Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« A New Democratic Coalition, an... | Re: Just for the Record »

Friday, February 29, 2008

I Just Can’t Escape These Goddamned Book Awards

posted by on February 29 at 12:01 PM

It’s another book award, this time bracketed. Previous winners include are Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (definitely not the best book of the year it was released in), Smith’s The Accidental (didn’t read it), and McCarthy’s The Road (a good choice, but it won everything short of the Nobel last year, so it’s not really in keeping with the award’s “We’re not the big prizes” ethos).

Here’s the rationale behind the prize:

The Tournament of Books, we vowed, would be completely transparent. The names of the judges would be known to all, and the judges would admit to their own personal biases as well as their reasoning for every decision. The winner of this award wouldn’t be any less arbitrary or any more legitimate than the winner of any other award, but the crowning of our arbitrary and illegitimate Best Book of the Year—the Champion Book of the Year, would be lots more fun.

And here are the contestants:

Run by Ann Patchett
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
Petropolis by Anya Ulinich
Ovenman by Jeff Parker
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
You Don’t Love Me Yet by Jonathan Lethem
New England White by Stephen L. Carter
Remainder by Tom McCarthy
The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida
Shining at the Bottom of the Sea by Stephen Marche
What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke

Actually, with all these books, I think you could at least be guaranteed a good—if flawed—read. My money’s on Then We Came to the End or The Brief Wondrous Life for the big winner, with a slight lean toward the latter. Vendela Vida should totally win the prize, though.

RSS icon Comments


The Rooster is my favorite book award of the year. It's so randomly decided that sometimes you get weird outcomes, but usually a slate of good contenders. And how many good new fiction reads aren't flawed.

My money's on Denis Johnson. I haven't read it, but he seems right up the alley of the potential judges.

Posted by josh | February 29, 2008 12:32 PM

But WHY? Random book awards for what, exactly? It's just a marketing tool. An award should represent something, an organization with a wide currency and following, or a country, or something. This is just a magazine; why don't they just announce their best books of the year or something?

Posted by Fnarf | February 29, 2008 12:41 PM

I just finished reading Then We Came to the End on the bus this morning. I highly recommend this book for anyone who works in a cubicle (especially if you're in advertising).

Posted by todd | February 29, 2008 12:41 PM

Fnarf: that's effectively what they're doing. The site picks their sixteen favorite books of the year and then runs reviews by writers that they like. Except this way you get the fun of read one reviewer's take on two books followed by some arbitrary judgement as to which one is the "best" and accompanied by funny play-by-play commentary.

Check out the tournament from previous years; I'd hardly call it a marketing tool and seriously doubt that the publishers are going to roll out another print run emblazoned with "the 2007 Rooster prize" on the cover to drum up sales.

Posted by josh | February 29, 2008 1:05 PM

I picked up Jonathan Lethem's Gun, with Occasional Music a while back and was impressed, though not enough to bother reading any of his other books yet.

Posted by Greg | February 29, 2008 2:11 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).