Saturday, March 11, 2023

The Tucson Festival of Books is a Book Lover's Delight

Tucson, Arizona has a plethora of annual fairs and festivals. One of them is the Tucson Festival of Books.  It’s held the first or second week of March and is the 3rd largest book festival in the U.S.
From its beginning in 2009 when 50,000 visitors were estimated to attend to the 2023 festival held a couple weeks ago, with 150,000 estimated attendees, it is one of the largest festivals in Tucson.  The festival is run by a non-profit organization whose purpose is to support literacy in southern Arizona.

Image of Tucson Festival of Books logo
Logo of the Tucson Festival of Books; photo by S.L. Schwartz

For 2 days, the University of Arizona Mall is covered in booths selling books and organizations about writing.  There’s also an area for children’s activities; Science City, with science-themed activities for the whole family; a food court; a culinary demonstration area; and entertainment.   

In the buildings surrounding the Mall, authors give workshops about writing, facilitate panel discussions, and talk about their books.  After each session, authors sign the books.  Authors who give presentations at the festival must have published their books in the past year.

Photograph of festival visitors lining up to get books autographed by authors
Authors signing books after a session; photo by S.L. Schwartz

Winners of prestigious book awards, such as National Book Awards and Southwest Books of the Year, participate as do Indie authors.  In 2023, over 400 authors were involved in the festival.  Over 24 literary genres were represented by the participating authors.


All events are free; however, some talks by the most famous authors require advance tickets.  Members of the public can try to reserve tickets in advance but if unsuccessful, may still be able to get in by waiting in line outside the room it’ll be in.  I did that a few years ago for a panel discussion with members of the cast of the TV show Longmire.  (It was a great session!)
But for most sessions, you can just line up outside the room shortly before the scheduled starting time.  Most sessions last an hour but several sessions are scheduled simultaneously so it’s sometimes difficult to choose what to go to.  And, of course, you have to slot in time to visit all the exhibitors’ booths, too.

Photograph showing view of University of Arizona Mall with booths and crowd of people at the Tucson Festival of Books
Booths on the University of Arizona Mall; photo by S.L. Schwartz

Every year that I go to the Tucson Festival of Books, I learn something new.  Not only do I get info that’s helpful for the book I’m writing about the Wyoming Territorial Penitentiary, I’ve also made some great connections.
The Tucson Festival of Books is a wonderful event and if you’re a book lover, you will definitely enjoy it!