Tournament of Books discussion

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2019 TOB - the Tourney > Opening Rounds 1-4 (+Play-in)

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message 1: by Amy (last edited Jan 18, 2019 02:58PM) (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1739 comments Play-In Round: America Is Not the Heart, v. Speak No Evil v. A Terrible Country
Round 1: Warlight v. Call Me Zebra
Round 2: Milkman v. The Italian Teacher
Round 3: Washington Black v. The Dictionary of Animal Languages
Round 4: Census v. The Golden State
mark up those ballets and start placing your bets!


message 2: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Tittle | 49 comments Can we bring back the moderators/commentators of 2016?


message 3: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 505 comments Has anyone read Speak No Evil or A Terrible Country? I'm just about wrapping up America is Not the Heart, and trying to decide if I want to try to read all of the play-in books. I have a feeling There There will beat whatever comes out of it, but I don't want to dismiss them if they are worth a read!


message 4: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 648 comments I liked them both and wouldn’t have read either if not for the TOB.


message 5: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1104 comments I had read them based on early reviews and liked them both.


message 6: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Yes, I agree with both Janet and Jan, I enjoyed both of them as well. I think if I was able to only read one of them, I would have to go with A Terrible Country, because I loved the Russian historical references. For me they are both worth reading though.


message 7: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 505 comments Good to know, thanks! I'll try to fit them in!


message 8: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments I *loved* Speak No Evil! I really liked A Terrible Country, too. Great play-in titles this year! I'm reading America is Not the Heart right now -- did you like it?


message 9: by Michelle (new)

Michelle | 155 comments So far the only one of the play in books that I read so far is Speak No Evil. Although it was quite some time ago I really enjoyed it. Just picked up America Is Not the Heart and have A Terrible Country on Libby.


message 10: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 36 comments Really? Milkman vs. The Italian Teacher? Arrgh...


message 11: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Tittle | 49 comments Martha wrote: "Really? Milkman vs. The Italian Teacher? Arrgh..."
I agree. There is no contest in my mind, but frankly I don't know how the Italian Teacher even made it to this tournament. Also, could two books BE more different?


message 12: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 467 comments Martha wrote: "Really? Milkman vs. The Italian Teacher? Arrgh..."

I'm going to be heart-broken no matter who wins, as both middle sister and Pinch have places in my heart. I'm tentatively leaning towards Milkman, but no matter how it plays out, I'd much rather have these books not go up against each other.


message 13: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 129 comments Martha wrote: "Really? Milkman vs. The Italian Teacher? Arrgh..."

I know. Im glad I voted for Milkman as my Zombie.


message 14: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Oertel | 982 comments Bretnie wrote: "Good to know, thanks! I'll try to fit them in!"

I loved Speak No Evil and am currently enjoying A Terrible Country. The former is significantly shorter though, if you only have time for one.


message 15: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Tittle | 49 comments Alison wrote: "Martha wrote: "Really? Milkman vs. The Italian Teacher? Arrgh..."

I'm going to be heart-broken no matter who wins, as both middle sister and Pinch have places in my heart. I'm tentatively leaning ..."


Sorry Martha, I didn't mean to be flip. I just assumed, like an idiot, that everyone felt the same as I did.


message 16: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Oertel | 982 comments Does the play-in round start March 6th, or an earlier date?


message 17: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 36 comments Sarah wrote: "Alison wrote: "Martha wrote: "Really? Milkman vs. The Italian Teacher? Arrgh..."

I'm going to be heart-broken no matter who wins, as both middle sister and Pinch have places in my heart. I'm tenta..."


No worries, Sarah. I have thought a LOT about both of these books, and I think part of the reason is that I had to work really hard to "get" them. I honestly thought Pinch was such a schmo that I almost gave up several times. The final third of the book brought everything together for me, though. Not in that neat and tidy birthday present way, but in the whole big, gloppy, messy, painful way that life does. Or my life, anyway.


message 18: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 36 comments Alison wrote: "Martha wrote: "Really? Milkman vs. The Italian Teacher? Arrgh..."

I'm going to be heart-broken no matter who wins, as both middle sister and Pinch have places in my heart. I'm tentatively leaning ..."

