Letting Books in on the Madness

A few years ago, I pitched the idea of holding a March Madness-style, vote-driven tournament for books to coincide with the annual NCAA basketball tournament. It was met with crickets, and I laid it to rest before ever giving it the chance to go dancing. Admittedly, a tournament that would equate to essentially a book popularity contest is a bit frivolous, but then again, so is basketball*, and wouldn’t it be fun to fill out a book bracket and not only watch the “action” play out as a champion is crowned, but also get to have a direct impact on the results? Sure, we wouldn’t get to physically see anything as exciting as 12th seeded Station Eleven upsetting 5th seeded The Great Gatsby with a buzzer-beating three, but we could see things like that happen metaphorically, and book people love metaphors.

Unsurprisingly, a number of websites and organizations have made their own versions of book March Madness happen, and I raise a foam finger to them in salute. My favorite I found is one put together by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library. It has a full field of 64 participants split into eight “regions” (categories). With a representative mix of genres and titles ranging from classic to contemporary, it appears to have the ambitious goal of determining the Best. Book. Ever. You can learn more about the tournament here, or get straight to voting here. If you’d like to enjoy a book tournament more passively, check out the Morning News Tournament of Books, in which critics determine the winners of each round and provide written rationale for their choices. Each matchup also features commentary from experts reacting to the judges’ decision, so you get the authentic sporting event announcer vibe.

Whether you decide to participate in/take in one of the aforementioned book tournaments, or decide to design your own tournament in which winners are decided by determining who would win in a game of basketball played by each book’s characters, if you need to do some reading to help you make informed decisions, you know where to go.


*Please don’t get me wrong, I love basketball, as well as so, so many other frivolous things.


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