Pine Reads Review is Back for Tucson Festival of Books 2024


Since our team had the wonderful experience of attending the Tucson Festival of Books last year, we just had to be there again! A bit of history: the festival started in 2009 and has grown to become the third-largest book festival, as well as the top nonprofit book festival (admission is free!), in the United States. Not only does TFOB include numerous author panels, book signing opportunities, and heaps of books everywhere just waiting to be bought, but the event also includes food from various local vendors (an opportunity not to be squandered; Tucson boasts the UNESCO-granted title of City of Gastronomy), live music and performances, and various businesses peddling all sorts of trinkets. Included in the Festival is Science City, where you can experience the wonder of science, whether that’s peering down at some pond water underneath a microscope or staring at the sun with a solar telescope. Whatever you enjoy, there’s doubtless something for you at TFOB. 

Wondering about our staff’s experiences at the festival this year? Keep reading to hear all about our favorite TFOB moments!

My favorite experience from the Tucson Festival of Books this year was having the opportunity to meet one of my favorite authors from my tween years. I was able to attend Marissa Meyer’s panel with a book signing after. Thirteen-year-old me was very active on BookTube, and finally getting the chance to attend a book signing from one of my favorite authors checked something off of my bucket list.  After the panel, where I learned a lot about the process of writing a YA novel, as well as the difficulties all writers face when tackling themes of romance and comedy, I got to have my copies of Cinder and Heartless signed, as well as pictures taken. I even managed to connect with another girl visiting Tucson on our love for Meyer’s books and just our general tween fangirl eras.

Jenica Delaney, Pine Reads Review Writer

Do you believe in luck? Marissa Meyer’s new book, With a Little Luck, is about a boy named Jude who finds a 20-sided die that grants him good luck, though Meyer herself says she doesn’t believe in it. To her, luck is equal to opportunity plus ability, but, after the Tucson Festival of Books, I think I believe in luck in the traditional sense. I started working at Pine Reads this semester, and I am so grateful I did because I would not have thought to go to TFOB otherwise. All I had to do was roll out of bed (I live near the University of Arizona), and there was the author who affected my childhood so immensely speaking in the room where I took my math tests last year—and then I got to meet her! What are the odds of that? Did I find Jude’s lucky 20-sided die and not realize it? For all my love of reading and English, I cannot find the words for how lucky I feel, but I know I’ll remember it forever.

Abby Ballas, Pine Reads Review Editor

My favorite TFOB experience was getting the opportunity to interview Hafsah Faizal in person! She was so nice, and it was surreal to be able to discuss her new book, A Tempest of Tea, with her. I got to learn so much about the process of writing it and how she got the ideas for different parts of the novel. It was my first spoken interview, and it’s definitely one I will never forget! Faizal was even kind enough to sign my copies of We Hunt the Flame and A Tempest of Tea, and her husband took a picture of us together. It was truly one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had!

Check out Sam’s review of A Tempest of Tea here and her interview with Hafsah Faizal here!

Sam Yanis, Pine Reads Review Writer

This was my second time attending the Tucson Festival of Books, and it was even more wonderful than before! There were many exciting and enjoyable booths, panels, and activities, but my favorite experiences were easily my interactions with some of the festival’s featured authors. I met many of my favorite writers, including Olivie Blake, Hafsah Faizal, Amélie Wen Zhao, and Axie Oh (who I bonded over Studio Ghibli with). I also got my copies of their books signed and personalized, so I have mementos I can treasure for years to come. Plus, all the signings and author events were totally free, which saved me money (that I promptly spent on new books). I highly recommend attending the festival to all book lovers! It’s a great, accessible opportunity to interact with authors right here in Tucson.

Melia Gemrose, Pine Reads Review Editor

This is my third time at the Tucson Festival of Books, and I can honestly say that it only gets better every year! Maybe that’s because for the last two years, I ran around the Festival guided only by the fickle TFOB app (fun, but chaotic). This year, I came equipped with a color-coded spreadsheet with all the author panels I wanted to go to. Maybe that’s too much for a book festival, but I finished the weekend feeling fully satisfied with my strategy and with every intention of doing it again next year. If you’re also sworn enemies with the TFOB app, maybe a spreadsheet will work for you, too.

