2012 Tournament of Books: Final Forecast

Jeff O'Neal

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Jeff O'Neal is the executive editor of Book Riot and Panels. He also co-hosts The Book Riot Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @thejeffoneal.

You can have your Pulitzers. You can debate your National Book Awards and your Orange Prizes. You can argue over the Man Booker and mourn the abstruseness of the latest Nobel Winner.

As for me, there is one book award I care about. I am interested in the others, but I genuinely care about The Morning News’ Tournament of Books: look at the last five winners of any of the other lit awards compared to the last five winners of the ToB, and you can’t tell me that you wouldn’t rather read the ToB winners. (If you want a primer on how the ToB works, go here.)

But the eventual winner is only about 13% of why the Tournament of Books is my favorite thing on the literary calendar. The rest is the process: the shortlist, the selection of the final field, the assignment of judges, the pairings, and the decisions about individual match-ups. It’s an open, engaged, public decision-making apparatus that is incredibly fun to watch. (And boy, do I watch it.)

Now that literary 2011 is in the books, so to speak, we can finally turn our attention to the Tournament with the full array of potential contestants at our feet.

Before rolling through my picks to make the field, a few notes. First, the goal here is to try to pick what will be picked, not to name my favorite sixteen novels from 2011. Second, the process for getting onto the longlist and then into the field is the most closed part of the ToB, so I don’t have particular guidelines to go by. A few patterns have emerged over the years to serve as a plumb line. Third, I did a mid-year field that is the basis for this final field, though there have been enough new titles that it’s a significantly different list.

Alright, enough disclaimer. Here’s my field of sixteen (+1…couldn’t decide on the last cut.)

In no particular order:

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