Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Tournament of Books is Here!


It's the most wonderful time of the year! The announcement of the short list for this year's ToB! This year's tournament has 17 books (I explained the play-in round to Darrell and he was cracking up.) and I've only read one of them! But, since I have the quarter off of grad school, I feel pretty sure I can get through a good number of them before March. And, even better, so many of the books sound interesting and I'm looking forward to reading them. And, in a fit of fantastic planning on my part, I hoarded all my gift cards from students and was able to purchase a bunch of these the ones that we didn't have in the school library. (Although my librarians are awesome, and I bet they will order lots of these.)

Let's take a look at the field.

You and I have both read Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. I was certain this would make the short list. It was just the big, buzzworthy book of the year. We've discussed this a lot already, so I'll just go ahead and say that I think it will be great for discussion.

In Progress
I downloaded The New World by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz. We talked a bit back and forth about this one. Apparently this was only released as a digital book, and that first version was available on kindle for $4.99. But you discovered they had also published it as a hardback, and that version is $10.99 on Kindle. The world is a confusing place, Kelly. So far, I can't really figure out what makes it interesting as a digital only publication. It's weird. Might require some research on what the story is there. As for the actual story, it is told in alternating voices: Jim, who dies suddenly but is experiencing some sort of afterlife. And his wife, Jane, who is pretty upset that Jim contracted with some nutball group to cut off his head after his death in order to bring him back to life. So. Yeah. Interesting premise for sure.

Library, baby. 
I got two books from the school library. The Sellout by Paul Beatty and The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. I read the first page of each of them, and they are both first person narrators. I'm a little burned on that right now. So I'm going to wait on those for a while.

Amazon Prime
As a thank you for the Fates and Furies book talk, I got a $50 Amazon gift certificate! Perfect timing. I also had some other Amazon credit I had been hoarding. I ordered Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving and A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. My guess is that I'll read the Anne Tyler after The New World. Obviously the play-in round is first, and we're already in the middle of another John Irving. So maybe save Avenue of Mysteries until later in February? I really like Anne Tyler and read a bunch of her books in college and my early 20s. At some point, I stopped reading her, I remember feeling like she had a shtick and I was tired of it....but, I can't remember what that shtick was anymore. I hope it will feel like hanging out with an old friend! I also ordered The Invaders and Bats of the Republic, and I know nothing about either of them except for the descriptions on the ToB site. Finally, Oreo by Fran Ross. I am super interested in this one, and if I had to make a prediction from the long list, I was hoping this one made it in. I have a feeling this will be pretty high up in the batting order, too.

My local independent bookstore
I had a $100 gift card left, and I really wanted to support my local independent bookstore. I went there this afternoon with the plan of just getting whatever I could find on the list. And they had Our Souls at Night, The Story of my Teeth, The Tsar of Love and Techno and The Book of Aron. Can we talk about how freaked out I am by the cover of The Story of my Teeth? Teeth freak me out. I'm worried about that one. But, look at this interesting bookmark that was inside of it! I guess that should inspire me to read more literature in translation. The only recent read that I can think of that qualifies is the Ferrante quartet I just finished.

And because I just spent the whole day at that superbooktalk, I also got The Wrath and the Dawn, a retelling of the Shahrazad story for a YA audience. I'm lucky I got away with only one non-ToB purchase. Bookstores=danger.

Already Own It and Dreading It
A Little Life. Obviously.

Coming out in Paperback 
Both The Whites and The Turner House come out in paperback by early March. I can wait for that.

Beg or Borrow
Ban en Banlieue. I just couldn't get the Powell's site to load. I'll figure out how to get it from someone.

Is that all 17? What about you? Any sound interesting? Any audiobook insights?


  1. Looks like you hit 'em all.

    Two years ago, I killed myself reading as many of the ToB books as I could (I finished 13.5 -- not bad) (I abandoned The Lowland and never went back...) Last year, I said I would only read books that were genuinely interesting to me. I read 5 during the ToB (and then finally Untamed State later) and that was pretty liberating. This year... I am interested (to at least *some* degree) in *all* of these books! (Well, I'm scared of ALL) Uh oh!

    Jumping off of your discussion above...

    Regarding The New World, the original eBook was published in 2014... so I'm wondering how that will be addressed. Is there a rule that it only counts when it comes out on paper? From reading, I think there was supposed to be some interactive business in there... Here's what it says in the New York Times Book Review: "On my laptop screen, the sections read right to left or left to right. The border changed color between chapters. There was some very rudimentary animation..." I'm guessing that is probably not coming off in the Kindle.

    I am STOKED about Bats of the Republic because it's illuminated. You know I'm all about the images, baby. I love me some words, but words and pictures (especially really beautiful pictures, which this one has) together? Peanut butter and jelly!

    Another book that I am both intrigued with for having images and flummoxed by its publication date is Oreo. (Side note: I f*ing *love* the cover design of that book). So it's got tons of illustrations in it (not a good aBook) and was originally published in... 1974. It was reprinted in 2015. That's a fair pick for "published" in 2015? Kinda crazy, right? The author died in 1985 -- I am curious/nervous about the language and attitudes depicted on this topic in 1974.

