Don't try to get Mitchell Kaplan to name just five must-see authors at this year's Miami Book Fair. For the co-founder of the 29-year-old event, it can't be done.
"You can't limit me," says Kaplan, who also serves as the fair's chairman, heads its English-language-programming committee and, of course, owns the Books & Books chain of independent bookstores. "I'll just tell you everybody."
And in the next few minutes, he comes close to doing that, reciting a list of attending authors that includes Tom Wolfe, Emma Donoghue, Bill O'Reilly, Camille Paglia, Chris Ware, Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, Junot Diaz, Aline Crumb, Susie Bright, Chris Hayes and James Patterson.
"The beauty of the fair is that each year it's different," Kaplan says of the event, which returns Nov. 11-18 to the Wolfson Campus of Miami Dade College in downtown Miami. "We keep the structure of the fair similar, but they become very different book fairs because of the many authors we present.
"The tragedy for me is that I'm working it, so I can't see everybody."
With more than 350 authors appearing at this year's fair, Kaplan won't be the only attendee suffering the inability to be everywhere at once. But just because Kaplan can't limit his top picks to a cozy, round number doesn't mean we can't. Following are 10 authors we believe you shouldn't miss.
Dan Wakefield and Mark Vonnegut: "Reading these letters has allowed me to know my friend Kurt Vonnegut better and to appreciate him even more. Nothing came easy for him," Wakefield writes in the introduction to "Kurt Vonnegut: Letters," which Wakefield also edited. The volume begins with a letter Vonnegut wrote to his family in May 1945 following his release as a prisoner of war in Germany and ends with one he sent to a Cornell professor two months before his death in April 2007. Declining an invitation to speak at the university, Vonnegut wrote, "I cannot be of any use to you and your students nowadays, alas, since, at 84, I resemble nothing so much as an iguana, hate travel, and have nothing to say. I might as well send a spent Roman candle in my stead." Wakefield will join two recipients of Vonnegut's letters, his son Mark Vonnegut and agent and friend Donald Farber 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 18 in Room 8302 of Building 8.
Tom Wolfe: "How could you live in Miami and not try to puzzle out what someone like Tom Wolfe has to say about us," Kaplan says of Wolfe's new, South Florida-set novel, "Back to Blood." While its reviews have been mixed, and Wolfe's trademark onomatopoeia is on full, sometimes-infuriating display, "Back to Blood" has become required reading this season in South Florida. The iconic, polarizing journalist and novelist will appear 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, during "An Evening With Tom Wolfe" in the Chapman Conference Center. Admission is $10.
Aline Crumb and Chris Ware: Crumb is the wife, muse and foil of underground comics legend Robert Crumb, and their recent anthology "Drawn Together: The Collected Works of Aline and R. Crumb" celebrates their union in all its ragged, creative and hypersexualized glory. Aline Crumb, presumably with her clothes on, will appear at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the Batten Building, Room 2106. Ware, meanwhile, is the award-winning graphic novelist who is best known for his book "Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth." That's likely to change with the publication of "Building Stories," an innovative collection of mini novels assembled in a large box and printed as leaflets, hardcover books and a newspaper-style broadsheet, among other defiantly anti-digital formats. With Ware's austere illustrations, tragic characters and laconic dialogue, "Building Stories" is as heartbreaking as it is inventive. Find him 3:30 p.m. Saturday, also in Room 2106.
J.R. Moehringer: The New York Times was none too kind in its recent review of Moehringer's "Sutton," a historical novel about the legendary bank robber Willie Sutton. But the writer built up stores of goodwill with his bestselling 2005 memoir, "The Tender Bar," so expect a line of fans when he signs books following his reading 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the Building 1 auditorium.
Molly Ringwald: The onetime Brat Pack actress and current star of ABC Family's "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" (she plays said teenager's mother) will read a selection from her new "novel in stories" titled "When It Happens to You" 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, in the Chapman Conference Center. Read our interview with her by clicking here.
Les Standiford and Campbell McGrath: Standiford, the director of Florida International University's Creative Writing Program, and McGrath, the MacArthur Fellowship (a.k.a. Genius Grant) winner who teaches poetry at the school, will discuss their most-recent works in separate sessions. McGrath will read from his latest collection, "In the Kingdom of the Sea Monkeys," 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Room 8303 of Building 8. At 3 that day in the Chapman Conference Center, Standiford will enter the competition for the fair's longest book title when he discusses "Desperate Sons: Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, John Hancock and the Secret Bands of Radicals Who Led the Colonies to War."
Craig Pittman: Officially, Pittman is an environmental reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and the author of the books "Manatee Insanity" and this year's "The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid." Unofficially, he runs one of our state's best Twitter feeds, on which he posts vintage soul and gospel videos, shares bizarre headlines from across the peninsula (hashtag: Oh, #Florida), comments on books he loves (and loathes) and, of course, links to crucially important environmental news. Follow him at @craigtimes, or meet him the old-fashioned way at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, in the Batten Building, Room 2106.
Miami Book Fair
When: Sunday, Nov. 11, through Sunday, Nov. 18
Where: Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami
Cost: Prices vary for "An Evening With …" sessions, though most cost $10; street fair admission is free Nov. 16; $8 Nov. 17-18; $5 ages 13-18 and 62 and older; free for ages 12 and younger