The massive book festival returns to Tucson March 9-10, 2024

It’s that time of year when white tents line the University of Arizona Mall and thousands of bookworms gather for the love of literacy.

The Tucson Festival of Books, the annual book bash that has flourished and grown since its inception in 2009, returns Saturday and Sunday, March 9-10, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on the UA campus. The free festival has been called the nation’s third-largest book event and the nation’s top nonprofit book festival.

When the festival debuted in 2009, approximately 50,000 visitors flocked to meet their favorite authors. According to the Arizona Daily Star, more than 140,000 visitors are expected to see the 300 presenting authors this year.

People also read…

Readers pack the tent at the University of Arizona Bookstores at the Tucson Festival of Books at the University of Arizona on Saturday, March 4, 2023.

Rick Wiley, Arizona Daily Star

Who will be there?

From TV star of “Better Call Saul” fame Bob Odenkirk (along with his daughter Erin) to “Goosebumps” creator RL Stine, hundreds of authors will host presentations, panels, workshops and book signings at this year’s Tucson Festival of Books. A slew of local authors, from Henry Barajas to Lydia Otero to Jillian Cantor, will also be in attendance.

Also on the lineup this year: Ed Begley Jr., Sarah Cooper, TJ Klune, Dante Lauretta, Abraham Verghese, Jean Kwok, Cherie Dimaline, CJ Box, Julia Keller and Jonathan Maberry, among hundreds of others. You can find the full list of authors here, plus a list of indie authors here. View the schedule of panels and discussions here to start planning your day(s).

Panels include “Badass Women with Badass Heroines,” “Surviving, Thriving in the Borderlands,” “Indigenous Stories from Indigenous Voices,” “Looking Beyond the Stars” and “Why Kids Love Creepy Stories.” You will also find workshops on screenwriting, cookbook publishing and drawing.

The festival attracts all ages every year, including children! In fact, Tucson has become one of the largest gatherings in all of children’s literature, the Arizona Daily Star wrote.

This year, many children’s and teen authors will be in attendance, including Kate DiCamillo, Vashti Harrison, Lian Cho, Chris Eliopoulos and of course Adam Rex, who will moderate the popular illustrator draw when the festival comes to a close on Sunday.

Nicole Colon, a PhD student in Plant Science, shows kids how to extract DNA from a strawberry at Science City during the 2019 Tucson Festival of Books.

Rick Wiley, Arizona Daily Star

What else should I expect?

Science City is also a big draw for the kids (and the kids at heart!), with STEM-based interactive activities and learning experiences from organizations like Tucson Audubon Society, Tucson Electric Power and the Mt. Lemmon Sky Center.

Outside of the much-loved Science City area, visitors can expect plenty of entertainment, including a Saturday morning storybook parade, a scavenger hunt, crafts, live animals from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and performances from the Circus Academy of Tucson. You might even meet a beloved storybook character, like Curious George.

The festival is even launching a songwriter stage in partnership with the Tucson Folk Festival, so live music will grace the event this year. You’ll hear jazz, blues, country, rock, mariachi and more. View the full entertainment program here.

Of course, you can’t get through a busy day in the sun without food in your belly. More than 20 food vendors will be in attendance, including Tucson favorites such as Beyond Bread, Renee’s, Frost Gelato, Tucson Tamale, Cowpig and Zio Peppe. See the full list of food vendors (and their menus) here.

If all that weren’t enough, hundreds of exhibitors will line the UA Mall, selling books, highlighting authors and providing community resources.

Readers in the University of Arizona Bookstore tent at the 2023 Tucson Festival of Books.

Rick Wiley, Arizona Daily Star

Is the festival free?

The festival is free to visit.

However, some panels will draw a larger audience, so you may want to get tickets in advance. The tickets are free and can be selected by clicking on the small ticket icon on the author overview. Ticket reservations open on March 4 and close on March 8. (Not all events offer tickets.)

It’s good to know that tickets are not necessary. There will be a percentage of available spaces available on the day of the event on a first come, first served basis. Here you will find more information about ticket sales.

Vince Miguel browses comics in the Bookman’s tent during the second day of the Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona campus on March 5, 2023.

Mamta Popat, Arizona daily star

Need help navigating the festival?

Next Monday, March 4, at 6:30 p.m., the Tucson Festival of Books will host a discussion about navigating the massive event. The discussion will take place in Tucson Medical Center’s Marshall Auditorium, 5301 E. Grant Road.

The discussion is free to attend and is expected to last approximately one hour. You will learn about the layout of the festival, where to park, tips for new festival visitors and more.

The festival also has an app available for iPhone and Android, which can be used to view event times and locations, plus news of any last-minute changes.

The 2023 Tucson Festival of Books brought hundreds of authors and a large audience to the University of Arizona Mall March 4-5. Here are some highlights from the festival. Video by Aidan Wohl / Arizona Daily Star

Aidan Wohl for the Arizona Daily Star

Gloria was born and raised in Tucson and graduated from the University of Arizona in 2018. From wildflowers to wildlife, she loves all things Tucson and hopes to share her love of the city with readers ✨

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