    Excited about The Turner House because it's set in Detroit! (Although I know it's going to be depressing. Still -- fun to read those "local" settings, right?)

    There are still 10 copies available at Powell's of Ban En Banlieue. When you said it was impossible to find, I went ahead and ordered it in case anyone else couldn't get it. But they should be able to -- I've been watching the stock on that thing jump up and go down at Powell's since the announcement was made. So if you've given up on Powell's (weird that it won't load for you!) you can have mine. There are also a few copies now for $10 from Amazon sellers. What was the book a couple of years back that had *zero* reviews when the ToB broke? (Was it Hill William?) The inaccessibility of this book feels like that. (At least that book was available.)

    I have started the aBook of The Story of My Teeth because it's short and the narrator is good -- I'll warn you now: So far (I'm halfway through) this book is about teeth, teeth, teeth, TEETH. So... good luck with that.

    As for aBooks, I spent over an hour last night sampling and deciding what would be good candidates. Bottom line: *all* of these that are available as an aBook have good narrators, so that's a great start. Obviously Bats and Oreo are out because of illustrations. The New World is not available in aBook format. And I will NOT listen to A Little Life (if I read it at all -- at least AUS was short! This f'er is 720 pages!) I have already listened to Fates and Furies and I recommend it. Fun random fact: It's the same narrator on Teeth and Avenue of Mysteries (and he's reeeeeally good -- I've listened to him before and highly recommend him.)

    Whew! Okay -- I think that's it for me. Time to get back to reading!

  2. I want to say that I think they made GREAT selections this year. I think they really drifted into more mainstream fiction in past years, but this year everything seems super interesting and weird and I've never heard of it. I love it! One thing I really want is for the ToB to introduce me to stuff I haven't read...and this year definitely qualifies.

  3. Also, I've been reading The New World on my laptop or phone, definitely suspecting that it wouldn't translate to the kindle screen. Honestly, the only thing I've noticed is the chapter headings change color based on the character. Nothing else he animations, screen color changes. Hmm.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. [I deleted my comment because the link wasn't link-y and cannot be edited. Now there's a graceful "This comment has been removed" artifact. Oh, fine, Blogger...]

      In the Rooster Goodreads group, someone mentioned that it was originally released as an "app" and you can read it for free at the Atavist site here.

      (The UI on that is not intuitive... scroll down to the bottom and click the little right arrow. Voila! Book!)

      I wonder if that is the same or different from your eBook experience -- keep me posted!

    2. Here's the big difference---there are these colored triangles at the beginning of each chapter/point of view switch. Those are find if you read it on a non-kindle screen. But on the link above, there is also a border around the page that only looks like a black line on the computer screen.

      Huh. Sort of annoyed I spend $5 for the lesser experience, but at least I didn't spend $11. Hah!

  5. Someone in the Goodreads group posted this helpful list:

    A Little Life 832 pages
    Avenue of the Mystery 480 pages
    Bats of the Republic 448 pages
    Fates and Furies 391 pages
    The Sympathesizer 384 pages
    The Spool of Blue Thread 368 pages
    The Turner House 356 pages
    The Whites 352 pages
    The Tsar of Love and Techno 352 pages
    The Sellout 304 pages
    The Book of Aron 272 pages
    Oreo 240 pages
    The Invaders 240 pages
    The Story of My Teeth 218 pages
    Our Souls at Night 188 pages
    The New World 185 pages
    Ban en Banlieue 88 pages

  6. An Update: Returned the Kent Haruf to the bookstore on discovering it had no quotation marks. Exchanged it for The Whites. I have noticed that The Story of my Teeth also doesn't have quotation marks, but it's weird as fuck and obviously in translation, so I'm just going to let that slide.

    Ended up getting A Spool of Blue Thread from the library, so I'll return that one to Amazon, too.

    Working on The Story of my Teeth---such a good tip to read the Afterward first! I think I'll finish it tonight, which takes me to 5 out of 17! Thinking I might have to start A Little Life soon, mostly to get it over with?

  7. Well, just a quick update. I've finished 10 of 17! I have Avenue of Mysteries, Oreo, The Sympathizer, Tsar of Love and Techno, Book of Aron, Turner House and Our Souls at Night left.

    I know I should do Avenue of Mysteries next because it's up first, but want to do The Turner House which I know you really liked.

    1. This past month really blasted a hole in my reading mojo. Kind of... distracted.

      But I'm back on the horse! I have read 8. And started 5 others (that was the distraction thing... ) that I am working on completing now:

      The Sympathizer (oof -- dense!)
      Bats (fun so far)
      The Whites (I'll probably have to re-start that)
      Oreo (10 pages in -- holy hilarious)
      The New World (gotta just burn through that, but I get distracted by other stuff when I am at the computer! Maybe on my flight on Friday.)

      Not sure if I'll get to Tsar. I'd like to read Avenue of Mysteries.

      I'm opting out of ALL and Blue Thread (thanks for taking the hit on those).