The Morning News

The Morning News Tournament of Books
  • This is The Final Round of the Fifth Annual Tournament of Books
  • March 31, 2009

The Tournament of Books is an annual battle royale between 16 of the best novels published in the previous year.

A new match is played here each weekday in March.

The 2009 ToB Contenders List

The 2009 Judges & Brackets

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Previous years: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

Contact the Tournament staff:

John: Toni Morrison becomes the first triple-crown winner in the history of the tournament: Pultizer, Nobel, Rooster. Congratulations on a well-earned victory and congratulations to you, Kevin, for making the correct prognostication.

Lots of the judges liked both books, but in each case a clear preference emerged. Unlike some of the early rounds, I don’t believe anyone expressed dislike or ambivalence about the choice at hand, which suggests there maybe is something to our system.

Monica Ali was left cold by A Mercy, while Brockman is “baffled” by the appeal of City of Refuge. John Hodgman voted A Mercy through in round two, but switched his allegiance to City of Refuge here. David Rees seems to view A Mercy as being superior, but is so charged up by the social engagement of City of Refuge that he tilted toward Piazza’s effort.

Tony Doerr uses the words that could probably stand in for all the other comments, calling A Mercy “my kind of book.”

Most of my personal kinds of books got eliminated in the first round, and that still stings, so to all the disappointed fans of 2666 or The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, or any of the other titles that fell by the wayside, I say I feel your pain.

It’s hard to believe we’ve done five years of this. Back when the tournament started, Barack Obama had just started his term as a United States senator and the no. 1 song was by Kelly Clarkson. Today, Obama is president and the no. 1 song is by…Kelly Clarkson.

I see the ToB production crew breaking down the set, switching off the lights, and coiling the cables, so it’s time for me to turn in my yearly soapbox, but before my mic goes silent, two final things.

Looking five years into the future, I think present-day developments on the digital distribution/e-book front mean we’ll be looking at a very different landscape. The barriers to entering publishing are collapsing and in five years I don’t think we’ll have one imprint with five of the final 16 as we do this year with Knopf. As an example, I’d like to see some ambitious person or persons start an imprint dedicated to baggy maximalist books like 2666 (we’ll call it Doorstop Press), so people who desire that experience can find it consistently, rather than waiting for the occasional tome to make its way through the traditional publishing mill.

Let a thousand flowers bloom—only free market, rather than commie-style.

The digital/print divide was reinforced for me this weekend after reading the New York Times Sunday Book Review online. The lead review was of Wells Tower’s new short story collection Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. It’s a rave and reinforced many of the great things I’ve been reading elsewhere, as well as my own impressions of Mr. Tower’s writing, having read his fiction in McSweeney’s and his nonfiction in Harper’s. It has become, officially, a “book I want.”

In the same edition there is a review of another new collection of stories, Caitlin Macy’s Spoiled. Another positive review, though the description doesn’t make the book sound as immediately appealing to me specifically as Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. Still, it became, officially, a “book I’d like to check out.”

This was Saturday, early, maybe eight o’clock. It was raining, unseasonably cool. I’d finished digesting the paper and was working on my oatmeal and I figured I’d see what’s what with these two new story collections. With the weather and the early hour, I wasn’t going to go anywhere, so I turned to the wife’s Kindle and found that only Macy’s book has a Kindle edition. I’d downloaded the first story in seconds, finished it in 15 minutes, and ordered the rest of the book right then and there. Meanwhile, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned remains in my unbought, “books I want” category, potentially forever since I’m constantly coming across books I want. Wells Tower and his publisher Farrar, Straus, and Giroux would’ve had a sale. Now, who knows? It may just get buried under the avalanche of new books.

Not only should anyone with a short story collection be giving away at least one sample story for free to anyone who’d like to read it, a clever publisher one of these days will allow readers to order individual stories using the iPod singles model. The really clever publisher will figure out how to do this with their own online store where you can mix and match efforts by their different authors for a sort of personal Now That’s What I Call Writing anthology.

Come on FSG, get with the program. The future is now—or more accurately it was yesterday, which means you’re behind the curve.

