The 2014 Tournament of Books is Our Kinda Thing

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On January 5th The Morning News announced the shortlist and judging panel for this year’s Tournament of Books. It’s 10 years into this thing, and it is amazing. Book nerds around the globe are gearing up for the competition, which starts in March.

The way it works is simple.  Seventeen books are put into a NCAA basketball style bracket, with books going against one another in a head to head match-up. One judge decides the outcome of the match-up. The final match-up will take all judges opinions into account. A winner will be crowned, and Internet glory will be had. The rules are more intricate than this, so you should check them out.

DON’T FREAK OUT! I know this is not the way Literature works, and I know it’s offensive to some snooty art critics, but try to understand—this is for fun. You can be silly and serious at the same time (check out any Fantasy Football league for an example). The real take-away from this whole thing is that you’ll be able to read a whole month’s full of smart book reviews by great writers and insightful readers. You’ll also be able to partake in the comments section—this is where the real tournament lives. I don’t know who these people are, but they are awesome. Some commenters will offend, some will be offended, but all will be members of a community, and community matters.

This gets us back to what The Voyage Out Book Group is all about: building a Literary community. We get together every month, and, hopefully, we learn about how to become better readers. The Tournament provides another, wider group of readers to bounce ideas off. Just like The Voyage Out, the Rooster followers (as they’ve come to be known) are smart, funny, argumentative, and diverse.

On this site, we’ll be trying to get you ready for the tournament by reviewing the finalists, commenting on the bracket (when built), previewing match-ups (pre game), and critiquing the judges decisions (post game).

As a community building exercise, we’d like to ask for your help. If you want to be part of The Voyage Out’s ToB coverage, email me at

The specifics:

Finalists for the 2014 Tournament of Books

Pre-Tournament Playoff Round

Judges for the 2014 Tournament of Books

Jami Attenberg is the author of four books of fiction. Her latest, The Middlesteins, was a New York Times bestseller and will be published in 10 countries. She has a Tumblr, too.

Geraldine Brooks writes historical fiction about the bubonic plague and the Civil War because she finds the present too depressing. Her 2006 novel, March, got the Pullet Surprise, which is almost as good as winning the Rooster.

John Darnielle is the lead singer of the Mountain Goats. His first book, Black Sabbath: Master of Reality, was published in April 2008, and he is currently working on a novel for Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Rachel Fershleiser heads publishing outreach at Tumblr. Previously she was the Community Manager at Bookish and the Director of Public Programs at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, where she now serves on the board of directors. She is also the co-creator of Six-Word Memoirs and the co-editor of four books, including the New York Times bestseller Not Quite What I Was Planning.

John Freeman is the author of The Tyranny of E-mail and How to Read a Novelist. He teaches at Columbia University.

Roxane Gay is the author of two forthcoming books: An Untamed State and Bad Feminist.

John Green is the author of four novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller The Fault in Our Stars, which Time magazine named the best novel of 2012. He’s also the co-creator with his brother Hank of the popular YouTube channels vlogbrothers and Crash Course, which have been viewed more than 400 million times.

Roger D. Hodge is the editor of the Oxford American and the author of The Mendacity of Hope: Presidential Power, Corporate Money, and the Politics of Corrupt Influence. Hodge’s essays have appeared in many publications, including Texas Monthly, the London Review of Books, Popular Science, Men’s Journal, and Harper’s Magazine, where he was editor-in-chief. He is writing a book about life in the West Texas borderlands.

Jane Hu is a writer, grad student, and Canadian. She has published at The Awl, Slate, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The New Republic. Currently, she lives in Montreal.

Mat Johnson is the author of the novels Pym, Drop, and Hunting in Harlem, the nonfiction novella The Great Negro Plot, and the comic books Incognegro and Dark Rain. He is a faculty member at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program.

Lydia Kiesling is a staff writer at The Millions, where she writes criticism, essays, and the semi-regular column “Modern Library Revue.” She lives in San Francisco.

Jeff Martin’s books include The Customer is Always Wrong: The Retail Chronicles and The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books. He has written for GOOD, The Millions, Salon, Poets & Writers, and Publishers Weekly. Jeff is the founder and executive director of the literary organization Booksmart Tulsa in his hometown of Tulsa, Okla.

John McElwee works in the fiction department for The New Yorker and is a former literary agent at the London- and New York-based Aitken Alexander Associates. He contributes to special projects for The New Inquiry.

Sarah Schulman is the author of novels, nonfiction books, plays, and films. Her most recent works are Israel/Palestine and the Queer International and the novel The Mere Future.

Lizzie Skurnick talks about books for All Things Considered, The New Republic, Bookforum, and many other places. She is the author of Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, and the editor-in-chief of Lizzie Skurnick Books, an imprint reissuing YA classics. A collection based on her “That Should Be a Word” column for The New York Times Magazine is forthcoming in 2014.

Héctor Tobar is a Los Angeles-based writer and the author of three books, including the novels The Barbarian Nurseries and The Tattooed Soldier. He is currently writing an account of the 2010 Chilean mining disaster for Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He is a book critic for the Los Angeles Times.

ToB 2014 Reader Judge Greg Walklin is an Assistant Attorney General at the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, where he practices in the consumer protection and antitrust division. He and his wife, Tiffany, live in Lincoln, Neb.


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