Ditto. If someone put a gun to my head and told me to choose one, I would probably pick Milkman, but what a difficult choice it would be.


message 19: by Saya (new)

Saya (motheroftherevolution) | 42 comments I have very strong feelings about all of the matchups in this section.

Reading Call Me Zebra was tantamount to punishment, so I'm really pulling for Warlight despite some of the criticisms I have for that book.

Like several others, I am disappointed about the Milkman vs. The Italian Teacher matchup. If I had to pick my top three books from the short list so far it would be these two and House of Broken Angels.

Currently I'm reading The Dictionary of Animal Languages (so far it is excellent) so that'll be a tough matchup for me going against Washington Black as I really loved that book, too.

I loved Golden State and thought Census had such a potential premise but just couldn't quite get it together. So I'm hoping Census gets the boot early on.

That's my ultra high-level overview. Can't wait for the discussions and to see what upsets there are!


message 20: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 505 comments Dianah wrote: "I *loved* Speak No Evil! I really liked A Terrible Country, too. Great play-in titles this year! I'm reading America is Not the Heart right now -- did you like it?"

Sometimes I LOVE it, and sometimes I find it slow and weird. (I absolutely do not like second-person narration) Still a bit to go, so we'll see!


message 21: by Jen (new)

Jen (bookandcat) | 7 comments Bretnie I loved Speak No Evil and A Terrible Country way more than America is Not the Heart. SNE and ATC got 5 stars apiece from me (ANH was 3) and I loved them much more than some on the main list (here's looking at you, Milkman).


message 22: by Kali (new)

Kali | 4 comments I’ve now finished all the play-in round books and Speak No Evil was my definite favorite of the three. I would be interested in seeing it judged against There There because, even though they are very different stories, to me they share similar strengths and weaknesses.


message 23: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisgitt) | 88 comments I've been grumpy about the TOB this year because some of my favorite books were not included. Despite having access to most of the books, I'm far behind on reading. Does anyone know the start date?


message 24: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Lisa wrote: "I've been grumpy about the TOB this year because some of my favorite books were not included. Despite having access to most of the books, I'm far behind on reading. Does anyone know the start date?"

Usually it's sometime in the first week of March.


message 25: by Bretnie (new)


message 26: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisgitt) | 88 comments Thank you! That gives me more time!


message 27: by jo (new)

jo | 429 comments Nothing can beat America Is Not the Heart in my heart, tho I loved Speak No Evil! I keep losing track of the books so forgive me if I ask you this, but do we have the only two queer books duking it in the play-in?


message 28: by jo (last edited Feb 12, 2019 05:15PM) (new)

jo | 429 comments jo wrote: "Nothing can beat America Is Not the Heart in my heart, tho I loved Speak No Evil! I keep losing track of the books so forgive me if I ask you this, but do we have th..."

Okay I took my ass to the ToB and checked. There is also So Lucky but since I didn’t finish it I am annoyed that these two splendid queer books don’t have more of a chance to be discussed.


message 29: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisgitt) | 88 comments I agree. Speak No Evil and America Is Not the Heart are both incredible.


message 30: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 36 comments I also loved Speak No Evil. America is on my nightstand awaiting my completion of Dictionary of Animal Languages. Why are these the last short list books I am reading? Aside from Milkman, they are some of my favorites.


message 31: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1739 comments y'all just pushed America is Not the Heart to the next one on my list! (I'm proceeding exceedingly slow through the shortlist) as I really liked Speak No Evil.


message 32: by Katie (new)

Katie | 127 comments OK I have four books left to read and they are all in this round: Census, Call Me Zebra, America is Not the Heart and A Terrible Country. I probably won't get all 4 in. I can't get any of the four from my library in time. So anyone have opinions on which one I should read next and if you've listened to any of those four and really liked them I've got an audible credit to burn. Thanks!


message 33: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Baker | 34 comments America is not the Heart is fabulous! It’s one of my favorites.


message 34: by Nadine in California (last edited Feb 16, 2019 08:34AM) (new)

Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 605 comments My suggestion is America is Not the Heart. I DNF'ed Terrible Country (liked it for 100 pages, but it felt like it was playing one long note which got dull after a while) and didn't read Census (I haven't had good luck with this author) or Call Me Zebra (too much of the kind of negative criticism that ring my bells - not fair, but I'm not a completist and there are too many other books that are more tempting.)


message 35: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 467 comments I loved A Terrible Country so much, and far more than any of the other three (Andrei's love for his little grandmother and just her way of getting through life are wonderful).

