The 2017 Tournament of Books

In years past I've blogged daily during the month of March about The Tournament of Books run by The Morning News website. I'm a big fan of the competition and in years past I've written about each matchup. This year I didn't read all the books and one reason for that was simply that I lacked the same passion. The truth is that the past few months have knocked the wind out of me for a few reasons.


Another reason, though, is that in years past I've read all the books as part of an hour long episode of The Colin McEnroe Show. This year we picked four books (okay, I didn't pick the four...) but we only read four books and talked about those.

Moonglow by Michael Chabon
The Nix by Nathan Hill
Mister Monkey by Francine Prose
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead


The results were of course different. We liked Moonglow by Michael Chabon, but it didn't survive the first round of the tournament. We thought that Mister Monkey was an interesting but unimpressive book and it made it to the quarterfinals. Both the show and the tournament did have The Nix face off against The Underground Railroad, with the same result.

Of course despite the fact that we did something entirely different, we did end up with the same winner, which is to say, Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad.

There is a reason that this book has become such a huge success. I've been a big fan of Whitehead since the beginning of his career. I met him years ago and got to talk about his second novel, John Henry Days, which I think more than anything else he's written is really the precursor to The Underground Railroad. It's interested in history and personal experience, it tries to be both precise and personal and at the same time mythic.

If you listen to the show I also admit that my knowledge of Jonathan Swift comes from cartoons and not from actually reading Gulliver's Travels. I made that point because I was told that the book is in many ways a model for The Underground Railroad - and I'm pretty sure that's true, or at least as sure as anyone who didn't read one book can say. I would have happily spent an hour talking about the Whitehead novel, but in the end it's a great hour where I talked with some very smart people.

Long Live the Rooster!

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