Reading Ahead: The 2016 Tournament of Books

Reading Ahead

Don’t worry, I haven’t gone off the deep end and you haven’t missed any Tournament of Books announcements, but I’m one of those people who keeps the brackets in the back of my mind throughout the year. I think my reading kind of naturally circles around Tournament titles anyway, but I do try to predict and pre-read some of the longlist before it’s announced early each year.

At the end of last year’s Tournament, the organizers shared this as a list of titles to watch. Based on previous years it’s a great place to start, but definitely doesn’t mean everything here will be on the longlist and vice versa. I have no delusions about trying to read this whole list, nor do I want to, but have been taking a peek at it when looking at library lists and choosing upcoming books.

Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg
Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman
After Birth by Elisa Albert
A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball
There’s Something I Want You to Do by Charles Baxter
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
Outline by Rachel Cusk
The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell
The Infernal by Mark Doten
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
Purity by Jonathan Franzen
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
City On Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
Delicious Foods by James Hannaham
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James
Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
My Struggle: Book Four by Karl Ove Knausgaard
I Am Radar by Reif Larsen
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
The Whites by Richard Price
The Poser by Jacob Rubin
The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard
Making Nice by Matt Summell
The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
Find Me by Laura van den Berg
Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Mislaid by Nell Zink

The Tournament of Books “year” actually goes from November to November, so anything published in the US from November 2014 to November 2015 will be fair game. Here are a few I’m really hoping to see, which weren’t already mentioned above:

The Shore by Sara Taylor
Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis
Sweetland by Michael Crummey
In the Country by Mia Alvar
Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

For anyone interested in keeping up with the Tournament of Books during the “off season” there are two great Goodreads groups that stay active throughout the year: The Rooster! and Tournament of Books.

If you regularly follow the Tournament of Books, do you keep possibilities in mind? What would you like to see on the longlist when it’s released?


  • I don’t even think about the Tournament of Books during the rest of the year. I’m surprised at the number of potential books that I haven’t even heard of, and I’ll admit that I’ve read very few of them. I guess I better get busy, because ToB is a highlight of the year for me.

    • There are quite a few I hadn’t heard of, either, and many of them haven’t been published yet, since the list goes through the end of the year.

  • I have so much to learn about the Tournament of Books…last year was really the first time I’d heard of it. But, I love the whole concept and there are some great books on this list! I’ve read a couple on their list and have some more planned for the rest of the year. Thanks for sharing…maybe this can help me choose from my endless TBR :)

    • That’s what I tend to use it for, too, just kind of helping me narrow things down when I have several books I’m eyeballing.

  • Care

    I love the ToB! I love the commentary and discussions. I just don’t ever seem to read enough recently pub’d books because I’m busy reading the ones from the latest year. I’ve only read one book this year that has been published in 2015 even though I seem to be more up on books than ever. Can’t ever catch up.

    • Haha, I totally understand that. I tend to move right along each year and hope the titles I really wanted to read pop back up and remind me they want to be read – they usually do!

  • I only heard about the Tournament of Books last year, Shannon, but I had no idea about this list – so cool! I really would like to try Fates and Furies; I’ve heard a lot of things about it and I’m curious. I’ll have to try to keep up with this; thanks for sharing the info!

    • It’s such a fun way of doing a book award. I’m not diehard enough to try reading all the books (even on the shortlist), but I usually have enough read to get a good sense of the tournament, which makes it fun to follow along.

  • Just looking at the length of this list is giving me anxiety! I might just have to wait until the real long and short lists are announced, but I do admire you for trying to prepare early. ;) Being the reading machine you are, I bet you’ll surprise yourself with how much of the list you get through before November.

    • I probably won’t get through too much more ;) There are just a few more I’m really interested in…so I’ll probably be waiting for the longlist, too. That’s when the real fun starts!

  • I have only read The Buried Giant from the list, but I plan on reading many more. Looking forward to the tournament! I have never paid attention to it until now.

    • I’ve heard so many different things about that book that I keep going back and forth about reading it!

