The Rooster

Announcing Camp ToB 2021

If you also sometimes think of books as vaccines, you’re in the right place. Vote now for the books you want to see at Camp ToB ‘21!

Summer 2021 is right around the corner and Camp ToB is ready to roll! For anybody new, Camp is the summer extension of the Tournament of Books, which means we're about to spend three months doing what the Rooster community does best: reading books, discussing books, destroying friendships over books, and perhaps sneaking off to the counselors' cabin to make out.

But before Camp kicks off on June 2, you need to decide which books we're reading this summer. In the poll below we've got 12 Rooster-worthy novels. (There's also a blank for a write-in vote if you want to take matters into your own hands.) We'll take the top six vote-getters and arrange them into three matchups, one for each month that Camp ToB will be in session.

Camp bylaws are the same as last summer:

  • Every week we'll read half of a book, then discuss here on Wednesdays.
  • We'll be joined in the commentary booth each week by a different Camper. Please volunteer in the form below!
  • At the end of each month, the camp decides which of the two books we just read heads to the end-of-summer finale. There, you'll cast a final vote to decide which of our summer reads automatically heads to the 2022 Tournament of Books. (For what it's worth: Just because a book is included in Camp ToB doesn't mean it can't be included in the 2022 ToB's long or short lists.)

The poll and form close at midnight (ET) on Friday, April 23, so don't wait!

Update: Thank you to everyone who participated in the Camp ToB 2021 poll! We've tallied the votes, and our summer reads and schedule are now set. We'll provide specific pages and chapters soon, but for now here's our reading order, along with our discussion dates:

(You can also find all these titles on our Camp ToB 2021 Bookshop list.)

To stay up to date on Camp ToB and all things Rooster, make sure you sign up for the Rooster newsletter. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Finally, we want to extend major thanks to our Sustaining Members for making this event possible. Please take a moment to find out why TMN and the ToB depend on your support, and consider becoming a Sustaining Member or making a one-time donation. Remember: Sustaining Members get 50 percent off all ToB merch, including our soon-to-come Camp '21 designs!


The 2021 Camp ToB Shortlist

Please note: We get a cut from any purchases made through the list links. Book descriptions are excerpted from publishers’ summaries and edited for length.

100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell

Transgressive, foulmouthed, and brutally funny, these semi-linked vignettes are a revelatory spiral into the imperfect lives of queer men desperately fighting the urge to self-sabotage. As they tiptoe through minefields of romantic, substance-fueled misadventure―from dirty warehouses and gentrified bars in Oakland to desolate farm towns in Alabama―they strive for belonging in a world that dismisses them for being Black, broke, and queer. In spite of it―or perhaps because of it―they shine.


The Arsonists' City by Hala Alyan

The Nasr family is spread across the globe—Beirut, Brooklyn, Austin, the California desert. A Syrian mother, a Lebanese father, and three American children: all have lived a life of migration. Still, they’ve always had their ancestral home in Beirut—a constant touchstone—and the complicated, messy family love that binds them. But following his father's recent death, Idris, the family's new patriarch, has decided to sell. The decision brings the family to Beirut, where everyone unites against Idris in a fight to save the house. They all have secrets—lost loves, bitter jealousies, abandoned passions, deep-set shame—that distance has helped smother. But in a city smoldering with the legacy of war, an ongoing flow of refugees, religious tension, and political protest, those secrets ignite, imperiling the fragile ties that hold this family together.


Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Reese had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Ames isn't happy either. He thought detransitioning would make life easier, but that decision cost him Reese—and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames's boss and lover, Katrina, reveals she's pregnant with his baby—and that she's not sure whether she wants to keep it—Ames wonders if this is the chance he's been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family—and raise the baby together?


Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen

In the small town of Leonberg in 1618, Katharina, an illiterate widow, is known by her neighbors for her herbal remedies and the success of her children, including her eldest, Johannes, the renowned author of the laws of planetary motion. It's enough to make anyone jealous, and Katharina has done herself no favors by being out and about and in everyone's business. So when the deranged and insipid Ursula Reinbold accuses Katharina of offering her a bitter, witchy drink that has made her ill, Katharina is in trouble. Her son must turn his attention from the music of the spheres to the job of defending his mother. Facing the threat of financial ruin, torture, and even execution, Katharina tells her side of the story to her friend and neighbor Simon, a reclusive widower imperiled by his own secrets.


Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

After encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes, Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At 14 she drops out of school and finds an unexpected patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that allows her to fulfill her destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles. A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian's disappearance in Antarctica. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian's own story, as the two women's fates—and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times—collide.


Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence. She urgently needs to get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to be reunited with her family. How this family came to occupy two different countries comes into focus. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love against a backdrop of civil war. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering—the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.


Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.


No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

A woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms "the portal," where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thoughts. "Are we in hell?" the people of the portal ask themselves. "Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?" Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: "Something has gone wrong," and "How soon can you get here?" As real life and its stakes collide with the increasingly absurd antics of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy, and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.


Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi

When Otto and Xavier Shin declare their love, an aunt gifts them a trip on a sleeper train to mark their new commitment—and to get them out of her house. Setting off with their pet mongoose, Otto and Xavier arrive at their sleepy local train station, but quickly deduce that The Lucky Day is no ordinary locomotive. Their trip on this former tea-smuggling train has been curated beyond their wildest imaginations, complete with mysterious and welcoming touches, like ingredients for their favorite breakfast. They seem to be the only people onboard, until Otto discovers a secretive woman who issues a surprising message. As further clues and questions pile up, and the trip upends everything they thought they knew, Otto and Xavier begin to see connections to their own pasts, connections that now bind them together.


Popisho by Leone Ross

Somewhere far away―or maybe right nearby―lies an archipelago called Popisho. A place of stunning beauty and incorrigible mischief, destiny and mystery, it is also a place in need of change. Xavier Redchoose is the macaenus of his generation, anointed by the gods to make each resident one perfect meal when the time is right. Anise, his long-lost love, is on a march toward reckoning with her healing powers. The governor’s daughter, Sonteine, still hasn’t come into her cors, but her corrupt father is demanding the macaenus make a feast for her wedding. Meanwhile, graffiti messages from an unknown source are asking hard questions. A storm is brewing.


There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura

A young woman walks into an employment agency and requests a job that has the following traits: It is close to her home, and it requires no reading, no writing, and ideally, very little thinking. Her first gig—watching the hidden-camera feed of an author suspected of storing contraband goods—turns out to be inconvenient. (When can she go to the bathroom?) Her next gives way to the supernatural: announcing advertisements for shops that mysteriously disappear. As she moves from job to job—writing trivia for rice cracker packages; punching entry tickets to a purportedly haunted public park—it becomes increasingly apparent that she’s not searching for the easiest job at all, but something altogether more meaningful. And when she finally discovers an alternative to the daily grind, it comes with a price.


Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

Our narrator, a woman questioning her place in the world, wavers between stasis and movement, between the need to belong and the refusal to form lasting ties. The city she calls home acts as a companion and interlocutor: traversing the streets around her house, and in parks, piazzas, museums, stores, and coffee bars, she feels less alone. We follow her to the pool she frequents, and to the train station that leads to her mother, who is mired in her own solitude after her husband’s untimely death. Among those who appear on this woman’s path are colleagues with whom she feels ill at ease, casual acquaintances, and “him,” a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. Until one day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun’s vital heat, her perspective will abruptly change.



The Tournament of Books’ organizers Andrew Womack and Rosecrans Baldwin are TMN’s co-founders. Baldwin’s most recent book is Everything Now, winner of the 2022 California Book Award. For his other books, try More by The Tournament of Books Staff