The Tournament of Books 2014: Predictions

ToB X bracket

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for book lovers – it’s Tournament of Books time!  I’ve been an avid follower of the tourney for several years now and, as the games move into their tenth year, I’ve decided to do a little pre-match prognostication.  The playoff round happened this morning, so let’s take a look at what comes next.

Some important qualifications: as of the time of this writing, I’ve read 13 of the 17 entrants – and I’ll have room to catch up should an unread book start to make a run at the Rooster.  Those unreads are: The Signature of All ThingsThe LowlandThe Tuner of Silences, and The Son.  Also, I make no claim to any ability to actually predict this stuff – which is what makes this fun, right?  Also also, I have no ties to anyone who wrote any of these books or is judging any of these books.  My only tenuous connection to the tournament is that I’m a rabid fan and, as such, have corresponded with Rosecrans and John Warner from time to time.
Okay, so, with all of that out of the way… here we go.
Oh: these judgments are not the books that I particularly think should win but rather a combination of looking at the judges and the books together.

1. I don’t think anyone is surprised about Life After Life in the playoff.

2. The LuminariesA Tale for the Time BeingThe Good Lord BirdThe DinnerThe LowlandAt Night We Walk in CirclesThe Goldfinch, and Life After Life are my votes to make it past the first round.  I think Hill William has a shot at the 4-over-1-seed upset, but don’t think Long Division does.

3.  I think the quarterfinals are where the big upsets are going to come.  A The Goldfinch/Life After Life face-off feels dangerous for the former, as does either match-up The Lowland might see under John Freeman’s judgement.  The Good Lord Bird feels like the only sure-thing in that round.

4. The semifinals will absolutely see sure-things move forward.  I think The Good Lord Bird has a pretty straight shot to the zombie round and Life After Life is my pick to come out of the other side of the bracket, perhaps a bit more bruised in the process.  

5. Zombies.  Hard to predict, of course, because it’s a secret ballot cast by the majority and who the hell knows what’ll happen – I’m still floored by the non-resurrection of Bring Up the Bodies last year and I hope we all learned a very valuable lesson there.  Whichever book loses a Life After Life/Goldfinch match-up gets resurrected here and I’d guess that Eleanor & Park has a good shot at being a fan fave too.  This is where John Brown’s story ends, though, I think…

6. Because I’m ready to wager that the final will, not unlike in 2011, see the rematch of two books who already went at it.  That’s right, I’m placing my bets here and now: The Goldfinch and Life After Life will be bloody-knuckled and staring at each other across the vicious pit of the interwebs come March 28th.  If there’s any justice in the world, the former will win – but seeing as I was way on the wrong side of history last year, it’s hard to say what might happen.  But my vote is The Goldfinch over Life After Life, 11 to 6.


A final thought, post-predictions, and that’s on the overall strength of the field this season.  Now, I realize that not every year will be like last year – where I genuinely wanted to read every book on the bracket.  Usually, it’s much more evenly split – but I’ve found that this year, I felt pretty ambivalent about most of the books on the bracket.  I undoubtedly won’t ever get to The Tuner of Silences and there’s usually at least one book that I never get to and that’s fine – but would my literary life be any measurably different for having not read A Tale for the Time BeingThe People in the TreesLife After Life, etc?  Hill William and Long Division were bright spots, as was my love for The Goldfinch – but everything else (that I read to this point, anyway) left me shrugging.  I guess this is to say that I’m a bit surprised to’ve (after three deep-bench and profoundly interesting years) felt that way – and I wonder what this year’s inclusions/exclusions say about the state of our collective literary consciousness.  But that’s an issue to be discussed over drinks at a bar (or at this supposed ToBX party) and not online.

So, all this having been said: come on people – what are your thoughts?  And let me know if I’ll see you in the comment section/peanut gallery over at TMN.  And may the Rooster crow well, this year and for another ten at least.

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