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The Tucson Festival of Books attracts more than 100,000 people per year. Photo from Visit Tucson.

The Tucson Festival of Books attracts more than 100,000 people per year. Photo from Visit Tucson.

Thanks to the hundreds of people who stopped by my booth at the Tucson Festival of Books over the weekend!

It’s the nation’s third largest book fest, attracting more than 100,000 visitors per  year from around the U.S. and beyond.

The festival lineup features dozens of writers, publishers and other literary types appearing on various panel discussions, as well as hundreds of booths stocked with books for sale, informative events and demonstrations, and fun book- and science-related activities geared for kids, among other attractions.

My grandson, Conrad, age 2, was thrilled to meet the costumed character of Pete the Cat, his favorite literary figure. (Pete the Cat is known for his slogan, “It’s all good,” even in the face of adversities such as stepping in piles of strawberries or seeing duck friends wander off when he wants to play.)

Are There Really 100 Things to Do in Tucson?

Meanwhile, my wife, Catharine, and I were hawking my book, 100 Things to Do in Tucson Before You Die, and discovered that people are really taken by the title. Most first were attracted to the “100 Things to Do in Tucson” part, since that was how the banner above my booth read.

Then, when they approached the booth, they spotted the posters with the cover of the book containing the words, “Before You Die,” and most started to laugh, or exclaim “I’d better hurry!”

(Since our booth was next to an organ-donor booth, I was able to joke, “Get your Tucson bucket list before you head next door!” I think the festival organizers who assigned the booths may have had a sense of humor as well.)

Other commonly asked questions: “Are there really 100 things to do in Tucson?” and “Why stop at just 100 things?”

Answers: 1. Yes, and more. 2. Because that’s the (very successful) format my publisher, Reedy Press of St. Louis, has come up with in its nationwide series, “100 Things to Do in ____” (name your closest city — they’ve probably done it or have a book about it in the works).

All the authors are residents of the cities or regions they write about, so you can expect knowledgeable and insightful choices for the “100 Things.”

The colorful cover of 100 Things to Do in Tucson Before You Di

The colorful cover of 100 Things to Do in Tucson Before You Die

Each “thing” gets its own page (sometimes two if there are additional related suggestions) so it’s easy to peruse. Five general categories include “Food and Drink,” “Music and Entertainment,” “Sports and Recreation,” “History and Culture,” and “Shopping and Fashion.”

For Tucson, I looked for a mix of  popular sights and hidden gems that even longtime residents might not know about, such as a women’s roller derby, a glass-blowing school, and the Carnival of Illusion, an inventive magic show staged by a very personable husband and wife team.

Many people who stopped by the booth thumbed through the book, exclaiming, “Done that one, haven’t done that one — or that one!” And that included many longtime residents of the city.

Book Sells Out

I’m delighted to say we sold out our inventory over the weekend, and started to take orders by midday on Sunday.

100 Things to Do in Tucson Before you Die, first published last August, has just been reprinted, so I’ll have more back in stock in a few days.

Even if you’re a Tucson native and have done just about everything you want to do (or think you want to do), it’s a handy reference book to hand to your visitors and let them decide what they would like to do — beyond, perhaps, the best-known attractions.

If you’re a “snowbird,” down here for the winter — and we met many at the festival — the book can help you get to know your temporary community better.

And if you’re planning a visit to Tucson yourself any time in the near future, 100 Things will give you a great head start on sightseeing.

Perhaps because they’ve been using print guidebooks for decades, Baby Boomers were the big purchasers over the weekend.

Conrad meets his idol, Pete the Cat. Photo by Nona Patrick.

Conrad meets his idol, Pete the Cat. Photo by Nona Patrick.

How to Order 100 Things to Do in Tucson Before You Die 

To order directly from me, you can send payment of $17.35 (which includes Arizona sales tax) to or send a check, if you prefer to:

Clark Norton

1026 E. Miles St.

Tucson, AZ 85719

Be sure to send me an email at with your own name and shipping address. As a Festival of Books special, I’ll pay the postage!

And let me know if you’d like me to sign your book.

Thanks — and hope to see you next year at the Tucson Festival of Books!




And a special thanks to Tucson attractions and establishments that generously donated prizes for our drawing at  the Festival:

Harvest on River Restaurant

International Wildlife Museum

Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)

Old Tucson 

Reid Park Zoo

Tucson Museum of Art 








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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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