Tag Archives: Kent Haruf

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?

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The Folio Prize Shortlist 2013; What Do We All Think Then?

This afternoon the inaugural Folio Prize, which was the prize that the Folio ‘Academy’ started after the Man Booker was deemed too readable (is that a bad thing really?), unleashed its first ever shortlist and it’s a rather interesting bunch…

  • Red Doc – Anne Carson
  • Schroder – Amity Gaige
  • Last Friends – Jane Gardam
  • Benediction – Kent Haruf
  • The Flamethrowers – Rachel Kushner
  • A Girl is a Half Formed Thing – Eimear McBride
  • A Naked Singularity – Sergio De La Pava
  • Tenth of December – George Saunders

Now amazingly I had heard of all of them bar one, which is Red Doc by Anne Carson and is poetry so would be why it might be off my radar as I am not known for my poetry prowess. Amazingly I have also read one of them, A Girl is a Half Formed Thing is an incredible debut by Eimear McBride (who you can hear talking to me about it on You Wrote The Book) which is unlike any book I have ever read or am likely to read again. It’s a marvel.

The rest of the list I have all heard of. Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers has had a rather mixed response, people either saying it is the best thing ever or saying its completely overrated, I haven’t bothered with it shamefully because I don’t like either of the covers and think it has motorcycling in it which makes me inwardly groan. Maybe I should look into it more? Another book I was sent and didn’t read was Amity Gaige’s Schroder which I have no real reason for not reading, I think the cover (again, sorry) put me off as it looked like it might be a heart breaking tale of a child being abused or a father losing his daughter – no idea why the cover makes me think that but it does. Another to possibly find out more about?

Jane Gardam and George Saunders are two authors I have heard wonderful, wonderful things about and have been meaning to read so I might just get my mitts on those in the next few weeks. I also own two of the other books which I have kept to read at some point. A Naked Singularity I do have on my shelves and am rather fascinated by because no one would publish it for ages, then it did quite well self-published before a small press did and then it exploded. I have held off because it’s HUGE, like mammoth, so maybe a book to take on holiday. Kent Haruf is an author I have heard the most wonderful, wonderful, wonderful things about and have three of his books which make the trilogy that Benediction finished so I am going to dig out Plainsong and read that pronto. I am not sure I will read all three before the winner is announced, but then again I am not sure when that is from all the reports I have read… so maybe I will, ha!

So what are your thoughts on the Folio Prize Shortlist 2014? Do you think it knocks ‘readability’ on its head? Which ones have you read and what did you think? Which should I make sure I read? Any thoughts on who will win? I have fingers crossed for Eimear as I think everyone should read that book! Let me know your thoughts.

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