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The Morning News announces Tournament of Books contenders

January 20, 2011 | 12:21 pm

Goldrooster Every year, as an intellectual counterpoint to college basketball's March Madness, popular culture website The Morning News runs the Tournament of Books, a similarly structured read-off. In each round, two books face off against each other and are judged by a single reader; the winner advances to the next round, until two finalists face off.

On Thursday, the books that will be in competition for the prize -- The Rooster -- were announced. The Morning News offers/threatens the winning book's author with the gift of a live rooster, although none have yet taken them up on it.

The books that are in competition for the Rooster are:

"The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" by Aimee Bender
"Nox" by Anne Carson
"Bad Marie" by Marcy Dermansky
"Room" by Emma Donoghue
"A Visit From the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan
"Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen
"Lords of Misrule" by Jaimy Gordon
"Bloodroot" by Amy Greene
"Next" by James Hynes
"The Finkler Question" by Howard Jacobson
"Skippy Dies" by Paul Murray
"Model Home" by Eric Puchner
"So Much for That" by Lionel Shriver
"Super Sad True Love Story" by Gary Shteyngart
"Kapitoil" by Teddy Wayne
"Savages" by Don Winslow

To be fair, the Tournament of Books doesn't always provide an intellectual counterpoint. Last year, Andrew W.K. rendered his decidedly un-literary judgment: "I do like the cover, cast of characters, and family tree of Wolf Hall more than the presentation of The Book of Night Women. So, for the sake of supporting intricate book production, I’m choosing Wolf Hall as my top book."

As I was the judge in the previous round who'd advanced "The Book of Night Women" by Marlon James, I do wish it had continued on -- or at least been knocked out by a judgment based on its, you know, words, and not because Andrew W.K. seems to be fond of embossing and raised letters.

But judges making odd decisions for odd reasons is what sets the Tournament of Books apart from more staid and traditional book contests. This year, the judges include critic Elif Batuman, writers Sarah Manguso and Anthony Doerr, bestselling author Jennifer Weiner, John Roderick of the band The Long Winters and C. Max McGee, proprietor of The Millions.

Readers, who are always marvelously engaged in the Tournament of Books comments, can affect the competition. Right now, anyone can vote for their favorite of the books above; the two top vote-winners that have been eliminated from the later stages of the competition will reappear in its zombie round. The competition kicks off on March 7.

ALSO:

Again, the cock crows

The Tournament of Books launches

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: A golden rooster statue in Yulin, Henan province, China. Credit: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

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