What’s All This?

A Primer to the Tournament of Books

Welcome to The Morning News Tournament of Books, the granddaddy of highbrow bracketology. In case it’s your first time to the Tournament, or you’re curious about how things work, here’s an overview.

The ToB is an annual springtime event (2014 marks our 10th year, aka ToBX, presented by Field Notes) here at The Morning News, where 16 or so of the previous year’s best works of fiction enter a March Madness-style battle royale. At the end of the month, the winner of the Tournament is blessed with the Rooster, our prize named after David Sedaris’s brother (because why not).

Here’s how it works:

Each weekday in March, two works of fiction go head to head, with one of our 16 judges choosing which one will move ahead in the brackets. Along the way, each judge reveals his or her biases and interests, any connections they have to the participating authors, and, most importantly, an elaborate explanation of how they decided between the two books.

Following each day’s decision, our ToB Chairmen, authors Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner, weigh in with color commentary. Think of it as a bigger-picture view of the proceedings from two experts who have read almost every book in the Tournament. Then we leave it up to you, the reader, to add your own passionate thoughts and rebukes to the mix in the comments section—and it gets pretty hot in there.

From the eight opening round matches to the four quarterfinal matches through the two semifinal matches, the original field of 16 competitors is whittled down to two books. However, before those books can enter the final, championship match, they must compete in the Zombie Round, which brings back two books that were eliminated during gameplay.

How the Zombies are chosen: Before the Tournament begins each year, we ask The Morning News readers to vote for their favorite novel of the 16 that will enter the competition. When we reach the Zombie Round during gameplay, the two books that received the most popular votes from among the eliminated rise from the dead with another shot at reaching the championship.

The two books that emerge victorious from the Zombie Round enter the championship match, which is decided by all 16 judges plus an additional tiebreaker judge. Each judge picks their favorite of the two final books, and whichever book receives the most votes takes home that year’s Rooster.

For more on how we chose the books in the contest, read this year’s ToB announcement. To learn more about the Tournament’s history, read a roundtable discussion from last year at the Barnes & Noble Review. And the action doesn’t stop with each day’s judgment—you can find more here:

We hope you enjoy the Tournament!