2024 Tournament of Books: The Librarianist vs What You Are Looking For Is in the Library vs The Bee Sting

Ah, the first round where I have to deal with my picks to advance not matching up with the official selections. So my format has to change a bit.

First, a bit of alternate reality

I’ll start with what I would have had the match-up be. The Bee Sting vs What You Are Looking For Is in the Library. I’ve already talked about why The Bee Sting is so wonderful, so I’ll focus on What You Are Looking For Is in the Library.

There seems to be a bit of a trend these days of books about librarians or booksellers. Aside from the two books in this year’s competition, there are also such notables as The Storied Life of A. J. FikryThe Little Paris Bookshop and countless others that showed up in my Goodreads recommendations when I was reading those two. These seem to fall into two categories There’s the tragic bookseller/librarian, who is healed through the power of literature of their psychic wounds, and there’s the magic bookseller/librarian, who heals their patrons through the power of literature of their psychic wounds. Sometimes it’s both. In this case, the librarian is a bit of a cipher, we learn a little of her story, but mostly we focus on the patrons of her library who, thanks to some felted talisman and a random book recommendation added in amongst their primary requests. I found the experience of reading the book charming. The kind of delight that comes from a book like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, where you can fall into the magic even though you know it’s all really just mind candy with no substance.

But charming isn’t enough in my mind to beat out the exquisite beauty of The Bee Sting, so in my alternate reality, The Bee Sting advances.

But then there’s reality

But the matchup that we got wasn’t the one that I wanted and I have to decide whether What You Are Looking For Is in the Library can beat the Librarianist (whose protagonist, while a librarian, fits neither the magic nor tragic tropes). And after reflection, again, while What You Are Looking For is charming, I felt like The Librarianist, if only for not falling into the standard trope, ended up the better book, despite the weirdness of its structure and somewhat directionless narrative.

My judgment on the judgment

It was a delight to see Steffan Triplett’s persectives matching so perfectly with mine. He too felt drawn in by What You Are Looking For while also being slightly repelled by the treacly sweetness of the narrative, and ultimately decided that for it’s convolutedness, The Librarianist was more worthy of advancing.


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