The Tournament of Books ended last week. Sponsored by The Morning News, the Tournament of Books is a “March-Madness style book battle,” now in its 9th year. I was curious to see that of the 18 novels selected as some of the best books of 2012, six were debuts:
Fobbit by David Abrams
HHhH by Laurent Binet
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Ivyland by Miles Klee
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (reviewed on Proto Libro)
Two of these books were eliminated in the “Pre-Tournament Play In” that put Fobbit, Yellow Birds and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk up against each other as Iraq war books, with Billy Lynn winning and making it into the actual brackets. Billy Lynn got eliminated in its next round, up against A.M. Homes’ May We Be Forgiven.
All of the other debuts also got eliminated in the first rounds, in tough match ups. Ivyland, a sardonic book about “drugs, decay, loss” went up against Gilian Flynn’s best selling, Gone Girl, a suspenseful page-turner about a wife who goes missing. Others were defeated by Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize winning Bring Up the Bodies and Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, which I have heard is a beautifully rendered novel; and his seventh book.
The books selected for the tournament are to be some of the best published in 2012. There is no set criteria for how books are chosen, rather nominations come from a variety of sources and are whittled down through conversation by a “decision panel.” It is great to see so many debuts bubbling up to the top of this list, and although there is a satirical quality to this competition, a sort of anti-prize tournament in which the winner gets a live rooster, after nine years the tournament has established itself enough to be presented by Barnes and Noble this year.
And while the debut’s didn’t fare so well, this year’s winner was The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson. It is the author’s second novel and widely reviewed as one of the best novels of 2012. It’s on my list. I find this tournament an entertaining way to learn about new books and to find books I might have overlooked from the past year.
Next week I am going to start reviewing some debuts just published in the spring of 2013…next up Heart of Palm, by Laura Lee Smith.