Kevin: Obviously, these two contenders were pretty safe choices—if somebody you didn’t know very well asked you to recommend a novel, I think you could put either A Mercy or City of Refuge in her hands and not worry about scandalizing her book club—but they are both outstanding books. It’s happened before that neither of the two finalists seemed to be any of the judges’ favorite from the tourney, but rather they were the books about which most of the judges could agree. And as you say, most of the judges really enjoyed both novels. Books that people are passionate about but which are also divisive are probably not going to make it through the gauntlet. That’s generally true of all awards, I think. Most books win awards through some sort of secret, back-room compromise.

In the comments one reader expresses disgust that two such “safe bets” made it to the Finals. I’m glad that anybody cares at all one way or the other, but of course no book award is about validating any individual’s aesthetic. Quite the opposite, I would argue. At least with the ToB you also get to see great passion for other books—books that probably could never get nine votes out of 17—in the judges’ decisions, in our commentary, and especially in the comments. The addition of TMN readers to the mix made this the most entertaining ToB of the first five for me. Even though I didn’t really enjoy 2666, for instance, I enjoyed reading about other people’s reactions to it and soon I was very glad I had read it to put those reactions in context. When Michael Payne said Bolaño “sets me on fire with ambition and wanderlust…” I (surprisingly) knew that sensation and so I understood his relationship to the book, even though it wasn’t the same as mine.

And as long as I’m at it, let me make a case for the safe bet. Yesterday Maud Newton Twittered a story about a high school debate in Seattle pitting Harry Potter vs. the Twilight books. Writer (and professor) Alexander Chee reported back, “In my classes, Harry Potter is the common text for their generation. They have no other book in common.”

I don’t know if that’s an exaggeration (do college-bound high-schoolers not read Mockingbird anymore? Animal Farm? Lord of the Flies? A Separate Peace?), but aren’t we better off if we have a common vocabulary of fiction and if that vocabulary evolves? I’m not trying to get into a canon debate, and I’m certainly not suggesting everyone should read all the same books, or that writers should necessarily “aim for the center of the board” as that disgruntled commenter puts it. But it’s possible that what the final round of the Tournament of Books does best is locate the center of the board, at least for a group of pretty well-read individuals, and if you want to claim that A Mercy and City of Refuge are it, I say our culture would be about 1,000% percent more literate if one percent of the people had read either one of them.

To Mr. Chee’s point, people don’t read books anymore. Smart people, dumb people. Educated people, uneducated people. Forget Harry Potter, most people don’t read fiction for pleasure, at all. And so to bunch your Underoos because a goofball internet award didn’t come up with a more cutting-edge author to give its chicken to is a little like complaining that the solution to today’s Sudoku doesn’t require calculus.

John: That commenter who remarked on us hitting the “center of the board” went on to say that it also “makes it look like a dreadful year for publishing.” There is a tendency—one I’m occasionally guilty of myself—for passionate readers to believe that in order for reading and literature to be saved, we need to push or pull it in a certain direction. If only books were more like I think they should be, then we’ll all be fine, we think.

But I think the truth is something closer to what your Harry Potter vs. Twilight anecdote illustrates. We need reading to spread in any direction it can go. Sometimes I feel like we’re engaging in an intramural turf battle over very little turf. First, let’s grab a little more grass before we decide whose is greenest.

This past semester for one of my courses my students have been engaged in projects where they’re asked to do a “case study” of a single book in an effort to try to explain how and why certain books became “successful.” It’s a vehicle to induce them to learn as much about publishing in as short a time as possible. The books they chose to study range from Harry Potter and Twilight to Geek Love and Jesus’ Son. Even going into the semester I knew it was a mostly fruitless enterprise since we all believe that no one knows the magic formula to a book’s success, but I spent most of today reading through drafts of these case studies and one theme stands out again and again, and that is that at some point, each book found a passionate advocate and it’s that passion that gave the book a life with audiences.

For example, the phenomenon of Harry Potter in America has been largely traced to NPR host Margot Adler, who received an advance copy and became a one-woman evangelist for the work.

The Lovely Bones benefited from a significant PR push, but its tipping point was Anna Quindlen telling Katie Couric and her Today Show audience that if they read one book that year, it should be that one.

Jesus’ Son has been sustained through the years by a passionate following among creative writing students. Geek Love owes its existence to one man, Knopf chairman Sonny Mehta. Two generations of readers looking for something that’s going to shake them up have kept it alive through multiple reissues.

If the ToB does nothing else, it demonstrates the passion out there for books. Now we just need to spread the word, people.

