Literary March Madness: A Tournament of Books

Literary March Madness: A Tournament of Books

Posted on March 04, 2017 by Paul Kibala

Below is a rundown of 32 books included in our Literary March Madness tournament.  Vote for your favorites on a paper form in the library, or fill out the bracket at this link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1CEFbZQNmZXNxsvgryxhwnPrwW5bOH-RpmjbGcrkcddc/edit.  These are the Round 1 matchups, and the next round in the tournament will be posted every Monday throughout March.  Scroll down to acquainted with the set of matchups.  Enjoy! 


The Handmaid’s Tale vs. Beloved

This dystopian cautionary tale and soon-to-be Hulu television series takes on Toni Morrison’s masterwork about the extent of the torment of slavery.  

Portnoy’s Complaint vs. Me Before You

Newark native Philip Roth’s depiction of lust-ridden debauchery and hilarity is up against Jojo Moyes’ wildly different and far more grounded portrayal of a romantic relationship. 

The Girl on the Train vs. The Martian

In the battle of modern novels that were hurried into theaters, Paula Hawkins’ psychological thriller meets Andy Weir’s sci fi gem that was skillfully adapted to by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon.  This should be an interesting matchup as the film The Martian made far than The Girl on the Train in theaters, but far less in book sales. 

Ender’s Game vs. The Kite Runner

These young adult novel go head-to-head, each focusing on treacherous conditions and existential threats to humanity in markedly disparate ways. 

The Da Vinci Code vs. Interpreter of Maladies

While both were immensely popular in the early 2000s, these books couldn’t be more different.  While Da Vinci Code explores a speculative history of Christianity with riddles and twists around every corner, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection delves into the lives of Indians and Indian-Americans adapting to modern society. 

Me Talk Pretty One Day vs. All the Light We Cannot See

David Sedaris’ collection of humorous essay collection provide excellent fish-out-of-water stories as he recounts attempts to learn French while living in Normandy and odd jobs he took just to get by in New York City.  Overlapping in its setting, Anthony Doerr’s Pultizer Prize-winning novel focuses on a blind French girl becomes attracted to a German boy during the occupation of France in World War II.  

Gone Girl vs. Watchmen 

Gillian Flynn’s smash hit in 2012 laid the framework for thrillers with an unreliable character that have become a sensation over the past few years.  It goes up against the only graphic novel of the contest, a gritty alternate history of superheroes’ impact on 20th century United States. 

State of Wonder vs. The Alchemist

These novels are both infused with themes related to miracles, science, and sacrifice, forming enthralling narratives about the power of exploration and self-discovery.  It’s up to you to decide who did it better. 

Between the World and Me vs. Guns, Germs, and Steel

Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” Ta-Nehishi Coates offers a profound perspective on our collective ideals as a nation and a meditation on race in modern society.  A non-fiction book with a very different approach to the fate of societies, historian Jared Diamond argues that specific geographical and environmental factors have shaped our understanding of the world today. 

The Glass Castle vs. The Fault in Our Stars

Jeannette Walls’ memoir of growing up poor in a small West Virginia mining town is a true representation of triumph and unconditional familial love as she succeeds despite her life circumstances.  John Green’s young adult novel also depicts the ability to triumph over hardship as it centers on a heart-rending adolescent relationship.  

American Gods vs. Slaughterhouse-Five

A battle between the supernatural, American Gods is a brilliant blend of mystery, magic, satire, and horror.  It goes up against Kurt Vonnegut’s finest work, an absurdist classic about a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens.  

The Book Thief vs. The Color Purple

This is an excellent matchup of people who make the most of horrendous living conditions.  The Book Thief follows a foster girl living in Munich during World War II.  As she steals and shares books, it becomes apparent that what she appreciates more than anything in the free and open dissemination of knowledge and intimacy through literature.  The Color Purple centers on the unity of a sisterly bond across time, distance, and silence as a source of hope and inspiration in this tale of indomitable love.  

A Walk in the Woods vs. The Road

Well, I guess from a strictly literal viewpoint these two are connected by the subject of travel.  Bill Bryson’s humorous travelogue offers a lighthearted look at hiking the Appalachian Trail, while The Road is a profound tale of father-son bond as they make their way through a burned and ravaged America in search of a stable life. 

11/22/63 vs. Sycamore Row

These novels take the reader right into the American heartland.  Stephen King’s 11/22/63 takes the protagonist into a portal that leads to the era of Elvis, big American cars, and sock hops, and he is tasked with significantly altering history by assassinating President Kennedy.  Sycamore Row returns to the familiar John Grisham setting Ford County, a setting with a history of racial tension that lays the framework for a duplicitous murder trial. 

The Goldfinch vs. The Notebook

These are both explorations of longing and love that move in very different directions.  While The Goldfinch draws us into Theo’s fascination with the underground art world of NYC, Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook is a more traditional love story about a relationship that truly stands the test of time. 

Life of Pi vs. The Things They Carried

Life of Pi is a magical reading experience that dives into the expanse of adventure and survival, whereas Tim O’Brien’s meditation on war, memory, and imagination is a timeless tale of redemption.  

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