Keep your eye on the prizes at the 2009 St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading.
The roster of featured authors this year includes four Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as an appearance by the St. Petersburg Times' Pulitzer-winning PolitiFact team.
Among the headliners for the event is historian Taylor Branch, who won the Pulitzer for his trilogy of books on the civil rights movement, America in the King Years. Branch will present his new book, The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History With the President, based on more than 150 hours of interviews with former President Bill Clinton.
Another Pulitzer winner, David Finkel, has a book torn straight from the headlines. A reporter for the Washington Post (and formerly for the St. Petersburg Times), Finkel will present his gripping book The Good Soldiers, drawn from 15 months he spent covering an infantry battalion during the surge in Baghdad.
Philip Caputo won his Pulitzer for journalism and is best known for his memoir about Vietnam, A Rumor of War. The book he will present at the festival is a novel, Crossers, but its subject matter is newsworthy - a complex tale of life along the United States-Mexico border.
As a reporter or editor, Jeff Leen of the Washington Post has been a six-time Pulitzer winner. His new book, The Queen of the Ring: Sex, Muscles, Diamonds, and the Making of an American Legend, is a biography of pioneering wrestler Mildred Burke. (See review, next page.)
The St. Petersburg Times has its own Pulitzer Prize winners this year. The team of editors and reporters who research and write PolitiFact, which won the Pulitzer for national reporting for coverage of the 2008 election, will appear at the festival to talk about how they created the Web site.
Famous faces on the author list include former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, presenting his timely guidebook to grass roots activism, America, the Owner's Manual: Making Government Work for You. Jane Velez-Mitchell, host of HLN's Issues and longtime TV journalist, will present her memoir iWant:My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life, a tale of her struggles with alcoholism and her sexuality, and her embrace of environmentalism and animal rights.
Actor Amber Tamblyn, star of Joan of Arcadia and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, will present Bang Ditto, a collection of poems about public perception and privacy, beauty and body image, and growing up in show business.
Comedian and writer Andy Borowitz dishes up some schadenfreude in Who Moved My Soap? The CEO's Guide to Surviving in Prison: The Bernie Madoff Edition, Updated in 2009.
The festival's lighter side includes several authors with books about pop culture. John Ortved's The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History celebrates the ground-breaking animated comedy's 20th anniversary. Rock & Roll . . . And the Beat Goes On is a musical memoir by legendary New York City DJ "Cousin Brucie" Morrow.Carrie McLaren, founder of the online magazine Stay Free!, will present her irreverent critique of advertising, Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture.
Fans of fiction can hear presentations by Eric Kraft, whose trilogy of novels, Flying, creates a warmly engaging alternate universe, or University of Florida creative writing professor Padgett Powell, with his experimental novel The Interrogative Mood.
Tampa author, filmmaker and new media producer Greg Neri will present his YA novel, Surf Mules. Bestselling author Eileen Goudge will present Once in a Blue Moon, her novel about two sisters separated as children and trying to reunite. Jamie Ford presents Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, his debut novel about a 12-year-old Chinese boy coping with first love and prejudice in World War II-era Seattle. Miami Herald reporter Fabiola Santiago'sReclaiming Paris is a sensual and beguiling tale of a woman haunted by memories of Cuba.
Three authors will present nonfiction books that focus on the lives of strong women. Olivia Gentile's Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds is a fascinating biography of extreme birder Phoebe Snetsinger. The Water Giver: The Story of a Mother, a Son and Their Second Chance is journalist Joan Ryan's moving memoir about coping with her teenage son's traumatic brain injury. Historian Carol Berkin will present Civil War Wives: The Lives and Times of Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis, and Julia Dent Grant.
As always, many Florida writers will appear at the festival. St. Petersburg's first poet laureate, Peter Meinke, will present Lines From Neuchatel.
From the USF St. Petersburg faculty, historian Raymond Arsenault will present his book The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America, and his colleague Gary Mormino will presentItalians in Florida. Art historian Sheramy Bundrick will present her debut novel Sunflowers, based on the life of Vincent van Gogh.
From USF in Tampa, creative writing professor John Henry Fleming will present Fearsome Creatures of Florida, a whimsical bestiary of critters real and (maybe) imaginary. Alicia Thompson, a graduate student in creative writing at USF, will present her YA novel, Psych Major Syndrome.
