I’m not generally big on end-of-year Best Of lists. Most of them are on the predictable side, although there are a few standouts—the B&N Review has some well-thought out categories; The Millions’ Year in Reading series, with guest writers talking about the books that moved them in 2009, is personal and interesting; and I liked Conversational Reading’s list in general.
But what I really want? Is a list with balls. It’s OK to overlap with any number of other people—once you stop picking obscure work just for the sake of being the first person to tout it, there’s a finite number of notables in the pool. What you want to do is make them work a bit for the honor. Which is why I love The Morning News‘ Tournament of Books. It’s still essentially a best-of list, but pushed further: The year’s favorites arranged into March Madness-style brackets and set against each other, head to head, by guest panelists and ultimately the fine and thoughtful ToB judges. The term “color commentary” does not do it justice:
The end of a decade supplies an apex. Seems like everyone is trying to draw together 10 years of political and cultural history to make matters resolve—to hastily survey the aughts’ seismic shifts in case any mountains or canyons appeared undetected in the social landscape.
Here at The Morning News, we say F-that; leave it to our Martian conquerors down the road.
And this year they’ve released their long list early, entirely for our pleasure. The 16-book short list will be posted in January, with the tournament itself taking place in, yes, March. But for anyone looking for some beefy winter reading, you probably couldn’t go too wrong, love ‘em or hate ‘em, with any of the 50 listed. Plus there’s so much material here for all the air critics (like air guitarists, but you don’t need a mirror). I really, really want to see Wetlands up against Inherent Vice. It’s probably not going to happen, but I can lull myself to sleep at night for the next few months writing fantasy matchups in my head.