Each spring the folks at The Morning News take 16 of the most celebrated novels of the previous calendar year and seed them into a competitive bracket—the kind you see in the N.C.A.A. basketball championship. Seventeen judges are enlisted throughout several rounds of competition, with each arbiter considering two books and advancing one. In this way, a pool of 16 books becomes eight, eight becomes four, four becomes two, and two becomes one, The Rooster, Champion Book of the Year.
Each weekday in March, two books go head to head, with a judge explaining in detail how he or she has chosen one of them to advance to the next round. Unlike other book awards, the judges are asked to come clean about how they made their decision, their literary biases and reading preferences, their personal and professional conflicts and affiliations.
Morning News readers are also given a chance to participate. During competition, once the judges have winnowed the field to two books, the contest enters the Zombie Round. This is where the top two most popular books among you readers that were earlier eliminated in the competition rise from the dead and get another chance to trip up the semi-finalists on their march to victory.
Finally, one book wins The Rooster, the Champion Book of the Year, and its author is awarded/threatened with the presentation of a live rooster, the official Tournament of Books mascot, named after a favorite character in contemporary literature, David Sedaris’s brother.
This year's selections are:
- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender
- Nox, by Anne Carson
- Bad Marie, by Marcy Dermansky
- Room, by Emma Donoghue
- A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
- Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
- Lord of Misrule, by Jaimy Gordon
- Bloodroot, by Amy Greene
- Next, by James Hynes
- The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson
- Skippy Dies, by Paul Murray
- Model Home, by Eric Puchner
- So Much for That, by Lionel Shriver
- Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart
- Kapitoil, by Teddy Wayne
- Savages, by Don Winslow