Interview with Tournament of Books (profile)

The Tournament of Books finds their champion by Emma Larson

This past March, for the eighth year in a row, The Morning News held their annual Tournament of Books, a NCAA basketball March Madness-style face off of the arguably best books of the year, culminating in one ultimate winner. Sixteen titles of 2011's finest in literature were chosen to compete, seeded one through four, paired off and judged by a panel of authors, critics and Wil Wheaton. Each judge eliminates one book, with full explanations and color commentary by authors and ToB staff, Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner. It continues until it comes down to a final two, when the Zombie round kicks in, resurrecting two previously eliminated novels, chosen by the people, to compete again against the finalists, ultimately awarding one winner.

The nature of the competition made for some very interesting matches between books. Most of the titles have already divided critics greatly, I think in part because a highly acclaimed book or author faces greater derision when it doesn't meet one's expectations. In the first round, while some decisions came easily (Wil Wheaton explains straight off, "I had to restrain myself from reading The Sisters Brothers in one sitting, and State of Wonder felt like the most tedious homework assignment I’ve ever had in my life.") and one was a case of the lesser of two evils (Edith Zimmerman's problem with both The Marriage Plot and Green Girl came down to "…why would anyone want to share more than 10 pages with this woman?"), most of the battles featured two radically different, but well-enjoyed novels.

The quarterfinals began with a somewhat surprise knockout, when reader judge and current prison inmate, Roxy Reno, chose Lightning Rods over The Sense of Ending, and another first seed was eliminated when Alex Abramovich preferred Open City over The Marriage Plot. This lead to the semifinals, where Lightning Rods was pitted against Haruki Murakami's much-anticipated 1Q84, taking down the commentated "literary beast of the 2012 ToB", and Alyssa Rosenberg found Open City to be "stranger and more transcendent" than The Sisters Brothers.

At this point, by the grace of the voters, risen from the ashes, The Sisters Brothers and The Art of Fielding reentered the competition in the Zombie Round. The Sisters Brothers dominated over Lightning Rods, but once again The Art of Fielding lost out to Open City, as it did in the first round of the competition. So the finals found The Sisters Brothers and Open City, once again facing off. Primary judge Duncan Murrell concurred with the previous ruling, however when put to a vote by all the ToB judges, The Sisters Brothers won, 10 to 6, and took home the Rooster.

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