizophrenia, the diagnosis her mother whispered to Jean when she was still a child. She takes his wildest claims seriously and investigates them. ... She risks everything in her quest to understand and redeem her father from the underworld of his obsessions and delusions and self-destruction."
Author talks: "Beyond Borders and Refugees" 1 p.m. Saturday, March 2 in the UA Library Special Collections; "They Persisted: A Journey Toward Home" 11:30 a.m. Sunday, March 3 at the Nuestras Raíces / Presentation Stage.
"Where the Dead Sit Talking" by Brandon Hobson
Finalist for the 2018 National Book Award
Rating: 3.43 stars on Goodreads
Summary: "A spare, lyrical Native American coming of age story set in rural Oklahoma in the late 1980s. With his single mother in jail, Sequoyah, a fifteen-year-old Cherokee boy, is placed in foster care with the Troutt family. Literally and figuratively scarred by his unstable upbringing, Sequoyah has spent years mostly keeping to himself, living with his emotions pressed deep below the surface — that is, until he meets the seventeen-year-old Rosemary, another youth staying with the Troutts. Sequoyah and Rosemary bond over their shared Native American backgrounds and tumultuous paths through the foster care system, but as Sequoyah's feelings toward Rosemary deepen, the precariousness of their lives and the scars of their pasts threaten to undo them both."
Author talks: "Crafting Characters" 10 a.m. Saturday, March 2 in Student Union Sabino; "Finding Family" 4 p.m. Saturday, March 2 in Student Union Sabino; "National Book Awards" 10 a.m. Sunday, March 3 in the Student Union North Ballroom.
"The Weight of Ink" by Rachel Kadish
Winner of the 2017 National Jewish Book Club Award
Rating: 4.19 stars on Goodreads
Summary: "... Set in London of the 1660s and of the early 21st century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city; and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history. As the novel opens, Helen has been summoned by a former student to view a cache of 17th-century Jewish documents newly discovered in his home during a renovation. Enlisting the help of Aaron Levy, an American graduate student as impatient as he is charming, and in a race with another fast-moving team of historians, Helen embarks on one last project: To determine the identity of the documents' scribe, the elusive 'Aleph.' Electrifying and ambitious, sweeping in scope and intimate in tone, The Weight of Ink is a sophisticated work of historical fiction about women separated by centuries, and the choices and sacrifices they must make in order to reconcile the life of the heart and mind."
Author talks: "Women Making Their Way" 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2 in Student Union Sabino; "Piecing It All Together" 10 a.m. Sunday, March 3 in Student Union Tucson; "Only Time Can Save Them" 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 3 in Student Union Tucson.
"The Calculating Stars" by Mary Robinette Kowal
Rating: 4.23 stars on Goodreads
Summary: "On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process. Elma York's experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition's attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn't take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can't go into space, too. Elma's drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her."
Author talks: "Putting the Science in Science Fiction" 4 p.m. Saturday, March 2 in ILC Room 150; "Spaaaaaace!" 10 a.m. Sunday, March 3 in ILC Room 150; "The Writing Mountain: Personal Trials" 4 p.m. Sunday, March 3 in ILC Room 150.
"The Friend" by Sigrid Nunez
Winner of the 2018 National Book Award for fiction
Rating: 3.85 stars on Goodreads
Summary: "A moving story of love, friendship, grief, healing, and the magical bond between a woman and her dog. When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master, and by the threat of eviction: Dogs are prohibited in her apartment building. While others worry that grief has made her a victim of magical thinking, the woman refuses to be separated from the dog except for brief periods of time. Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog's care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unraveling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them. Elegiac and searching, The Friend is both a meditation on loss and a celebration of human-canine devotion."
Author talks: "National Book Award" 10 a.m. Sunday, March 3 in the Student Union North Ballroom; "Is the Best Fiction Truth in Disguise?" 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 3 in the Student Union North Ballroom.
"Heads of the Colored People" by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Finalist for the 2019 PEN America Literary Awards
Rating: 4.17 stars on Goodreads
Summary: "Calling to mind the best works of Paul Beatty and Junot Diaz, this collection of moving, timely, and darkly funny stories examines the concept of black identity in this so-called post-racial era. A stunning new talent in literary fiction, Nafissa Thompson-Spires grapples with black identity and the contemporary middle class in these compelling, boundary-pushing vignettes. Each captivating story plunges headfirst into the lives of new, utterly original characters. Some are darkly humorous — from two mothers exchanging snide remarks through notes in their kids' backpacks, to the young girl contemplating how best to notify her Facebook friends of her impending suicide — while others are devastatingly poignant — a new mother and funeral singer who is driven to madness with grief for the young black boys who have fallen victim to gun violence, or the teen who struggles between her upper middle class upbringing and her desire to fully connect with black culture. Thompson-Spires fearlessly shines a light on the simmering tensions and precariousness of black citizenship. Her stories are exquisitely rendered, satirical, and captivating in turn, engaging in the ongoing conversations about race and identity politics, as well as the vulnerability of the black body. Boldly resisting categorization and easy answers, Nafissa Thompson-Spires is an original and necessary voice in contemporary fiction."
Author talks: "Razor Sharp Short Stories" 11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 2 in Student Union Kachina; "Here's My Selfie" 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2 in Student Union Kachina; "New American Imaginations" 10 a.m. Sunday, March 3 in ILC Room 141.