I can see the giant hook making its way toward me to yank me from the stage, but before it grabs me, let me say thanks to the judges, thanks to the commentators, thanks to Andrew and Rosecrans, thanks to Powell’s, and thanks once again to you, my friend. To quote Ms. Clarkson, “my life would suck without you.” It was a really pleasure to talk books with all of you. Let’s do it again next year.

Kevin: Very well said. I really wish I could be that passionate advocate for The Dart League King, but I won’t be until either they give me a radio hosting gig or more than 59 people are following me on Twitter.

If even some of your students are actually reading Jesus’ Son, that’s the best news I’ve heard in six months. Word of that alone would send the Dow up 300 points today, if the Dow were pegged to awesome short stories about heroin.

And if I might say one last thing about the book I didn’t like but can’t shut up about, the undisputed tournament MVP (and if I may also speak in defense of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux): The American hardcover and softcover editions of 2666 are beautiful. I can’t imagine the experience of that book being replicated on a Kindle. I have the three-volume paperback edition and I’m not only never getting rid of it, I’m thinking about buying the hardcover as well just so I can look at it all day.

Finally, I also want to thank all the same people you just did—the judges, the readers, the bloggers, all the commenters, everyone at TMN (especially Liz Entman for her tireless copy editing, Matt Robison for Facebooking and making sure Junot Díaz got a crazy rooster shirt, and Llewellyn Hinkes for coding a ToB site as efficient as Cormac McCarthy’s prose), the authors, the publishers (who really do care about good books)—you, of course, you big lug—and all the folks at Powell’s (who also care about good books). It was once again great fun and I seriously can’t wait to be called an idiot next year.

Reader Comments

On March 31, 2009 at 10:05 AM Charlie Peters said…


I really enjoy what this championship accomplishes. At the surface, a first-time reader/ spectator would assume ToB sought to objectively arrive upon the one greatest book in a no questions asked, check the charts, it's over, kind of way. But that's not it at all. You've missed the joke -- selecting winning books has always been a silly goal, and ToB knows this.

While we do get a supposed winner at the end and said winner bumps its way up our to-be-read list, what's most important about this contest is the conversation that goes on between diverse readers, judges, commentators and spectators alike. By reading this month-long conversation (and you HAVE to read the decisions and the commentary), you are introduced to a limitless number of answers to the question, "Why do we read?" That we come to understand this question has as many answers as there are individual readers is precisely why ToB succeeds. To me, literature and discussion about it, at their best, points to huge things like community and conversations about humanity. So when you throw 16 great novels, a handful of judges, and an eager and engaged audience into one arena, it's not about the book that comes out on top. The real winners are all of us who've been participating, for we come a little closer to understanding for ourselves and for our community why it is we ignore the clock and the deadlines and say to ourselves, "Just ONE more chapter..."

It feels vital and delightfully subversive to part of such an experience.

On March 31, 2009 at 10:09 AM Jorge said…


You shouldn't be so smug in your constant pointing out to publishers what they should and shouldn't do in regards to wooing the digital book contingent. You, and many other Kindle supporters, have come to this sort of end-all, be-all attitude of it's going to happen sooner or later. This is beyond silly. Numerous technologies have come out that were supposed to be "the end of" their predecessors. Bottom line, if the people won't have it, the technology will fall by the wayside. Don't be so quick to assume. Mini-discs really worked out well. And Blu-Ray DVDs and HDDVDS are completely working out. Nope.

On March 31, 2009 at 11:20 AM John Warner said…


I absolutely may be wrong about the impact digital technology will have on books, but I think there's a lot of evidence to suggest that we are much closer to a digital music download is to CD change than a DVD is to Blu-Ray change.

I don't think digital downloads will end the existence of physical books, Kevin makes a great case for one example of why physical books will endure, but I do think that with the current, beyond precarious, financial state of the publishing industry, this kind of change, even if it isn't revolutionary, has the ability to tip it over the edge. It's kind of like the American auto industry. It's not that we don't still need cars, but over time it got to where our businesses that manufacturer cars can't actually operate profitably. (Same thing with airlines.)

The big change that is now happening with ebooks is in the distribution, which is what is, at last, putting them on par with digital music downloads. For the first time there is an intersection between the device people need to read the books (iPhone/iPod/Blackberry/Kindle/Sony e-reader) and the availability of books in electronic format. Digital downloads have eroded a huge chunk of the the CD market. I think digital books will do the same. It's the same phenomenon that's happening to physical newspapers. Now that the Internet delivers the content, the physical object is no longer necessary. This will increasingly become true of books as well.

