Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Tournament of Books X

Over the last year, I’ve been part of a book club called Books and Bars.  It is likely to be exactly what you think it is: a book club hosted at a bar (and often at a very good craft beer bar, but that’s getting off topic into another facet of my geekdom).  During the discussion of The Orphan Master’s Son last year, there was some talk about something called The Tournament of Books.  I had never heard of such a thing, which seems a tragedy since I like tournaments and I like books.  What can possibly be wrong with this?  Part of what the people in the know found so fascinating was that besides the official commentary of the books during each judging round, there was serious and intelligent discussion going on in the comments section of each round, often as good or better than the initial judging.  For Books and Bars, great discussion points came out of the Tournament of Books. 

I decided I wanted to know more. 

A month ago, this year’s Tournament of Books was announced.  The Tournament of Books is put on by The Morning News, “an online magazine of essays, art, humor, and culture published weekdays since 1999”, plus links to headlines of interesting news bits. 

The way this works is that 17 books are seeded into a bracket setting (2 books have a “play in” round).  Each match up has a judge and the judge will lay down some commentary on each book before choosing a winner to advance.  Each round has a different judge.  There are a couple of other little quirks like a “zombie round” where a lucky loser gets to play back in if it was one of the most popular books voted on before the tournament began, and then in the finals, the full panel will select the winner. 

Or, it’s a great big reading list of hopefully interesting books and is a spark for great conversation both within the tournament and outside of it.  This will be my first year participating in it in any capacity. 

Below is the list of books in the tournament.

"At Night We Walk in Circles" by Daniel Alarcón
"The Luminaries" by Eleanor Catton
"The Tuner of Silences" by Mia Couto
"The Signature of All Things" by Elizabeth Gilbert
"How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia" by Mohsin Hamid
"The Dinner" by Herman Koch
"The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri
"Long Division" by Kiese Laymon
"The Good Lord Bird" by James McBride
"Hill William" by Scott McClanahan
"The Son" by Philipp Meyer
"A Tale for the Time Being" by Ruth Ozeki
"Eleanor & Park" by Rainbow Rowell
"The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt
"The People in the Trees" by Hanya Yanagihara

Pre-Tournament Playoff Round
"Life After Life" by Kate Atkinson
"Woke Up Lonely" by Fiona Maazel
At this point, I have read The Lowland and Life After Life, and I attempted The Booker Prize winning The Luminaries and decided after only a few pages that I didn’t have the patience to attempt this monster tome, award winning or not.  I’ll chip away at this listing as I can before the tournament starts and brackets are released sometime in late February or early March, which probably means I’ll read one to two more books (How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is next up from the library).  I may write a little bit about The Lowland and Life After Life in the coming weeks. 

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