Other Florida writers look at the bad, the delicious and the living past. Journalist Gerald Posner investigates bad behavior in South Florida in Miami Babylon: Crime, Wealth, and Power - A Dispatch from the Beach. Andrew Huse writes about a savory local landmark in The Columbia Restaurant: Celebrating a Century of History, Culture, and Cuisine. Carlton Ward captures in beautiful photos a little-seen slice of life in the Sunshine State in Florida Cowboys: Keepers of the Last Frontier.
Times reporters Craig Pittman and Matthew Waite will present Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss, an investigation of the destruction of the state's environment.
Florida thriller writers will be represented by Tim Dorsey with his comic thriller, Nuclear Jellyfish; Michael Koryta with his missing-persons mystery The Silent Hour (see review, next page); Bob Morris with his cruise-gone-wrong A Deadly Silver Sea; James Swain with the abduction-driven thriller The Night Monster; Lisa Unger with her hidden-identity mystery Die for You; and Times copy editor Ian Vasquez with his noir tale Lonesome Point.
As always, the Festival of Reading includes free activities for children, entertainment, food vendors and the Book Market. Look for reviews of books by festival authors, interviews and other features in the coming weeks. A special section with the festival program will appear on Oct. 22.
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Ray Arsenault, The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America
Larry Baker, A Good Man
Josh Bazell, Beat the Reaper
Carol Berkin, Civil War Wives
Andy Borowitz, Who Moved My Soap? A CEO's Guide to Surviving in Prison: The Bernie Madoff Edition
Taylor Branch, The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History With the President
Sheramy Bundrick, Sunflowers: A Novel of Vincent Van Gogh
Philip Caputo, Crossers
Jack E. Davis, An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century
Tim Dorsey, Nuclear Jellyfish
William Felice, How Do I Save My Honor? War, Moral Integrity, and Principled Resignation
David Finkel, The Good Soldiers
John Henry Fleming, Fearsome Creatures of Florida
Jamie Ford, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Carlos Frias, Take Me With You: A Memoir
Dennis Fried, Small Dog, Big Life: Memoirs of a Furry Genius
Olivia Gentile, Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds
Eileen Goudge, Once in a Blue Moon
Sen. Bob Graham, America, The Owner's Manual
Andrew T. Huse, The Columbia Restaurant: Celebrating a Century of History, Culture, and Cuisine
Zachary Karabell, Superfusion: How China and America Became One Economy and Why the World's Prosperity Depends on It
N.M. Kelby, A Travel Guide for Reckless Hearts: Stories and The Constant Art of Being a Writer:The Life, Art & Business of Fiction
Jeff Klinkenberg, Pilgrim in the Land of Alligators
Michael Koryta, The Silent Hour
Eric Kraft, Flying
Richard Lederer, A Treasury for Dog Lovers and A Treasury for Cat Lovers
Jeff Leen, The Queen of the Ring: Sex, Muscles, Diamonds, and the Making of an American Legend
Carrie McLaren, Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture
Peter Meinke, Lines From Neuchatel
Gary Mormino, Italians in Florida
Bob Morris, A Deadly Silver Sea
"Cousin Brucie" Morrow, Rock & Roll . . .And the Beat Goes On
Greg Neri, Surf Mules
John Ortved, The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History
Janis Owens, The Cracker Kitchen: A Cookbook in Celebration of Cornbread-Fed, Down-Home Family Stories and Cuisine
Craig Pittman and Matthew Waite, Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss
Gerald Posner, Miami Babylon: Crime, Wealth, and Power
Padgett Powell, The Interrogative Mood
Kit Reed, Enclave
Joan Ryan, The Water Giver
Fabiola Santiago, Reclaiming Paris
Tony Silvia, Fathers and Sons in Baseball Broadcasting
James Swain, The Night Monster
Amber Tamblyn, Bang Ditto
Alicia Thompson, Psych Major Syndrome
Lisa Unger, Die For You
Ian Vasquez, Lonesome Point
Jane Velez-Mitchell, iWant: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life
Carlton Ward, Florida Cowboys
Wendy Wax, The Accidental Bestseller
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If you go The 17th annual St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 24 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, 140 Seventh Ave. S at Bayboro Harbor. Admission is free. For a complete list of authors and more event information, go to festivalofreading.com.