Book festivals:  they’re not just for the tweed-suited and elbow-patched anymore. This weekend in Gaithersburg you’ll find advice columnists, stand-up comedians, and one of the stars of 30 Rock (!?). Oh, and writers. Our picks for festival highlights are below:

Adam Hochschild:  Man, can this guy write about history in a way that is both inspiring and deeply unsettling. Remember King Leopold’s Ghost? That book stuck with me more than most of the things I read in college. Hochschild will be reading from his newest offering, To End All Wars:  A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, which is a finalist for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award. Christopher Hitchens (RIP) called it a “moving and important book… to make one feel deeply and painfully, and also to think hard.”

Buzz BissingerFriday Night Lights was a movie before it was a TV show, and it was a book before it was a movie. Bissinger wrote that book. He’s one of those rare people who writes about sports in a way that people who don’t really care about sports (me) can find both moving and exciting. But his new book isn’t sport-y at all, or at least not on the surface — Father’s Day is about Bissinger going on a road trip with his son, who suffers from severe birth defects:  “He’ll never drive a car, or kiss a girl, or live by himself. He is a savant, challenged by serious intellectual deficits but also blessed with rare talents: an astonishing memory, a dazzling knack for navigation, and a reflexive honesty which can make him both socially awkward and surprisingly wise.” Okay, it sounds kinda cheesy, but when I heard Bissinger interviewed on the radio yesterday, he was so straight-talking and honest and moving that I bet he’ll be amazing in person.

Judah Friedlander:  Not only a star on 30 Rock, but also the author of How to Beat Up Anybody, an instructional karate book. Uh, let’s just let his bio speak for itself:  “Onstage Friedlander is The World Champion. He is the best athlete in the world, greatest martial artist, the sexual desire of every woman, and a role model to children. Let’s face it, Judah is the greatest comedian in the world… And the most humble. Judah is an extra-dark blackbelt in karate. Judah’s hilarious instructional karate book How To Beat Up Anybody… is the greatest book in karate history.”

Baratunde Thurston:  He works for the Onion, gave a keynote address at this year’s SXSW, and was called by none other than Barack Obama “someone I need to know.” Those are some pretty good credentials. He’s here promoting his new book, How to Be Black.

Larry Doyle:  You may know him from his humor pieces in the New Yorker, or from his four-year stint as producer of the Simpsons, or from his popular 2008 novel, I Love You, Beth Cooper. His new book is called Deliriously Happy.

See the complete list of events, authors, and other excitement here.