On Monday, The Morning News, an online news website, announced the books and judges for the 2014 Tournament of Books. This years tournament will be known as ToBX to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the pinnacle of all book awards.
What is the Tournament of Books? The ToB is the March Madness of Literary Fiction. To understand the concept, one must first understand March Madness. If one follows sports regularly, they will immediately understand the concept. For those of us who don't follow sports or basketball, March Madness is a term used to describe the NCAA Basketball tournament. Annually, the NCAA chooses the “best” collegiate basketball teams to face off in a single elimination basketball tournament (in 2013 there were 68 teams selected). The tournament generally gets started the first weekend in early March and at one time finished in March as well (it now lingers into April). The winners each weekend progress to the next and so on an so forth until there is only one team left unbeaten and declared the winner. The teams either earn a spot in the tournament or they are chosen. Those earning a spot do so with an exceptional record for the year or because they won their season ending conference tournament. Some are "chosen" based on some unknown to me criteria - those are typically the teams with weaker records that the NCAA deems worthy enough to make it, yet are typically trounced by the stronger teams.
Very similar to basketball's March Madness is the Tournament of Books. Each year 16-18 books are selected for the tournament. Some books receive an automatic entry for winning an earlier literary prize (The Man Booker, The National Book Award). Other books are selected. Oh how I wish I knew the selection process or could be a fly on the wall during the discussions to chose the tournament eligible books! Fortunately for readers, the organizers of the ToB typically make their selection in late December or early January in order to allow for our participation.
This years list of the Sweet Sixteen (plus 2) are as follows:
Finalists for the 2014 Tournament of Books
- 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
- [Winner of the Pre-Tournament Playoff Round]
- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
- Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel
Once the Tournament of Books begins, pre-determined judges read their assigned books and based on their own experience, enjoyment and opinion select one of the two books to advance in the tournament to the next round. Readers from around the world are then able to comment upon the judges choice and why it was correct/incorrect. This is what makes the ToB great! The ability to be able to comment on the decisions and read others comments is almost as fun as reading the book itself, especially if you are passionate one way or another about a particular book. The passion and comments are not necessarily going to change the outcome (well, I will explain more on the "zombie rounds" later), but the participation by readers around the world make the ToB special.
Throughout the next 3 months, I will be blogging my opinions and insights into the tournament. Pick a couple or more of the titles listed above and join me for the real March Madness!