Blu-Ray is just an "enhanced" DVD. You can still watch the movie on DVD, it just isn't as clear. For most books, the physical book is not an "enhancement" of a digital version. The content is the content. (The books where the physical object is an enhancement will continue to exist.) Blu-Ray is also twice the price of a DVD. A digital download of a hardcover book is about 1/3 of the list price. Same thing with mini-discs. They didn't work because they didn't change the dynamic of listening to music. You still had to carry a bunch of stuff around and you still had to buy both in a physical store. Digital files, on the other hand, changed the distribution model permanently.

I have no wish for publishers to "woo" people who want digital books. I just think it's in their own best interests to put their product out in every format people might want. A digital book is no different from offering an audio or large print edition, something we don't think twice about. My point is to illustrate a single case where the lack of a digital edition has potentially affected my buying habits. I have no idea if my experience is widespread or unique, but it happened.

Digital technology will have an effect sooner or later. I don't think that's in dispute. It has altered or is altering every form of media. Television is literally shitting pants over it. To bank on it not changing the way we buy books sounds like a recipe for bankruptcy.

It's a real opportunity for publishers. There's 12 million iPhones out there, all of them potential platforms for reading a book. My hunch is that a good portion of those iPhone users didn't even read a book last year. It seems like an opportunity to me to grab a little more turf.

On March 31, 2009 at 10:25 AM Tom Piazza said…

Dear People Of The Rooster,

I had a blast watching the progress of this tournament, and not just because City Of Refuge made it to the final bout with a novel by one of the great writers of our time. The level of passion and engagement that the judges, the commentators, and the readers brought to the matter at hand, the month-long demonstration of how much fiction can matter, would have to be an inspiration to anybody writing, or trying to write, fiction today.

I want to thank the judges who voted for City Of Refuge, of course; your responses have been so gratifying. And I also want to thank the judges who voted the other way, for their honest and meaningful comments (the one exception being Brockman’s remark about “Ebonics” – come down to New Orleans one of these days, B, and listen to the way people actually talk!). Any writer – certainly any novelist – knows how it feels to work in solitude and wonder if anyone is listening at the other end. The Tournament of Books is beautiful proof that the walls have ears. Long live the Rooster!

On March 31, 2009 at 12:20 PM Brockman said…

Just to clarify my "Ebonics" remark a bit: my problem isn't with the way people "actually" speak, but the way a white writer chooses to depict that dialect. The Ninth Ward characters in City of Refuge speak very phonetically — not just with "gotta" but "gotsa" — while the white characters speak perfect Queen's English, never so much as dropping the "g" in an "-ing" ending.

I've grown up listening to my African-American relatives who live in New Orleans, who don't sound a bit like the characters in this book. Regardless of whether the voices are "authentic," I can't help wondering if people who are anything like SJ or his family are the intended audience, and if they would find their depiction in any way insulting. At any rate, it made me uncomfortable, and I felt it had to be remarked upon.

On March 31, 2009 at 1:37 PM Sara said…

And thank you for that.

On March 31, 2009 at 11:54 AM Jack W said…

Long Live the Rooster -- so say we all!

Yeah, another fine tournament. It's great to hear from Tom Piazza in the comments today; myself and many other ToB followers await Toni Morrison's acceptance comments...

If not a written piece from Morrison, then perhaps an NPR interview or some other broadcast venue. She's won the Rooster, let's hear her crow about it!

Today was fun because so many of the initial votes went to City of Refuge -- which I had not expected. It was very close -- with City taking a brief early lead. Then it went back and forth, back and forth. From about halfway through Mercy pulled in front and stayed there until the final buzzer! It's been the most exciting final for ToB in recent memory.

As the flurry of the finish dies down, I'd like to suggest that the bracket be expanded to 32 entrants for next year. I realize it would be more work for everyone involved -- but we'd be exposed to so much more variety. We would also have a chance to better celebrate those who make it to the semi-finals -- our own Final Four!

Not only would it be great to have 32 entrants -- but along with this, why not have the Zombie Round be the Round of Eight? We could have four Zombies then -- so everyone could get excited about one of their favorite early-round knockouts having a second chance against a different opponent. And after that -- we'd have the Final Four, perhaps including a Zombie winner or two.

