The Rooster

Welcome to the Rooster Summer Reading Challenge

Grab a beach towel, favorite cold beverage, and, most importantly, your books. Our Summer Reading Challenge begins now.

We’ve selected six works of fiction from 2017 to read over the next three months, and each Wednesday we’ll meet back here to discuss our reading progress—what we liked, what puzzled us, what kind of tacos they go best with—all summer long.

Joining us every month in the Rooster cabana will be a different novelist—Amelia Gray, Rachel Khong, and Victor LaValle—in conversation with TMN’s Rosecrans Baldwin and Nozlee Samadzadeh about the books we’re reading.

To select our summer books, each of our visiting novelists chose a work of fiction they’re particularly excited about this year. The other three books were selected by the ToB Committee according to our normal criteria—novels first published in English in the calendar year that we feel are excellent and interesting.

On the final Wednesday of each month our novelists will render a ToB-style verdict between the two books we read, deciding which makes it to the summer championship on Aug. 30, when the Commentariat—i.e., you, our readers—will have a chance to give one of the three “triumphant” books an automatic berth into the 2018 Tournament of Books.

It’s like the Tournament of Books but a lot more sun-dazed.

And, like the Tournament of Books, we want to give an extra-special shout-out and welcome to our sponsor, Field Notes. They’ve supported the Rooster for years, and we’re thrilled that they wanted to hit the summer circuit with us. We love their notebooks and other goods—we use them every day for jotting down notes, quotes, things to remember—so it’s a big treat to welcome them here today.


Field Notes Limited-Edition for Summer is Campfire. Campfire features three original photos that have been line-screened and carefully spot-printed, for a vintage feel, and each pack comes with a custom “Campfire Master” patch, ready for your scout sash or messenger bag.


And now: Here are your book assignments, reading schedules, and judges for the 2017 Rooster Summer Reading Challenge. (We’ll provide specific page numbers for July and August as we get deeper into the summer.)


A Separation by Katie Kitamura (chosen by the ToB)
v. The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge (chosen by Amelia Gray)

Judged by Victor LaValle

June 7: A Separation (through page 118)
June 14: A Separation (through end)
June 21: The Night Ocean (through first half)
June 28: The Night Ocean (through end)



Ill Will by Dan Chaon (chosen by the ToB)
v. Marlena by Julie Buntin (chosen by Rachel Khong)

Judged by Amelia Gray

July 5: Ill Will (through first half)
July 12: Ill Will (through end)
July 19: Marlena (through first half)
July 26: Marlena (through end)



Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan (chosen by the ToB)
v. Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (chosen by Victor LaValle)

Judged by Rachel Khong

Aug. 2: Temporary People (through first half)
Aug. 9: Temporary People (through end)
Aug. 16: Fever Dream (through first half)
Aug. 23: Fever Dream (through end)


Our visiting novelists and staff

Amelia Gray is the author of five books. Her fiction and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and VICE. Her new novel, Isadora, was published on May 23.

Rachel Khong is formerly the executive editor of Lucky Peach magazine. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Joyland, American Short Fiction, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Believer, and California Sunday Magazine. Her debut novel, Goodbye, Vitamin, is forthcoming on July 11.

Victor LaValle is the author of the short-story collection Slapboxing With Jesus, three novels, The Ecstatic, Big Machine, and The Devil in Silver, and two novellas, Lucretia and the Kroons and The Ballad of Black Tom. His latest novel, The Changeling, will be published on June 13.

Rosecrans Baldwin is the author of three books. His nonfiction appears in a variety of magazines, most often in GQ. He co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. His latest novel, The Last Kid Left, is forthcoming on June 7.

Nozlee Samadzadeh is the ToB producer and a developer at Vox Media.


What happens next

Join us here next Wednesday, June 7, to discuss the first half of A Separation. In the meantime, say hi in the comments below. And be sure to check out the latest notebooks and sundry from Field Notes, perfect for your beach vacation musings.

We’ll see you here next week!


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

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