The Rooster

Race to the Checkout, 2006, David Blackwell, courtesy the artist.

Bracketology for the 2016 Tournament of Books

Announcing the brackets for the 2016 edition of The Morning News Tournament of Books, presented by Field Notes.

You already know the titles and judges that will participate in this year’s tournament. You likely perused the “long list” for a glance at 86 of our favorite works of fiction from last year. You might have even checked out our 11 previous tournaments, just to whet your appetite—or maybe you have no idea what we’re talking about, in which case you should go read this primer.

Hopefully, while you’ve been waiting anxiously for the damn Rooster to wake up and demand his morning blood, you picked up some groovy notebooks from Field Notes, our presenting sponsor, and bought a couple novels from our books sponsor Powell’s—not only because those notebooks are very well made and buying books makes you happy, but because our sponsors support us in hopes that you will support them, and the virtuous cycle makes this whole thing possible.

Anyway, maybe you’ve also hung out with the alt-ToB crowd over at Goodreads, who kill non-ToB time by talking about the ToB and even hosting their own tournament (we aren’t involved, but we love it). The point is, you know the Rooster. You like the Rooster. You are counting the hours until this stupid thing starts. And you agree with us that this endeavor is stupid, and you don’t care. So you know what comes next: the brackets.

As always, we seed books from one to four, one being strongest, four being less. The seeds don’t reflect the quality of the books but their public perception as we judge it: awards, sales, acclaim, publicity campaigns (or lack thereof), press mentions, reader reviews, author reputations, publisher reputations, and so on. It’s a tricky game and we don’t always get it right (but we obviously did this year—obviously), but it certainly makes gambling easier.

So download, print out, fill in to your heart’s content. Start office pools. Start English Dept. pools. Start Bhanu Kapil chants in a crowded street, or make merch about A Little Life and wear it to work. Are we legally allowed to encourage gambling? We have no idea. Twenty bucks says no.

Finally, two announcements. First, Powell’s is hosting a contest where a lucky winner will win every book from this year’s tournament. Second, the alt-ToB is hosting an “ask me anything” with our very own Nozlee Samadzadeh, the ToB’s producer, on Monday, Feb. 22. If you’ve ever wondered how this whole thing works or came about—see various previous explanations—don’t worry, she’ll tell you.

Anyway, have fun, be patient, lose sleep, brew coffee using coffee instead of water and stare at the walls all night imagining your favorite book getting brutally misunderstood by some insensitive butthead judge—whatever works. We’ll see you when the whole thing kicks off in March, 12 years and counting.


The Brackets for The Morning News 2016 Tournament of Books

Download the 2016 brackets as a PDF


Here is a schedule of this year’s match-ups. (Also, we get a cut from any purchases made through the links below.)

March 7
2015 ToB Introduction
by Kevin Guilfoile & John Warner

Play-in Match

March 8
Avenue of Mysteries v. A Spool of Blue Thread
Judged by Lizzie Molyneux, Wendy Molyneux, and Kelvin Yu

Opening Round

March 9
Fates and Furies v. Bats of the Republic
Judged by Maria Bustillos

March 10
The Sympathizer v. Oreo
Judged by Brad Listi

March 11
The Turner House v. Ban en Banlieue
Judged by Miriam Tuliao

March 14
Our Souls at Night v. The Whites
Judged by Syreeta McFadden

March 15
A Little Life v. The New World
Judged by Choire Sicha

March 16
The Book of Aron v. The Tsar of Love and Techno
Judged by Doree Shafrir

March 17
Play-in Winner v. The Story of My Teeth
Judged by Daniel Wallace

March 18
The Sellout v. The Invaders
Judged by Liz Lopatto


March 21
Judged by Kit Rachlis

March 22
Judged by Jess Zimmerman

March 23
Judged by John Taylor

March 24
Judged by Danielle Henderson


March 25
Judged by Jaime Green

March 28
Judged by Jeff VanderMeer

Zombie Round

March 29
Zombie Pick No. 1 v. TBD
Judged by Blake Bailey

March 30
Zombie Pick No. 2 v. TBD
Judged by Celeste Ng


March 31
All Judges


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