I had the chance to see many of my favorite authors at their panels: Isabel Cañas (author of The Hacienda), Roshani Chokshi (author of The Gilded Wolves series), T.J. Klune (author of The House in the Cerulean Sea), Olivie Blake (author of The Atlas Six), Misa Sugiura (author of Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind), Tia Williams (author of Seven Days in June), and Elana K. Arnold (author of Damsel). 

The very first panel I attended was titled “Supernatural Romance,” which featured Isabel Cañas, Roshani Chokshi, and Melissa Marr. This panel was full of good conversation—I loved hearing them speak about the importance of fantasy as a genre, reflect on how their culture and upbringing influences their work, and, in a brief moment that nonetheless stood out to me, learning about Dr. (!) Cañas’ thesis work! Additionally, the opportunity to see Roshani felt so surreal—Leila from The Gilded Wolves series was the first ever Indian representation I found in a book, so both author and character are just so special to me. If there is one panel I wish I could go back to and experience again, it would undoubtedly be this one. I went for Isabel Cañas and Roshani Chokshi, but one of the delights of TFOB is getting to know new authors. Melissa Marr was simply amazing, and I will be picking up one of her books expeditiously.

I also enjoyed the panel “Historical Romance Done Differently” with authors Tia Williams, Liana De La Rosa, Diana Quincy, and Beverly Jenkins. Tia Williams was the reason I went, but like the former panel, the other authors were brilliant, and I’m eager to pick up their books. One thing about TFOB is that you will continuously be adding books to your TBR the entire time! On this panel, the authors spoke about why they are drawn to writing historical romance and the importance of diversity and representation in the genre: it keeps the forgotten, overlooked, or discarded histories of marginalized people alive. And who doesn’t love a good love story? 

Lastly, I had the chance to meet Olivie Blake for a second time and have her sign my copy of Masters of Death. T.J. Klune signed a newly-bought copy of The House in the Cerulean Sea, which is going to make a wonderful gift for my friend. Another thing about TFOB: there is no better present than an autographed book for your bookworm friends. 

I can not recommend TFOB enough. Not only is it loads of fun, but listening to authors speak thoughtfully about their work and sociopolitical issues is unfathomably important to any reader who wants to engage critically with the literature they consume. I will doubtless be at the Festival again next year! 

Aruna Sreenivasan, Pine Reads Review Assistant Director & Community Outreach Lead

Another year, another amazing experience at the Tucson Festival of Books. With such a star-studded lineup, it is no surprise that I loved every minute of this event. I adored hearing from longtime favorites and new faces alike.

The highlight of my weekend was hearing from Kate DiCamillo during her aptly named panel “Every Good Story is a Love Story.” Like Kate herself, there were many moments I was on the verge of tears while listening to her discuss her inspirations and the stories behind books I’ve adored since I was a child, including The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Kate DiCamillo has such a passion for middle grade literature that I fell in love with the genre all over again. She is deeply deserving of her many accolades. It was surreal to have her sign my cherished copy of The Tale of Despereaux.

I also love how TFOB offers so many opportunities to hear from unfamiliar authors. One standout instance was when I attended a rom-com panel, mainly to hear from Marissa Meyer, author of The Lunar Chronicles. Marissa was as fantastic as I’d hoped, but the other panelists also grabbed my attention. Leuyen Pham and Gene Luen Yang, co-creators of the graphic novel Lunar New Year Love Story, continually brought joy and laughter with their banter. Even though I don’t typically gravitate toward graphic novels, I just had to buy their book after listening to them talk! Having the book signed and chatting with the pair was an amazing way to end the day. Along with her signature, Leuyen Pham committed to sketching every person who had their book signed. I love opening my copy of Lunar New Year Love Story and seeing the personalized drawing.

I am looking forward to reading the books I brought home from this year’s festival and eagerly awaiting news about TFOB 2025!

Ashley Amacher, Pine Reads Review Assistant Director & Lead Editor