Some sort of extra flourish accompanying the Final Four would be appropriate. Maybe three judges each would judge the two semi-final matches. Or two judges -- and then a tally of the readers and commentators would make up the third and possibly deciding vote. How about it?

On March 31, 2009 at 12:06 PM Karen Templer said…

Thanks for a terrific event to all who made it happen. I really do think this is the coolest thing that happens in bookland each year.

On March 31, 2009 at 12:37 PM Drew Johnson said…

All of my carping aside--after all what is such a venue for if not discussion and a side order of brick-throwing--the Rooster is one of my favorite literary events of the year. I remember following 2005 with a weird, new enthusiasm, and that enthusiasm hasn't abated since.

John and Kevin, thank you both. Morning News, make sure this tournament never dies.

For Absurdity running free and transparent is a magnificent thing. Was a pleasure to absurd-ify with all of you this year.

On March 31, 2009 at 12:41 PM Philip Graham said…

Here, here! 32 books, with a final four and its attendant flourish. Great idea.

And thanks to all for a marvelous run. The ToB is addictive, and I'm crushed that it's over.

Though it will continue for me, in a way, since I'll be reading four of the books discussed, one up from last year, when the competition sent me to discover three new writers. So, thanks for the continuing memories . . .

On March 31, 2009 at 1:26 PM David said…

This is my first TofB, and I LOVED it! Can't you do this more often than once a year?


On March 31, 2009 at 1:48 PM Asa said…

Many thanks to The Morning News, the judges, everyone who makes the TOB happen. I really enjoy following it every year, and have found some great books (this year, City of Refuge) which I probably wouldn't have found otherwise. Keep it up! (I second calls for a nonfiction Rooster; maybe a Gerbil instead, or a awesome vegetable?)

On March 31, 2009 at 2:31 PM daesu said…

fascinating conversation and comments - not gonna bother giving my own two bits about kindle etc - long, different kind of story, so just a few comments on the books themselves:

enjoyed the tournament immensely, though did feel a bit let down by the final - first of all, coz, yes, i'm another one of those refusing-to-let-it-go 2666 fans. i picked up "by night in chile" a couple of years ago, and have proceeded to track down every r.b. book i could find, including a couple of collections that so far have not been translated into english, but i got the greek edition (don't freak out, i am greek to begin with...), and on that note, damn, i wish my spanish was better (then again, i've been saying the same thing about my french and proust for like 15 years and never got around to doing anything about it...)

anyway, enough blah, i loved 2666, though, yes, it's baggy, it's loose, it could have been 200 pages shorter, but still, i maintain that such and editing would have both made it easier to get through and diluted some of its effects - the numbness induced by part 4 is kinda the point of the whole section, i felt. and some of the other complaints about poor characterization i thought were off the mark, this isn't modernist in any sense, it's in fact very meta- and an effect that r.b. goes for in book after book, at least the way i see it - though i do admit that can be quite annoying for those in the james wood part of the woods

strange occurrence no. 1 - wood likes r.b. - is he wider than people give him credit for, or is he misreading him, as has been suggested elsewhere? awesome points to argue over...

strange occurrence no. 2 - i'm usually on the wood part of the woods too (damn, just realized, unintentional, awful pun, sorry, really...) - though i take exception in the case of DFW, who was a genius, and whose death messed me up for quite a while, and in the case of "netherland", where i strangely find myself agreeing with zadie smith that the novel's supposed strengths are what's wrong with it - and on the whole prefer modernism to post-modernism (not always, just on average), but bolano's stuff works for me, though, again, i can see why others could dislike it for the same reasons i love it. still, 2666 in the final would have been fun, fun, fun...

so, underwhelming final for me. not a big fan of morrison. 'beloved' is good, but nobel or not, it's always been a novel i respected but never loved, and the rest of her stuff i have a lot of objections about. i will admit that listening to her at one point in an interview refer haughtily to the 4-5 masterpieces she'd already written made me even more likely to be critical of her - unfair? yes, it's a personal prejudice based on her character, or what i perceived it to be, not her work, but still, difficult to shake off. i will get around to reading 'a mercy' eventually, hope it will at least be better than her most recent efforts...

