2014 Tournament of Books: Pre-gaming the bloodsport of literature

ToBEvery year I get excited for March Madness. And no, I’m not talking basketball – I’m talking about The Morning News’ Tournament of Books.

With a nod to that other madness happening at this time of the year, the ToB pits the best books from the previous year against each other in different brackets. One judge from the literati picks a winner from each round, and the winner moves on to the next bracket until all of the books have been judged. They also toss in a “Zombie” round for audience favorites, and let them duke it out against critical favorites.

This year, like most years I’ve been following this literary bloodsport, I have read absolutely none of the tournament titles. “WTF?” you may be saying. “I thought you were one of them readers!”

But this is exactly why I like the Tournament of Books: I don’t have to actually read any of the bestsellers of the previous year until March of this year, when the tournament organizers have chosen the 16 best for me. It also gives me a “to do” list for all those books I’ve been hearing so many good things about, like The Goldfinch, and lights a fire under my ass in terms of finally getting around to reading them. Hooray for deadlines!

risingasiaI’m currently zipping through one of the first challengers, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid (who, coincidentally, is also going to be reading at a bookstore in La Jolla this week), and I think it’s a strong contender. The book is written in the second person, an unusual choice, and paints itself as a self-help book for young go-getters in rising Asia (aka Pakistan, according to most critics). Of course, once you start reading the book, you’ll see it’s nothing of the sort. I’m curious to see what judge Mat Johnson thinks of this one, as well as its competitor, Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, both of which seem to share an unusual take on the traditional narrative, one playing with perspective and the other with time.

So with all of that said, are you going to be playing along with the Tournament of Books this year, and if so, who’s your favorite to take home The Rooster?

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