      • I enjoyed it, but I’m also a huge Ishiguro fan. It was different for him, yet it felt just like him. Not sure how to explain it, but I do recommend it. :)

  • I don’t think much about the tournament throughout the year, but I love following it while it’s going on. I am surprised that I have read two books of this list: Our Souls at Night and A Spool of Blue Thread. I really liked the first one and abandoned the second one. I can’t see either one on the longlist, but who knows?

    • I just started Our Souls at Night last night and I’ve gone back and forth about A Spool of Blue Thread. I’ll probably hold out on it to see if it makes the longlist!

  • I’ve read two from the long watch list: The Buried giant, which I didn’t like very much; and A spool of Blue Thread, which I did like. I hope both make the cut as I think they will bring out interesting discussions. For the same reason I’d love to see The Shore in the TOB. I read it, loved it, and then found a lot of people had mixed feelings about it. And Sweetland, would love to see it paired with The Shore. It would tear my mind apart to try to choose one over the other!

    • I felt exactly the same about The Shore and would LOVE to see the commentary on it! Putting it up against Sweetland would be crushing for me, too, but is an interesting pair, since they both have such a strong sense of place.

  • I love you for this. As 2015 was my first TOB year, I haven’t developed mad prediction skills, so will be relying on your sage wisdom. Of the list you posted, I’ve only read ONE (A Little Life), but have several coming up in my queue, so there’s that. I’m hopeful, since I’ve read SO many more new releases this year than EVER before, that I will have read many of the books that get ultimately get chosen. You’ve made me more excited for the coming tournament now! When is the earliest they announce the long list and short list? I think I found out a bit late last year, and could be well served with some additional time.

    • I didn’t really use the list they posted last year, but just reading more new releases definitely helped me have more read. I think I had 9 or 10 of the shortlist read before the Tournament just from my regular reading, so it should work out good this year! I’m pretty positive they do longlist in January and shortlist in February, but I could be off by a bit.

  • Malcolm Avenue Review

    Interesting! (Plus, leave it to you to be in 2016 already). Very few of these books are on my radar, but I loved Our Souls at Night. Kent Haruf is a favorite and this one, his last, was sublime. I need to run that review, because people should be reading it. I heard good things about Outline and got it from the library. When I started it I just wasn’t in the mood and had to take it back before I had the chance to pick it up again. Still intend to, but… Now I need to go look some of the “unknowns to me” up!

    Have you read/heard anything about the Knausgaard series? It intrigues me.

    • I just started Our Souls at Night and golly gee it’s the sweetest little thing that’s going to break my heart. I felt the same about Outline – I had a copy from the library and just couldn’t get beyond a few pages for whatever reason.

      I don’t know a whole lot about Knausgaard beyond a few articles (and the way it was parodied on Younger), but it just seems so…Boring White Dude Problems, I guess, to me.

      • Malcolm Avenue Review

        You’re funny. IT GOT SAD, SHANNON! Are you going to try Outline again or just give up the ghost?

        Same feeling about Knausgaard, but I keep seeing it everywhere. I have no clue who the dude even is. Yup, finger on the pulse.

        • I’m preparing for Souls to be VERY SAD. I can feel it creeping up on me. I think I might just let Outline go, unless it makes it to the shortlist or something…I could be swayed.

          • Malcolm Avenue Review

            Ah, I missed that you weren’t finished. I would say sorry for the spoiler, but it’s Haruf. Sad comes with the territory, you’re just never sure what level of sad. This one is more sad simply because it’s IT, but man, what a way to end your work. I’ll be curious to see where this one falls for you in his catalogue.

            I keep hearing good things about Outline and it bugs me enough that I’ll probably pick it up again at some point. Who knows when, maybe I’ll forget about being bugged by it before then. :)

  • I hope Purity makes the cut. Because I’m a vicious minded so-and-so, and I want the TOB crowd to make fun of it. Oh how I want that.

  • olduvai

    How fun! I’m not that much of a recently-published reader so I tend to lag behind quite a bit. So no surprises, I’ve read ZERO of these books you’ve mentioned. I will however be adding them to my to-look-out-for list! Thanks for this!

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  • Vasilly

    I’ve been pretty disappointed by the ToB picks in the past, but I do want to stay up-to-date when it comes to the latest book releases. I’m going to bookmark this post, so that I can add more recent books to my tbr stack.

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