Tuesday, January 28, 2020


My favorite sporting event of the year is gearing up for its March smack down. That's right, it's time for the 2020 Tournament of Books. 

Detailed information can be found on the Morning News website.  However, to summarize if you've not heard of it before, the Tournament  is a semi-serious, semi-tongue in cheek, on-line book prize. The winner wins an actual rooster - though I believe all previous winning authors have donated said prize via a charity to a family in need. 

The books go head to head in this competition using bracket eliminations.  Each reader-judge reads two books and makes the call, allowing only one book to move forward. The reasoning behind the judgment is posted on the Morning News’ website and commentary from the booth (the website organizers or their assigns) and the crowd (anyone on the internet with a Disqus account) follows.  I really enjoy the transparency of this book prize.  Unlike the Pulitzer or Booker prize, we know exactly why the judge advanced one book over another, whether we agree with such reasoning or not.  

Below is the shortlist showing what I have read and what I have yet to accomplish. 
All This Could Be Yours
Attenberg, Jami
Fleishman is in Trouble
Brodesser-Akner, Taffy
Girl, Woman, Other
Evaristo, Bernardine
Lost Children Archive
Luiselli, Valeria
Mary Toft; or, the Rabbit Queen
Palmer, Dexter
Normal People
Rooney, Sally
Nothing to See Here
Wilson, Kevin
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
Vuong, Ocean
Optic Nerve
Gainza, Maria

Crain, Caleb
Peres da Costa, Suneeta

The Testaments
Atwood, Margaret

Trust Exercise
Choi, Susan
The Water Dancer
Coates, Ta-Nehisi

Your House Will Pay
Cha, Steph

Golden State
Winters, Ben H.
Wilk, Elvia
We Cast A Shadow
Ruffin, Maurice Carlos

The Tournament doesn’t start until mid March 2020, so I still have plenty of time to read the titles I’m missing. The majority of my contemporary reading is a direct result of following this contest.  

Of the titles I've read so far, my favorites have been Girl, Woman, Other (the writing is quite stylized but once I got used to it, I found myself swept up in this stories of black British women of all backgrounds, ages and opinions), Mary Toft (slightly quirky historical fiction but with a serious look at groupthink and human inclinations to believe in the unbelievable), and Trust Exercise (when I first read this last summer I was ambivalent about it but it has really stuck with me and so gone up in my estimation).

Have any of you read any of the shortlisted books or would you like to? Do you follow the Tournament or any other book prize?  Let me know! 

Friday, January 3, 2020


I am sure you are all now aware that Karen at Books and Chocolate has decided to host the challenge in 2020 *cue applause and noisemakers*.  It is the only on-line challenge I take seriously.  I find it a great aid in structuring my reading (and blogging) and checking off many titles that I otherwise would put off reading.  Below is my preliminary list of what I might read for the proposed 2020 categories, as ever with an eye on books I already own:

1. 19th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1800 and 1899. 
- I think I will read Dombey & Son by Charles Dickens which was published in 1848.

2. 20th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1900 and 1970. 
- I would like to give the four books in Laurence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet a go. They were published in the 50's and 60's. Four books might seem like a lot, but I don’t think each book is particularly long...something like in the 200 page range.  I will have to check the books out from the library BUT they are also on the Modern Library list so I need to read them anyway.

3. Classic by a Woman Author.
I think it might finally be time to read The Dud Avacado by Elaine Dundy. It gets compared to Breakfast at Tiffany’s often. Let’s see if I agree with that. 

4. Classic in Translation. Any classic originally written in a novel other than your native language. -  I was gifted a copy of Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain) in German this fall but am not sure I have the fortitude to attack it this year, dictionary in hand. I might end up taking the easy route and read something in English from Balzac or Zola instead which I will probably end up reading from the library or downloading from Project Gutenberg.

5. Classic by a Person of Color. Any classic novel by a non-white author. - I really want to read Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin. Another book I don’t own and will have to get from the library.

6. A Genre Classic. Any classic novel that falls into a genre category -- fantasy, science fiction, Western, romance, crime, horror, etc. – Sci-Fi is the genre, possibly Ubik by P.K. Dick or Bring on the Jubilee by Ward Moore will be the book.

7. Classic with a Person's Name in the Title. First name, last name or both. – I could read either Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser or Evelina by Frances Burney.

8. Classic with a Place in the Title. Any classic with the proper name of a place (real or ficitonal) - a country, region, city, town, village, street, building, etc.– Will this be the year I finally read something by Anne Bronte like The Tenant of Wildfeld Hall? I could also try Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier.

9. Classic with Nature in the Title. A classic with any element of nature in the title (not including animals).  -  The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens will fit nicely here. 

10. Classic About a Family. This classic should have multiple members of the same family as principal characters, either from the same generation or multiple different generations. - I have long wanted to try Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. I would have to check it out from the library, however since I don’t own a copy.

11. Abandoned Classic. Choose a classic that you started and just never got around to finishing, whether you didn't like it at or just didn't get around to it. Now is the time to give it another try.- I started and never finished The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce years and years ago. I don’t even remember what happened to my copy of it.

12. Classic Adaptation. Any classic that's been adapted as a movie or TV series. If you like, you can watch the adaptation and include your thoughts in your book review. It's not required but it's always fun to compare – I have The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope left to read from the Palliser series and then I plan to watch the 1970s adaptation of all six of the Palliser novels. It is 8 discs and over 22 hours long...I will break out the popcorn and see if it is true to the books or not. If nothing else, it will be worth watching for the costumes.

Now I am off to see what everyone else has listed so far. I think I know most of you blogging friends because of this challenge.  Will you be participating in 2020 as well?