Sunday, March 18, 2018

UPDATE: Tournament of Books reads

The Tournament of Books 2018 is occurring now at The Morning News, a literary response to basketball March Madness. Every now and then, a longlist of a competition comes around where I've read a few books already, and more are a) easily available and b) books I am interested in reading. Thus was the TOB this year and I have read six of the fourteen books in the first round. Here are my thoughts and reactions to the first round results. 

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (audiobook)

The brilliance of the idea and execution are clear, but there is still something lacking in this book. The judge in this one thought the audiobook might have been better, since it was a cast recording but I thought the paper book might have been better because it was hard to know who was talking.  
Verdict after round 1: Lincoln in the Bardo lost in the first round to Fever Dream and I was okay with that though it seemed like an upset, what with it already having won the Booker Prize.

Day Two was The Idiot v White Tears and I know nothing about either of them. 

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (audiobook)

Manhattan Beach was the next book that I had read. This was okay. It was historical fiction without the grand epicness that it seemed to need. I listened to the whole thing, and it was good, but it didn't have the epicness or specific history information (unless you were into diving during WW2; I wasn't) that I'd like in a large book. I just wasn't as interested in who and what the book was about. It was still readable but I wasn't surprised that it lost in the first round to Dear Cyborgs, which was also considered a huge upset. 

Day Four was The End of Eddy v Lucky Boy. Again I am not familiar with either of these.

Sing, Unburied Sing by  Jesmyn Ward (audiobook)

The next book in the competition that I had listened to was Sing, Unburied Sing and I was rooting for this one. The characters, story and writing really appealed to me and even with the ghosts and supernatural elements which can be hit or miss with me. I liked the family and the kids and it was heartbreaking and real. Even the horrible mother, when given the chance to tell the story from her point of view, was if not still horrible, at least she became understandable. Definitely my favourite in the TOB this year so I was very glad to see it move on, against The Book of Joan.

Pachinko by Min Lee Jin (audiobook)

As I was listening to Pachinko, another grand historical fiction, I was continually thinking about Manhattan Beach and how much I was preferring Pachinko. This one followed a Korean family through several generations but also has themes of immigration, and family lies and what makes a family. Apparently Koreans can live for generations in Japan and never be considered Japanese. Even after Korea is now two different countries and there is absolutely no where to go back to. I liked how characters kept coming back into the story, and the family. Just a little more epic in scope and interesting in plot. Pachinko won its round against So Much Blue.

Finally a match-up of two books I have read! Well, I am reading The Animators now.

Exit West by  Mohsim Hamid (audiobook)

Has anyone described Exit West as The Underground Railroad but for immigrants? That was my reaction and I liked Exit West better than The Underground Railroad. The different doors and the different immigrant experiences worked quite well.
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

I am only a third of the way into this one but I am enjoying it. The judges verdict hints at some twists that are to come, so I am looking forward to reading what happens. 

I had no problems with either book in this pairing moving on, and was not surprised to see it was Exit West.

The last match up of the first round is Goodbye, Vitamin v  Idaho. 

So, fun first round this year with so many books I could have an opinion on. I enjoy reading the judgements and what reasons the judges have. It's even fun to go back into the archives and read about other books I have already read. Pairing these with actual March Madness basketball games, and March is a very exciting month.