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    Daily Wildcat Arts & Life staff’s favorite and would-be Festival of Books authors

    Daily Wildcat Arts & Life staffs favorite and would-be Festival of Books authors

    The fourth annual Tucson Festival of Books comes to the UA on Saturday and Sunday. The festival first debuted in March of 2009 on campus, with 450 authors and 50,000 visitors. Famous authors and journalists such as Roy Peter Clark, Margaret Regan, R.L. Stine and Gene Weingarten as well as esteemed regents’ professors such as Richard Shelton and Ofelia Zepeda are coming to discuss their lives, professions and topics ranging from the border to “Below the Beltway.” In honor of the festival, the Arts & Life staff picked some of the authors who are coming, or we wish would come, to the festival and highlighted their works.

    Gene Weingarten, “Fatal Distraction”

    Newshounds, journalism majors and anyone who appreciates talented writing can get pumped to see two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gene Weingarten at the festival.

    Weingarten’s solo presentation, “The Secret Rape of Sex and Death” on Saturday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Arizona Daily Star pavilion on the UA Mall, will highlight his writing chops as the penman of his Washington Post humor column, “Below the Beltway,” and contributor to the “Barney and Clyde” comic strip.

    After winning his first Pulitzer for his violinist social experiment in 2008’s “Pearls Before Breakfast,” he nabbed another two years later with “Fatal Distraction,” a tragic news story about parents who accidentally leave their children in the car. Weingarten writes about a horrifying situation in which a mother realized she left her child in the car, thinking the child was already dropped off with a baby sitter. He then paints a picture of Lyn Balfour sprinting to the car to find her dead child. The story is devastating to read when Weingarten describes the most dreadful scene — a child who pulled out her hair before dying of hyperthermia in the car. Weingarten has a way of bringing readers to tears, whether he’s writing heartbreaking stories or funny columns.

    — Michelle A. Weiss

    Robert Jordan, “The Wheel of Time” series

    Everyone knows about “The Lord of the Rings,” and now “A Game of Thrones” is becoming a household book name — even if the series is actually called “A Song of Ice and Fire.” J.R.R. Tolkien is the father of modern fantasy, and George R.R. Martin is finally starting to get the acclaim he deserves, but many people don’t know about the missing piece of the fantasy titan trifecta — “The Wheel of Time” series, by the late Robert Jordan.

    Spanning 14 books — the last of which is set to be released Jan. 8, 2013 — it’s something completely different than the rest. Instead of following the adventures of slightly extraordinary individuals or wrapping readers up into a chaotic storm of politics, “The Wheel of Time” is centered around a man with the fate of the world on his shoulders. Only this time, instead of being a hobbit, he’s the most powerful being in existence, second only to the antagonist who has remained locked away until his expected release in the final book.

    There’s a widely diverse and strong supporting cast of characters too, all of whom play a crucial role. Jordan created a complex and deep world, one that equals or even edges out Middle Earth. Every culture is entirely different, and he weaves them all together intricately. It’s set on an epic scale and the stakes are far higher than many great novels.

    His dialogue is snappy and well thought-out, and his prose is beautiful. Even though Brandon Sanderson had to wrap things up, this series will keep you busy, intrigued and entertained for years to come.

    — Jason Krell

    J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit”

    “The Hobbit” is where the adventure and awe of J.R.R. Tolkien’s brilliantly crafted world all began. It’s a world where elves, wizards, orcs and rings of ultimate power not only exist, but captivate us beyond reality — and the journey begins with the smallest of beings in Middle Earth, a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo, satisfied with the comforts of his quaint home, wants nothing to do with the adventure (or rather, burden) thrust upon him by the wizard Gandalf. Yet, adventure runs in the hobbit’s blood, and Bilbo discovers the strength and bravery within him that he never realized was there.

    I love this book because of the journey we go through with Bilbo. Every single step along the way enriches the tale, from the Mirkwood forest to being held captive by elves, to Bjorn’s house, all the way to the mountain where the dragon Smaug unrightfully guards his treasure. When reading “The Hobbit,” I become a part of that world. I love that uninhibited feeling where things that we wouldn’t have the chance to experience in our normal lives suddenly become possible. They become real, even if for just a moment. And what’s even more exciting, we have “The Hobbit” to look forward to on the big screen this December.

    — Alyssa DeMember

    Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”

    Hunter S. Thompson’s most famous novel begins, “We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.” Those words have torn many a reader down a highway of drugs and writing, and here’s why.

    “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas” might not be entirely nonfiction, but it’s more truthful than most other works. Similar to Thompson’s other novels, this one is a serious critique of the American dream in a first-person, journalistic fashion. Through the lens of a Gonzo journalist in the midst of a drug frenzy in 1960s Las Vegas, the reader sees how the casinos and hotels are nothing more than whorehouses for a dead dream that was never real to begin with.

    That’s not to say that the novel isn’t hilarious. However, you might also reflect on Thompson’s Wave Speech: “There was madness in any direction, at any hour … you could strike sparks anywhere,” Thompson wrote about the middle ‘60s. “So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

    Perhaps the wave will rise again. But it’ll take knowledge, love and perhaps a lot of drugs. You can find all of that where I did, somewhere in the pages of “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas.”

    — Greg Gonzales

    Marlene Wagman-Geller, “Once Again to Zelda”

    Oftentimes when we open up a new book, we flip right past its dedication. But Marlene Wagman-Geller’s “Once Again to Zelda” highlights these inscriptions by explaining the history, context and motivations behind the dedications of 50 iconic books.

    For genuine bookworms, “Zelda” discusses all of the favorite classics, such as “Alice in Wonderland,” “Pride and Prejudice” and “Moby Dick.” These classics provide escapes into adventure, war, romance and mystery with characters we are attached to. Yet, reading about an author’s life, mindset, relationships and quirks is sometimes even more intriguing than the fictitious story within the book. For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald dedicated his most famous masterpiece, “The Great Gatsby” to his wife Zelda Fitzgerald, in spite of their often turbulent love.

    Wagman-Gellar’s “Zelda” not only discusses the world behind the classics, but also includes iconic contemporary novels such as “Harry Potter,” “The Da Vinci Code” and “Seabiscuit.” “Once Again to Zelda” is a good reminder to dedicate your first book to someone or something meaningful. And for the general reader, tread lightly — these passages may make you think twice about your favorite classic.

    — Cecelia Marshall

    Tucker Max, “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell”

    He’s incredibly crass and simultaneously riveting, viciously sociopathic yet somehow relatable. Tucker Max’s “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell” not only polarized the literary world in a rare way, but developed a new genre in the process. Max is credited with developing the “fratire” genre, laying out the most exorbitant sexual encounters for the world to read with a substantial amount of dark humor mixed in.

    Max’s books aren’t for the faint of heart, literary snobs or most people with morals. “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell” broke new ground by publishing graphic exploits and also angering most religious, feminist and social groups in one fell blow. The writing isn’t anything exceptional, but the book is one hell of a pick-me-up on a bad day. Within the first 10 pages, any reader with a sense of humor and a slightly twisted mind will be in hysterics. Some stories seem slightly unbelievable, but that’s the glory of creative nonfiction. We all like to get lost in worlds that are not our own, and sometimes those worlds include midgets, Astroglide and absinthe.

    — K.C. Libman

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