Each year for the past 16 years The Morning News has run the Tournament of Books — a March Madness like competition for books published during the previous year. It’s fun and light-hearted and super interesting because unlike other literary prizes, you get to see the judges’ thought process as they decided which book progresses and which doesn’t.
Last year, for the first time ever, I read all of the books on the shortlist, 18 books in total. As I started a bit late and I was rushing to get to the March deadline, that meant reading six novels a month for three months straight. The rushing part was a challenge, and reading many of these books was a challenge. Some were technically difficult, others dealt with difficult topics, still others required me to do some research while I read.
Despite the challenge, I ended up enjoying most of the books, loving more than half of the books, and really disliking only two of the 18 that I read. That’s a very good ratio, as a friend pointed out, and that made me consider doing the challenge again this year.
I don’t have as much free time next year as I had this past year, so I doubt that I’ll be reading at the rate in 2020 as I did in 2019. I won’t finish the books in time for the tournament, but I don’t mind. Last year I got angry at the judge’s choices (well, the judge’s reasonings, more than their choices) so I stopped following the tournament. That didn’t matter, as the choice of the books and their pairing was enough to get my mind thinking.
Today I purchased the first book on the shortlist (All This Could Be Yours, by Jami Attenberg) and all three books in the play in round (Golden State, by Ben H. Winters, Oval, by Elvia Wilk, We Cast a Shadow, by Maurice Carlos Ruffin). Here’s for another year of interesting, challenging and good books!