Why I Follow the Tournament of Books

I have always been fascinated by bookish awards. I would pick up children’s books when I saw the little silver emblem stamped on the front cover and hand them to my parents to buy without even attempting to find out what the plot was. Now, as an adult, I tend to do the same thing. When the Man Booker longlist is released, I feverishly scour the internet for the best deals on the books already released, and search for the ones that aren’t on NetGalley. The goal is to always read all the books before the shortlist is announced, and if not that, by the time the winner is crowned. Unfortunately, I lose interest when I do not have enough time to order and read thirteen books in six weeks, especially when half of them are arriving from overseas, and I fail to finish even half of them by the time the longlist is whittled down to half. I like collecting the Man Booker selections, because it is a chance to discover new books I haven’t heard of yet, and sometimes even get a heads up for something good soon coming to the U.S. Usually I’ve only heard of a few books and read even less.

Now, with the Tournament of Books, the novels selected are usually more popular and discussed online more often; they’re almost bordering on mainstream. They are books that I’ve picked up at the bookstore numerous times, telling myself I’ll get around to reading them someday. Well, someday comes during the Tournament of Books season.

The long list has been released. Seventy-two of the year’s best books, as decided by the staff at The Morning News. I’ve heard of well over half of the long list selections, and actually own a large portion of them. I’ve read very few this year, however, and now I will take a slightly strategic approach to reading the selections. Strategic because my goal is to read the books that will end up on the shortlist, which won’t be released until January 3rd. There are a few that are pretty safe bets, like Fever Dream (the Summer Reading Challenge winner) and Lincoln on the Bardo (the winner of the Man Booker this year). But there are others that I really want to read that have less of a chance, like Huck Out West and My Favorite Thing is Monsters (I don’t think there’s ever been a graphic novel on the short list).

So, here’s my plan for the next month leading up to the release of the shortlist: read whatever I want, and keep an eye out for online discussions of longlist selections that are favored to be selected for the shortlist. And when in doubt, I’ll read the short books I can get through quickly so I can get to more books!

Any others out there who will be reading along with the Tournament of Books? What are some from the longlist that I shouldn’t miss?

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