The Tournament of Books 2016

For the last few years I have heard the lovely Ann and Michael, of Books on the Nightstand, mention a mysterious thing called The Tournament of Books. Before many of you laugh or look at the screen and say ‘pah!’, we can’t know everything about books and this is something that happens in the states rather than over here, though admittedly thanks to the internet the world is a much smaller place. It happens every March and it is roughly around the end I finally remember to investigate by which time I have missed out on lots of the fun. Thankfully this year Frances from NonSuchBook reminded me on Twitter and so I have decided to try and read along as it sounds a) like it will introduce me to some new reads b) push some reads up my TBR c) be fun in the realm of the Guardian’s Not the Booker, so I am in.

If you haven’t followed the ToB before, here’s the summary: Starting in early March and proceeding each weekday, one of our judges—the full list is below—will read two books, choose one to advance, and explain how they reached their decision. The criteria is entirely personal; we merely ask for no basketball metaphors, and that the judge render their decision-making process in full transparency, and also tell you any connections they might have to the authors and/or books involved. Then our commentators, Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner, weigh in, followed by the wonderful community of readers that turn the comments section into one of the smarter, more interesting discussions of contemporary fiction that we know about. There. Simple-ish.

I think really the best way to go about it is to get reading (thankfully I have already read the longest one, can you guess which one it is?) and he is the list of books that have formed the Tournament of Books 2016 shortlist…

  • The New World by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty
  • Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson
  • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
  • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
  • Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving
  • Ban en Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil
  • The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli
  • The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra
  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • The Whites by Richard Price
  • Oreo by Fran Ross
  • The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard
  • A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
  • The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

You can find out about each title here. Shock horror, I have only read one of these books (which I have added a link to) but I do own a few (which I have popped in italics) of them. Also having perused the list in full there are lots and lots of book there that I want to read both that I have heard of and some which I had no clue about but might have ordered copies of to come from the US of A – hey I am thinking of reads for my holiday in a few weeks, and as I cannot locate any of my own books what else was I to do? So which are these books, funny you should ask I thought I would share my thoughts.

Anne Tyler and Chris Adrian I have read before and loved, I had no idea the Adrian was already out in the UK so that pleased me. Kent Haruf I have meant to read since forever. When I was in America last year I very nearly bought both Oreo by Fran Ross and The Turner House by Angela Flournoy as they sounds like books I wanted, in fact it was Flournoy’s setting of Detroit after visiting it which I was fascinated by. The Whites had a rave review from Jason Steiger on my favourite book TV show, The ABC Book Club, so it’s been on my periphery. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathiser made it onto my list of books of the first six months of 2016 (you can hear me talk about it and 12 others on The Readers here, a post of a full massive list will go live on the blog on Tuesday) so I will by that when it comes out next month. Then there are the unknowns of which Ban en Banlieue has me at hello, so much so I ordered it from the publisher. Erm, in hindsight I have pretty much mentioned the entire list so no wonder it has got my bookish bits excited. Mind you the longlist also had me very tempted too. Ha!

So which to read first? Anyone else joining in with this, done it before or are completely new to it like me? Have you read any of the books and what did you make of them?


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

30 responses to “The Tournament of Books 2016

  1. Stephanie

    I really liked The Turner House! To hear the author, listen to podcast #39. I am also in the middle of Faye’s and Furies, which is beautifully written and quite engaging. I look forward to your thoughts of the ToB!

  2. Michelle

    I only found out about the Tournament of Books last year, but it seems to be a tremendous event in Canada. Here in the United States, it has been getting a little more attention in recent years.

    The books on the shortlist which most intrigue me are “The Sympathizer”,
    “Bats in the Republic” and “The Book of Aron”. I’ve wanted to read the Jim Shepard book for a while now, but I’m afraid it might be make me weep so I am waiting until I am in the proper mood to tackle it.

    I have read “The Invaders” which I really disliked while I was reading it , but I actually appreciated more once I finished the book. “A Spool of Blue Thread” was middle of the road Anne Tyler, not her best, not her worst, a few loose ends left open in the plot, not as much quirkiness as some of her books.

    And I really enjoyed Lauren Groff’s book which I found strange in moments, but wonderful. Lovely writing and it made me want to read her earlier books, “Arcadia” and “The Monsters of Templeton”.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the shortlist.

  3. Michelle

    And if anyone is interested, this is the link to hear an excellent (but lengthy) conversation with Lauren Groff:

    I would suggest listening to it only after finishing the book. For a different but also good perspective on the book, you can listen to the recent Reading Aloud book podcast.

  4. Living In the US with a basketball fanatic, the TOB keeps me sane during March Madness. Run, run, run to read EVERYTHING by Kent Haruf. Master of spare prose, it’s nearly poetry. ❤️

  5. Even if you don’t read along (which I never do) it’s fun to read the decision every day and to see who won and read the comments afterwards. At the library where I work we follow along each day and root for our favorites and have really great discussions about the results.

    • I have a feeling if I don’t read them all I will be reading along regardless. I’m going to try though. Have read Yanagihara and almost done with Groff. So we will see. I think those two are actually quite similar in some ways.

  6. River City Reading, a US blog written by Shannon I think you’d enjoy if you haven’t come across it, mentions a lot about this, not to

  7. – sorry! – mention some other US blogs I follow. I must be honest – a few of the books on the list are totally unheard of by me, but I’ve got Fates And Furies, which I should read as it was POTUS’ fave book (allegedly) last year, and I also have The Whites, which I was utterly delighted to get in a Kindle 99p Daily Deal (that’s definitely more up my street!) I’ll be interested to follow the proceedings Simon. I worry in these “knockout” competitions that the best book could be knocked out as it’s judge doesn’t like it…

  8. I read an interesting article and review in the New Yorker last year, written by the author Danzy Senna, I subsequently read one of her own books, Caucasia which I enjoyed – the article made me add Fran Ross’s book Oreo to my TBR, so I’m pleased to see you’ll be reading it, here’s a link to the article for you:

    An Overlooked Classic About the Comedy of Race By Danzy Senna

  9. I heard about this last year while listening to Books on the Nightstand. I have only read two books on the list so I need to get going! Loved Anne Tyler’s Spool of Blue Thread!

  10. I hadn’t heard of the Tournament, nor indeed most of the books on the list. Now feeling like a bit of a Philistine, but there’s now way I’m going to let a book with a title like “Bats of the Republic” remain unread. Looking forward to your thoughts!

  11. happyphantom

    This list looks great. Quite a few of them on my wishlist – “The Sellout”, “Our Souls at Night” (which made lots of readers’ lists in The Guardian but not many critics’ lists, strangely), “Fates and Furies”, and “The Story of My Teeth”. Lots of never heard of too which is good. I’ve never heard of the Tournament so thanks for the tip Simon.

    • Pleasure. Hope you join in. I’m already on the way now I’m half way through Groff. That and Yanagihara are the only two I’ve read so far. I’m getting the biggest ones out the way first.

  12. Pingback: Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff | Savidge Reads

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