Reader Letters

Literary Flip-Flops

I’m a great fan of your Tournament and I follow it assiduously each year. This year you note that at least one National Book Award judge “flipped” a coin in his or her decision. Since I’m the unofficial historian of the National Book Awards, can you tell me who that was? Then I’d be happy to let people know that that judge (or those judges) flipped a coin to make a decision.

Harold Augenbraum
Executive Director
National Book Foundation
Presenter of the National Book Awards

ToB Commissioner Kevin Guilfoile responds: Ha! Yeah, no, we don’t actually know an individual who helped determine the eventual National Book Award winner by actually flipping a literal (or literary) coin. We were thinking about it more in the cognitive sense where you have all these books that are sort of equally deserving in different ways, and so you pick one arbitrarily and then you make up a rationalization for why you did. It happens all the time in the Tournament of Books.

It should be said, if it’s not obvious, that we are also followers and admirers of the National Book Award. In fact, it was the desire to see more of the book award sausage being made that inspired us to create a sort of open-kitchen book award of our own. That and general wise-assery, of which we have a surplus, unfortunately.

And let be known throughout the land: You kid the National Book Award and the National Book Award will kid you back.
biopic

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. He is the author of three books, including his latest novel The Last Kid Left (NPR’s Best Books of 2017). His articles and essays appear in a variety of magazines, including GQ, Travel + Leisure and The Paris Review, and he’s written opinion pieces for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian. More information can be found at his website. More by Rosecrans Baldwin

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