Tackling the Tournament of Books

Who needs March Madness when you have the Tournament of Books? The list of finalists has been out for a few weeks, but now we have brackets and the fun can really start. I managed to get through about half of the titles – so even though there was plenty of random guessing, I couldn’t resist the fun of filling out a bracket and seeing where it goes.

Finalists For the 2014 Tournament of Books

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

Pre-Tournament Playoff Round

  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson [READ]
  • Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel
Tournament of Books 2014 Predictions
Tournament of Books bracket from The Morning News
Individual judges play a pretty important role in the Tournament of Books, so it can be hard to make guesses (even on books you’ve read) if you don’t have a good feel for the judge. Unfortunately, I’m only familiar with a handful of them this year, so that made things a little tricky. 

Clearly, I had a much easier time with the “West Coast”, though most of the wins I filled in are just gut feelings based on a little information about the judges or books. The “East Coast” is where it all went to Hell. I’m fairly confident that Geraldine Brooks will choose Life After Life in the Pre-Tournament round. I’m also pretty sure John Green will choose it over The People in the Trees, though I would go the other way. 

While I think The Son will make it through to Lizzie Skurnick, I just have no idea what to think about The Goldfinch vs. Long Division. On the surface it seems like an unfair pairing, but I know there are plenty of people that really dislike The Goldfinch. Plus, I just couldn’t chart The Goldfinch through to a round where it’s up against The Son – I can’t pitch my two favorites against each other! 

I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. I love reading the judges’ responses and following it through to the end. We have less than a week to wait! According to the Tournament of Books Facebook page, here’s the schedule: 

3/3: Pre-Tournament Playoff Winner: Life After Life
3/6: The Luminaries v. Hill William Winner: Hill William
3/7: A Tale for the Time Being v. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia Winner: A Tale for the Time Being
3/10: The Good Lord Bird v. The Tuner of Silences
3/11: The Signature of All Things v. The Dinner
3/12: The Lowland v. Eleanor & Park
3/13: The Son v. At Night We Walk in Circles
3/14: The Goldfinch v. Long Division
3/17: [Pre-Tournament Playoff Winner] v. The People in the Trees
3/18, 3/19, 3/20, 3/21: Quarterfinals
3/24, 3/25: Semifinals
3/26, 3/27: Zombie Round
3/28: Championship

What are some of the outcomes you’re predicting?
  • I’m impressed you’ve read so many of these books already.

    • I wish I could say I had a great project and read all of these over the last few weeks that the finalists have been out, but I think I just got lucky that I had read many of them over the last year :)

      • Kelly Massry

        I would’ve liked a great project too. I wish I’d devoted all of February to ToB books and got some more read. I’m in the middle of The Lowland and Tale for the Time Being (what is with me? why can’t I finish any books this week?) Assuming I get those down, I’ll have read 7 of the titles. Do they update their site every few days with the judgment essays? Because I totally missed the follow-through part last year!

        • They do! Some of them are really fantastic, full of zealous love for the books they picked. It’s so great to read them.

  • I love this so much because I LOVE the ToB! Love. Love hard! Even though I’ve read a sad number of the books this year.

  • I was just working on my brackets. You and I differ on quite a number of important matches. I think I’m going to wait until after the pre-tournament play off to post mine. Is that fair?

    • Totally fair! I’m really just throwing things out here, because it depends so much on the judges. If I could judge, this would look much different ;)

  • Susan W

    I love the ToB also! I can never guess how things will turn out. I enjoyed Long Division but loved Goldfinch. I don’t think I could choose between Goldfinch and Life After Life if they meet up! On the other side, I hope A Tale for the Time Being goes all the way. (I picked it for my Zombie pick). I’ve read 10 so far. Still waiting for the library to come through with the last couple of holds.

    • The Goldfinch was my favorite from last year and I’m in the middle of (and really enjoying A Tale for the Time Being) right now. I really hope I can squeeze in Long Division before the tournament, I have a copy sitting right next to me!

  • Ti Reed

    I follow the TOB as well but this time, I am way, way out of the loop with my reading. I usually do end up reading many of the books, but never in time for the results.

    • I think I lucked out that so many of the ones on the list I had already read last year, but there were a few titles I hadn’t even heard of.

  • I created a Goodreads shelf for this purpose. Unfortunately most of the books that I don’t own are backlisted at the library to about a million people.

    • I couldn’t believe after the ToB list was announced I was only the second person in the waiting line for Long Division! I think I would be waiting a while for some of the bigger name titles, though.

  • Jennine G.

    Cool. I saw one of these done once with classics, but on a bigger scale. Lots of fun!

  • Kim Ukura

    I’ve only read three of these titles! I had done a lot better last year. I just read A Tale for the Time Being and didn’t love it, so I will be curious how it does in the TOB.

  • I remeber hearing about TOB, it’s fun that they have brackets. Can’t wait to see how this plays out.

  • I’m so glad you posted this! I forgot to keep checking on whether they’d released brackets yet, so I didn’t know this was out already. Goody, goody, goody. I love the Tournament of Books. I love that you always know who the judges are and can base your predictions on what you know of each judge.

  • I feel like since I haven’t read The Goldfinch, I can’t make an informed decision, but currently I’d like to see The Good Lord Bird go far.

  • Vasilly

    If The Good Lord Bird goes against A Tale for the Time Being, who do you think would win? I need to read The Good Lord Bird.

    • I still haven’t read The Good Lord Bird, though I really want to. Based on what I know about John Darnielle (an indie musician) and only having read A Tale for the Time Being, which has elements of magical realism and philosophy…I’m going with that.

  • I would predict that The Goldfinch would go all the way, as it’s such a solid story that appeals to a wide audience; but so many of you are pulling for Long Division, which I haven’t read. The only thing I can say with some certainty is that The Dinner will fall in the first round. That was one of my least favorite books of all of 2013.

    • The Goldfinch v Long Division is the ONE battle that has that whole side of the tournament held up for me…I really have no idea. The Goldfinch was my favorite book of 2013, but I know that some people really didn’t like it – so it’s such a toss up when it comes to the judge!

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