'city of refuge' i have not read yet, the first chapter did not particularly impress me, fearing it's victory is'important book' syndrome. there's a book here in greece called 'farewell to anatolia' about the turks' sacking of smyrna in 1922 which has come in the last 4 decades to be seen as a masterpiece of greek literature, and required reading for all, and i've spent the last 20 years arguing that, while dealing with a major and deeply traumatic historical event for the baltic, is in fact just plain awful as literature. definitely a case of subject overwhelming treatment in how it is looked upon, and i fear 'city of refuge' is a similar case... though, of course, i'll probably end up reading that too...

i guess my (very labored) point is, i agree, in a sense, with the people who saw the final as two safe choices, when there were other novels (not just 2666, but e.g. 'the lazarus project') that were far more daring and would have made for a very-very polarized and heated final... still, this was so much fun...

wow! the word 'prolix' comes to mind... sorry... roll on ToB 2010!!!!

On March 31, 2009 at 2:37 PM daesu said…

above sentence about 'city of refuge' should read 'fearing its victories' (meaning of course up until the final) - (mental note: must edit more)....

On March 31, 2009 at 4:45 PM Jason Perdue said…

Yet another great ToB. I've been a fan from day one when someone somewhere sent me a link to the Tournament page and I saw Cloud Atlas listed. I've been one of the annoying people over the years emailing on Jan 1 asking for the list of books. In fact I'd given up that chore only to discover late that you had released the list much earlier this year. But there was still enough time for me to read a smattering of the books.

I don't read much contemporary fiction, so ToB is my one time a year that I'm exposed to what's new and great in fiction. I always scan the list, read some reviews, and pick what I think will be the best 5-8 books and then start reading them. I adjust as the results start to come in and by what's available where and for what price.

After starting with a quick read of the cheapest book I could find immediately, My Revolutions, I thought to myself that if there are books better than this, it's going to be a great year. And so it was.

In a prime example of the theme this year of different distribution avenues and ways of experiencing these works, I ended up reading only one physical book. I listened to A Mercy and Unaccustomed Earth on audiobook. If you think you loved reading Morrison's writing, listen to her read it. She reads it like poetry with a slow, calmness and cadence that brings her prose alive. It's unbelievable, and I knew it would win when I was finished.

I'll skip the details of buying and returning two books I didn't like at all.

As City of Refuge started getting a head of steam, I quickly knew that I needed to read it. I didn't have the problem of not being able to find it. It was everywhere, but only as an expensive hardcover. So Amazon had just released the Kindle for iPhone and I took a peek and for $10 I was able to get the book in seconds and begin reading it. After reading The White Tiger with Stanza, I wasn't sure I'd like the Kindle app, but I have to say that reading it on my iPhone was easier and more convenient than I would have ever imagined.

So for the fifth year in a row I managed to read the final pairing before the last day and my favorite book won for the 4th time out of 5 (Homeland in a crushing defeat in '06 still hurts).

So thank you to everyone involved in making this my fiction event of the year, every year. And I can't wait until year 17 when we can have a Tournament of Champions bracket.

On March 31, 2009 at 5:45 PM Keith H said…

I applaud the TOB. I wish it was like the NFL and had an offseason filled with trade rumors, draft speculation, and various authors getting arrested. Looking forward to next year already.

Judge John's comments about the digital revolution seem spot on to me. I think more digital access to books will lead to more book buying. Think of digital music platforms like emusic. You may barely even listen to everything you buy, but you still buy it.

But I have a question to throw out about digital publishing. Would more imprints give us more and better books? I don't buy books based on the imprint, generally, but I do assume some measure of quality to them because of the reputation of the house, even as I suspect a limited number of gatekeepers and paths to publication holds back some good stuff.

On March 31, 2009 at 8:38 PM Andrew said…

Thank you to all the judges, to Kevin and John, and of course most of all to the writers of the books. It has been a thrill following the tournament, capped by Mr. Piazza's comments today. (I do have City of Refuge on order.) Let me also support the idea of expanding to 32 books, and as I proposed in an earlier year, involving some readers as judges. (A contest perhaps to become one of the judges?) I am truly sorry to see the contest end.

On March 31, 2009 at 9:16 PM Joey P said…

Thanks to everyone involved in this project, but especially to you, Kevin and John. I've been following the tournament every year of its short history, and this year's commentary has been the finest, the insight your having read most of the books making all the difference. Yes, it was less meta -- fewer wry comments on the judges' comments of the books -- but much more satisfying. I know it took greater effort and presentation, but the effort and prep allowed you to bring your A-games. And I appreciated it.

