Powells.com & The Morning News Present


Lily Tuck (HarperCollins)

The News from Paraguay

vs. The Inner Circle

T.C. Boyle (Viking)

Judged by Choire Sicha

The News From Paraguay won the National Book Award in 2004—and when I learned that midway through reading it, I nearly tossed it, and then myself, out of the window. A selfish, stupid girl becomes the paramour of a hot Paraguayan dictator-in-training, sails over from England, and has a lot of babies as her faux-husband goes to war and pretty much kills everyone. It approaches class or social critique midway through the book and then… moves right on.

Boyle, for The Inner Circle, snaps up Professor Alfred Kinsey from the real world but uses him for his own purposes, as the destructive mentor of a young student. I’ve never read Boyle (shut up! Haven’t read lots of things) but I kinda love him now. He takes this great documentary stage, and a sweet story of emotional awakening… and then makes it ugly, cruel, twisted! Yay!

It’s unusual for me to promote a book by a man over one by a woman. (Not as a gesture, either: Really, women just write better.) But I’m afraid the surprisingly filthy and surprisingly readable Boyle book totally rogers Tuck’s strange postmodern bodice-ripper.

Winner: The Inner Circle

Judge: Choire Sicha
Age: "29"
Types of books you tend to read frequently:
Cheesy thrillers and non-fiction
Types of books you rarely read:
Literary fiction
Favorite book of all time:
Hmm...Play It As It Lays?