“Best novel” awards are not often thrown into metaphorical convergence with mixed martial arts. However, as the founders of the Tournament of Books point out, “Everyone knows that, behind the scenes, the National Book Award is both arbitrary and brutal, sort of like Keeping Up With the Kardashians meets Ultimate Fighting. The Tournament of Books is every bit as arbitrary, but we have simply lifted the curtain so the reader can actually see the caged octagon in which the books meet, barefoot and snarling.” In the spirit of March Madness, the 5th Annual ToB takes 16 of the year’s most lauded novels, seeds them and brackets them into head-to-head matchups to be judged by a literary peer. Round 1 of the contest has already seen Tom Piazza’s City of Refuge trump Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth, Mark Sarvas’ Harry, Revised beat out Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger, and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 win handily against Fae Myenne Ng’s Steer Towards Rock. Later rounds will include the reentrance of “zombie” books, risen from the dead by popular vote to eat brains in the quest for first place and the accompanying prize of a live rooster.
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