Thanks and see you next year.

On March 31, 2009 at 9:18 PM matt e. said…

I've been following the Rooster since day one, and this is the most fun I've had yet. I'm in Utah, Utah County, which is 90% Republican and 1% literate. There are a lot of basketball fans around, and I am looked at askance when I mention the Tournament of Books. It is such a relief to have this commentator community as a place to channel my Rooster excitement. Thank you: Andrew, Rosecrans, Kevin, John, and everyone else at TMN. Plus the commentators. You guys all rock! See you next year!

On March 31, 2009 at 10:01 PM Keith Lee Morris said…

My book had the honor of being the first one bounced by Ms. Morrison, and I just want to say that it was fun to follow the tournament the whole way, and I want to thank the Rooster crew both for their inclusion of my work and for their stated appreciation of it, and I want to thank those folks who wrote in and said how much they liked my novel. And I hear through the grapevine that Jonathan Eig has promised to buy the first round if I'm ever in Chicago--I'll be sure to take you up on that, my friend.

On March 31, 2009 at 11:25 PM Amy said…

I am new to the Tournament of Books this year, and I absolutely love it. Thank you very much to all involved! I discovered it just before it started, so I didn't have as much time to read ahead. I can't wait for January to start on next year's list of contenders. I am a little sad that it's over, but I'm looking forward to working my way through the books in this year's tournament that I have added to my to-read shelf. I have discovered books that I am excited about, and I gained a great deal of insight from the in-depth commentary and the back-and-forth debates. The blurbs on a book, or even detailed reviews, just don't seem to give the same kind of insight that the discussions in this tournament do. As others have noted, the discussion about what makes a novel great, and the experience of reading, are also very enjoyable and thought-provoking.

Will someone at The Morning News please, please publish an account of how Toni Morrison responds to her Rooster prize???

On April 1, 2009 at 9:04 AM Duncan Murrell said…

Toni Morrison, winning all the awards like it ain't nothing. The Nobel's not enough? You've got to have the Rooster too? The Rotary Club here in town has a literary award, I suppose you'll be in the running for that as well. (You get a free barbecue dinner and two free drinks at the one bar in town.) The Rooster is well-deserved, yes, but how about some love for the rest of us mediocrities? Could you toss an NBA or an NBCC my way? How about a Whiting Award? A gift certificate to Sonic? Something?

Go Cornell!

On April 1, 2009 at 9:58 AM B.R. Cohen said…

Thank you for this, Rosecrans, Andrew, John, Kevin, everyone. I understand it runs in March to fit with the March Madness theme, but the timing also helpfully ushers in Spring and revitalizes my interest in new literature. There's a real rebirth/renewal/inspiration feel to the whole event. Thanks for that. Ben

On April 1, 2009 at 10:37 AM Taylor said…

Toni Morrison: I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!

On April 1, 2009 at 1:42 PM Matt said…

Hey, I get what you're saying! (and full disclosure: I'm an FSG'er). But the title story of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned is available for free download from the publisher's site (, along with links to other stories in the collection previously published elsewhere. Anyway, love reading the Tournament. Carry on.

On April 1, 2009 at 2:33 PM John said…

"The really clever publisher will figure out how to do this with their own online store where you can mix and match efforts by their different authors for a sort of personal Now That’s What I Call Writing anthology."

This already exists.

On April 1, 2009 at 11:26 PM Andrew Womack said…

To those who've inquired: We've contacted her agent, and will post Ms. Morrison's response when we hear something back. Or we will post fanfic of what we believe her response would be. One or the other.

On April 2, 2009 at 11:27 AM Monty said…

Hey, before you guys shut off the lights, can you fix it so that all the rounds of the first TOB , the one that ended on Cloud Atlas vs The Plot against America, can be read? Right now, you can only read the final round, because none of the links to the earlier rounds of the tournament work. I need TOB archives to tide me over in the offseason!

On April 2, 2009 at 1:14 PM Kevin Guilfoile said…

Monty, maybe they just fixed it but if you follow this link:

You can click on each of the matches in the sidebar on the right.

On April 6, 2009 at 11:27 AM Monty said…

Mr. Womack did fix it, And I've been reading it, thanks. I have to say, Mr. Guilfoile, that reading a TOB without booth commentary is just not the same. You two are the spice in the TOB stew. If you guys are bored one day you should go back and do retro-active commentary. I'd read that shit.