2024 Tournament of Books: The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store vs Blackouts/The Bee Sting

And the final match-up of the Tournament of Books. I used to think that the judgments and reviews were done in real time, judges in later rounds furiously working their way through the books to be sure they were able and hoping that the book they’d left at the bottom of the stack of potential books would be eliminated so they wouldn’t have to rush through it before their deadline. Obviously, it doesn’t actually work that way and the judges are likely making their picks in January and February so they can get throug their reading with some leisure. Certainly, having read all the books, it was a bit of a challenge to complete the list before the tournament started. (Note for next year—go ahead and put holds at the library on all the books as soon as the short list is published so those that have long waits will arrive with time to finish them comfortably.) I do wonder how long in advance the organizers have the judges’ picks for the final round.

In the alternate universe

My final-round matchup would have been betwee the two zombies, The Bee Sting and The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store. Of these two, I picked The Bee Sting to advance, largely because I found it to have greater depth thanks to its focus on four central characters as opposed to The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store which doesn’t really have a singular protagonist, but is more the story of a community. Also, while both rely somewhat on coincidence to work, I feel like The Bee Sting makes its coincidences both less improbable and also more compelling.

In this universe

This is a re-match for me. I wrote about this pair previously and I still stand by what I wrote. I can see the arguments for Blackouts, but I still prefer The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store

My judgment on the judgment

This ends up being a vote by all the judges, so, in the spirit of data, I figured I’d do a table of the judges and whether we agreed or disagreed in the earlier rounds and this round. Putting this together, I was a little surprised to note that I had a slight majority of my judgments matching the judges in the early rounds which made me feel a little optimistic I might have picked the winner.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store 
Agreed in earlier rounds Disagreed in earlier rounds
Agreed in final judgment Natashia Deón
Dan Kois
Rufi Thorpe
Disagreed in final judgment Nicole Acheampong
Anna E. Clark
Johanna Fateman
Taija Isen
Dan Sinykin
Lucy Tan
Steffan Triplett
Kyle Chayka
Isaac Fellman
Stephen Krause
Elizabeth Minkel
Leah Schnelbach
Dan Sheehan

Spoiler. I didn’t.

It wasn’t even close. Nor, did I, as I hoped when I first set up the table, see any correlation between whether I agreed with the judge in the earlier rounds, if only because the margin was so lop-sided. (There’s a statistical test I could have done to confirm this, but there’s no need with such a lopsided decision.)

Other notes: Caitlin Forst, who dropped out after making her quarterfinal decision but before writing it up, didn’t vote in the final round. This meant that there was potentially a tie, but in practice, there was none.

An awful lot of Dans among the judges. Kind of reminds me of when I was in nerd school and one dorm had more Daves than women.

Until next year.

A photo of my brackets in the tournament of books.


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