Thinking strategically though, probably Census makes the most sense, since then you have time to read whichever book wins the play-in round.


message 36: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 648 comments I cast another vote for A Terrible Country....I found it a better story than the others you listed although Census has a great theme, it's just lacking in execution.


message 37: by Katie (new)

Katie | 127 comments I'm all for the best book of the group. A Terrible Country it is. I have two relatively long flights coming up so if I have time for two I'll throw in Census.


message 38: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 18, 2019 09:34PM) (new)

Lauren wrote: "Does the play-in round start March 6th, or an earlier date?"

Sorry, Lauren, I didn't read this thread until just now. The play-in round will be March 6th. Then, we'll go top to bottom starting on the left side of the bracket on March 7th.


message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

I appreciate the early release of the shortlist and brackets, at least I did when we first got them. However, for the first time ever, I finished my ToB reading way early—about three weeks ago, which is not ideal. I want the tournament books fresh in my memory, but I couldn't just stop reading for a month! In the hope that literary fiction is stored in a different compartment of my brain than other genres, I've been reading fantasy and Shakespeare. It's a fun departure from my usual reading.


message 40: by Lljones (new)

Lljones | 175 comments Will there be a place to upload our bracket predictions, either here or at TMN? If so, what's the deadline?


message 41: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 133 comments Does anyone know the logic of the play-in round? it feels a little bad to me. Just pick the 16.


message 42: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Baker | 34 comments It’s just an easy way to include 18 instead of 16 books in a bracket tournament


message 43: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 24, 2019 11:23AM) (new)

Lark wrote: "Does anyone know the logic of the play-in round? it feels a little bad to me. Just pick the 16."

I'm ambivalent about the play-in round. It does seem like a minor insult to those books (authors) to have to win their way into the tournament. Then again, it's an opportunity to bring more readers to three books that didn't benefit from large marketing campaigns.


message 44: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 133 comments it's the uneven-playing-field part that bothers me. If the goal is to include more books then let's start with 32 or 64 and make TOB a two- or three-month contest.


message 45: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Baker | 34 comments 32 would be insane - and you would have very few people who could read all the books. You forget how arbitrary this whole premise is to have one judge pick one book over another - does it really matter if you are going up against one book or two? I think books in the play-in round are like the wildcards in a tournament - happy to get a chance at the show!


message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

32 books over 2 months? That's way over the line of 'too much of a good thing.'


message 47: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 133 comments Tina wrote: "32 books over 2 months? That's way over the line of 'too much of a good thing.'"

I totally agree! It would be insane. I'm just wondering what exactly the right amount of a good thing is. Not in a very serious way. It's good to have 18 books championed instead of 16.

All that said there's something about the play-in that has felt off to me, even in the way it's judged on the site, with judges being a bit more flip about the decision, and the tone feeling different from the rest of the tournament.


message 48: by jo (new)

jo | 429 comments I feel the same about the play in. Is it taken from basketball too?


message 49: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 24, 2019 03:07PM) (new)

Lljones wrote: "Will there be a place to upload our bracket predictions, either here or at TMN? If so, what's the deadline?"

I haven't seen an announcement about the annual bracket contest yet. Last year, I got an email announcement, and it was on the TMN/ToB social media pages about a week before the tournament started. So, maybe this week...

Just for fun, here is my sure to be wrong bracket.


message 50: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 505 comments Here's my lazy version of my dream bracket:

Round 2: Warlight, Milkman, Washington Black, Golden State, My Sister the Serial Killer, So Lucky, The Mars Room, There There (beating America is the Heart)

Final 4: Milkman, Washington Black, My Sister the Serial Killer, There There

Final 2: Milkman vs My Sister the Serial Killer, both of which will beat whatever zombies - guessing HOBA and gah, I don't know, There There?

And My Sister the Serial Killer for the win!

(of course this is nowhere near how it will actually go down, especially now that I wrote it out!)


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