Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tournament of Books Update


We are both having good luck with Tournament reading so far. Even though I know it's not your intention, I like that you're going to be able to follow more of the Tournament with me this year!

I've read 9 of the 18 so far, and have abandoned one. Let me give you an update.

Gone Girl
The truth is, I read this quickly and enjoyed it. My initial response was just to think it was a fun page-turner, and perhaps a bit too manipulative. But this one has really stuck with me in ways I didn't expect. I think of it often, trying to figure out it's hold over me.

The Fault in Our Stars
I can't think of another book that has dealt so movingly and maturely with death. In particular, the book's exploration of what it feels like to know you're time is up when you're not yet done living.

Frankly, a disappointment. It starts with a great premise: a young family participates in the building of a commune. But once the main character, a young man named Bit leaves the commune behind, most of the energy in the book just seeemed to disappear. Also, this book traffics in the annoying no-quotation-mark thing which I hate.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
A book about hating Seattle? I literally could not be a more perfect audience for this book. It helps that it's fantastically funny. 

Definitely "the find" of this year's TOB for me. I loved this book. The author makes himself a character, and this guy does a lot of hand-wringing over how characters get created and the way that we turn history into fiction. I bought this for my Kindle, and I love it so much I'll probably buy a hard copy.

The Yellow Birds
A thoughtful and meditative look at a the life of a soldier home from Iraq. I think it faltered at the end, but it had it's moments of reading pleasure. Honestly, though, it seems like a lightweight compared to other war novels I've read in the past few years. Comparing it to Matterhorn and The Things They Carried, might not be fair, but there you go.

The Round House
The most interesting thing about this book for me was how it stepped away from Louise Erdrich's usual style of having multiple narrators. I enjoyed it, but the further I get from it, the more it felt like the characters were just a vehicle for teaching "the lesson" about tribal injustice. Not my favorite of hers, but that could also be because of the lack of quotation marks.

The Orphan Master's Son
Just finished it today and liked it. I thought it was well-plotted and well-paced. I won't spoil it since I know you're listening to it, but I found the way the author delineates between the two halves of the book to be interesting. I'll be curious to hear how the handle this with the audiobook. This book has the potential to send me on some sort of weird North Korea kick, because I found that to be fascinating.

Building Stories
I was wary of this one. I'm such a fast reader, but you really have to slow down and be careful with a graphic novel. That's a good thing for someone like me. I found the stories here to be very moving. I'm fascinated by the things the author was doing with time. In one section, there's a view of a staircase, and you see a young girl age to an old woman right there in one page. I thought it was stunning. My only advice is to read the Brandford the Bee sections in the middle. I ended with the Brandford book and it was a mistake. In the middle, it would have felt like a pleasant interlude. At the end, it felt disappointing and a bit strange.


This book sucks. It's unreadable. I literally got about halfway through and just thought, This isn't worth it. I couldn't even begin to tell you what it was about. It's future, dystopian New Jersey? There's some time-jumping back and forth. One of the characters is a bus driver? I mean, there was something in Swamplandia! worth hating, but this book I just feel sorry for. It's like an ugly girl who comes to school wearing ugly clothes. You want to reach out and help, but it's just easier to look away in pity.

Currently Reading
I've got this one on my *awesome* Kindle paperwhite. Every night, Darius and I lay down to read and I like to read on my Kindle in case he wants to turn out the lights, but I still want to read a little more. It's sweet. Another book about the Iraq war. So far I like it, but we'll see how it goes.

Still To Go
Of the remaining titles, 2 are so far down on my list I don't know that I'll ever get to them unless they advance past the first round. That's Song of Achilles and How Should a Person Be?  I think it's because people I know and like have both disliked them. Easy to push them down to the bottom of the list.

That leaves Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Dear Life, Bring up the Bodies, Beautiful Ruins, May We Be Forgiven. I either own them or have them from the library. I'm thinking a non-fiction palate cleanser from the TBR pile before I tackle more novels.

Overall, not a bad start, right?


  1. Looks like you're totally on track! This is the most ToB books I've read before... well, listened to (Like people audit classes -- I'm audio'ing the ToB. Heh.) and I've listened to 4 so far (Bernadette, Beautiful Ruins, Gone Girl, and The Fault in Our Stars) and I'm about halfway through The Orphan Master's Son (multiple narrators, to answer your question... and they are *good*).

    Of course, I had to buy Building Stories and I appreciate your tip about not finishing with Branford the Bee. Is there any one you would particularly recommend ending on?

    So that will take my tally to 6. Not sure how many more I will get to/am interested in, but I've still got a month, so maybe as more people are talking about them, some will pique my interest. I usually wait for the verdicts on the ToB to make decisions about reading books, but more have crossed my path this year than previous years, it seems.

    I'm bummed that Arcadia was a disappointment -- that one looked interesting to me. Being in the ToB is going to give that Ivyland a giant boost in readership -- it also looked interesting to me, but I'll take your word for it that it's not.

    I'm surprised you haven't already torn into Bring Up the Bodies -- that's the sequel to Wolf Hall, right? And you really liked that, right? Are you "saving it" or are you nervous? Or... something else entirely? Just curious how you're feeling about it.

    I wonder when they're going to have the Pre-tournament playoff to determine which of the three books will take the final spot. I've been checking the site, but they haven't mentioned it since the first announcement, have they?

    I've been enjoying the previews of the ToB books at Book Riot. Also, they have a good round-up of book/reading-related coffee mugs. My favorite: "Reading is my Super Power." Heh.

  2. I'm saving Bring Up the Bodies because I'm nervous. I loved, loved, loved Wolf Hall. What if it doesn't measure up? Apparently, this is completely unfounded because people say it's better...

    Also, Wolf Hall was a very challenging read for me, which I enjoyed, but I've been so swamped lately. I don't know what's keeping me from it, honestly. Maybe I just need to hit that one next.

    I have decided in the interim to read a book off my TBR pile, The Swerve. It's non-fiction, but pretty short. It's seems like a good story so far. I'll tell you more about it soon. I can't imagine it will take too long to read!

    I think you'd like HHhH. Not sure there's others I'd hugely recommend in there.