Dissecting the 2015 Tournament of Books List

It's here! The annual Tournament of Books, the bracketed contest that holds so much more appeal than March Madness (sorry, basketball fans, but I just can't get into it).

This year's list, as The Morning News notes, holds a few twists: Anthony Doerr's incredible novel, All the Light We Cannot See, is included despite a long-standing rule that contributors to TMN are not included on the shortlist; fifteen of the finalists were selected by TMN staff, while the sixteenth (All the Birds, Singing) was recommended by the staff of an independent bookstore--and the TMN staff admits it wasn't even on their radar before then.

So, without further ado, the list:
  • Silence Once Begun, by Jesse Ball
  • A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, by Will Chancellor
  • All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, by Elena Ferrante
  • An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
  • Wittgenstein Jr, by Lars Iyer
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
  • Redeployment, by Phil Klay
  • Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
  • The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
  • Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
  • Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill
  • Adam by Ariel Schrag
  • The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
  • Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer
  • All the Birds, Singing, by Evie Wyld
This is the first year I've ever felt like I had a reasonable headstart on the shortlist -- of the 16 books listed above, I've read 7 (the bolded ones), own 1 more, and have already located 2 on Oyster.

Of the seven I've already read, the only one I would immediately discount myself is Annihilation; I know I'm in the minority here, but the suspense of the first of Vandermeer's trilogy just didn't cut it for me (and I found myself with no real desire to read the next two volumes in the series).

Redeployment was one of my hands-down favorite reads of 2014, but Station Eleven, An Untamed State, Dept. of Speculation, and Everything I Never Told You are all incredibly strong contenders. As is All the Light We Cannot See; see also: the fact (above) that the TMN staff made an exception to the no-TMN-contributors rules for this year's contest.

So, who are you backing this year? Which have you read and which are new to you? 

(I'll admit I'd never heard of several of these, including Adam and Silence Once Begun.)


  1. So excited! Like you, this is the first time I've read a big chunk of the list: 9. Of them, only two were books that were just okay for me...A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall and A Brief History of Seven Killings. I know a ton of people love the latter, but it just felt spotty to me. I'm waiting on Redeployment and Silence Once Begun at the library, so I hope to get to those before the real fun begins.

  2. I hadn't even *heard* of a Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall... trying to see if my library has a copy I can check out before March. I'm hoping to get to The Paying Guests; All the Birds, Singing; and maybe Adam and Wittgenstein Jr (both are on Oyster) before the contest begins. I'd love to read the Ferrante as well, but I haven't read the first two of the trilogy yet so figure I should go in order...

    I hope you love Redeployment. It's so powerful (overused word, I know, but it really is.)

  3. I loved Annihilation, but it doesn't have that oomph some of the others have. I was torn deciding among Station Eleven, An Untamed State, and Everything I Never Told You. I ended up going with An Untamed State based on gut instinct, though I imagine we'll see some of the more popular, "made everyone's best-of" lists make it farther. I'm interested to see how All the Light We Cannot See does since it really has picked up steam with the end-of-year accolades.

  4. Emma @ Words And PeaceJanuary 7, 2015 at 12:36 AM

    All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr was probably my most favorite of 2014

  5. Great list this year. I'm so happy to see Anthony Doerr on the list, though that is not who I'll be backing to win. Having only read 3 of the books I know my opinion does count for much, but I think Redeployment will take it. I say this without having read it!

  6. Station Eleven is really wonderfully done--even if dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction isn't your usual thing, it is STILL wonderful. I've never read Mitchell, so wasn't sure that Bone Clocks was a good place to start (therefore, probably won't get to this before ToB begins).

  7. Hmmmm... interesting to hear. Worth it to continue the trilogy, then? I just felt that it fell flat for me, which may have been the result of over-hype as much as anything else.

    It's always interesting to see how "everyone's best-ofs" do compared to some lesser-known (but equally wonderful) titles. I saw An Untamed State on a lot of blogger best-of lists this year, but I'm not sure it was on bookseller's best-ofs as much because it's a much, much harder book to recommend. I'd love to see it do well in ToB; it deserves every accolade it gets.

  8. Read Redeployment! (That is all. Not really, but it will be all for now.)

  9. I preferred Annihilation to the rest of the trilogy. I didn't feel the others were quite as immersive or descriptive (the third book came close). The second was a fairly quick read, but the pacing felt a little off at times.

  10. This year I've read four going in (the most ever), and I own another four more already. Really excited about this list and this year's contenders.

  11. I've read, I believe, four of these, and a few more I started and couldn't get on with. (Alas.) Silence Once Begun was interesting and strange. I'll be curious to see what the TOB judges have to say about it.

  12. Me too! It's a good reminder of how many excellent books there were last year. (I've got high hopes for 2015, too...).

  13. Silence Once Begun was one of the ones I wasn't familiar with until this list came out, but it looks interesting--I'm hoping I can pick it up before the challenge starts.

  14. I'm pretty proud that I've read 6 of the books, and one more is on my TBR shelf. Of those, The Paying Guests is the one I would knock off in the first round. I can't wait for the ToB to kick off!


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