The Morning News

The Morning News Tournament of Books, sponsored by Powell’s Books, is an annual battle royale amongst the top novels in “literary fiction” published throughout the year. Read more about this year’s tournament »

» Buy the Books at «
» Meet This Year’s Judges «
» Check the Bloggers’ Office Pool «
» Relive the Action: 2006, 2005 «
» Contact the Tournament Staff «

Powell's Books

The 2007 Tournament of Books is over. To view this year's Tournament, go here.



Brady Udall is the author of Letting Loose the Hounds and The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint. Connections to authors: If he has any connections to this year’s authors it would be news to him.

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Ten years in advertising gave Marcus Sakey the perfect background to write about criminals and killers. His debut novel, The Blade Itself, which Publishers’ Weekly called “Brilliant. A must read,” has drawn comparison to Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, and Quentin Tarantino. To research the novel, Marcus shadowed homicide detectives, toured the morgue, and learned to pick a deadbolt in 60 seconds. Visit his web site at for contests, excerpts, and behind-the-scenes info. Connections to authors: None.

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TMN Contributing Writer Sarah Hepola is hoping to visit Italy soon. She eats a lot of sushi, and she always saves the salmon piece for last. She is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Nerve, Slate, and on NPR’s “Day to Day.” She lives in Brooklyn with a big orange cat who’s not fat, he’s just big-boned. Connections to authors: None.

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Maria Schneider writes for and associate-edits The Onion. In her spare time, she watches TV, has writer’s block, and does updates for her cartoon web site,, but doesn’t post them. She honestly doesn’t know any of the judges. She had to look up Sam Lipsyte on the Wikipedia.

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TMN Managing Editor Kate Schlegel is a native of Columbus, Ohio, and a copy editor by training, though these days she works as an assistant news editor for the web site of the Wall Street Journal. She lives in the neighborhood sometimes known as Brooklyn’s best-kept secret—if you ask nicely, maybe she’ll tell you where exactly that is. Her current favorite author is Eudora Welty, though the last book she finished was Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

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Colin Meloy is the singer and songwriter of the Decemberists. He was born in a Viennese garret. He thinks his new dutch oven is the cat’s pajamas. He once played a game of blindfolded 5 Finger Fillet with Richard Ford; he splayed his fingers, Ford wielded the knife. However, because he was blindfolded, he can’t be 100 percent sure that it was Richard Ford. It could have as easily been Jonathan Safran Foer. Connections to authors: None.

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Dan Chaon is the author of the short story collection Among the Missing and You Remind Me of Me, a novel. Connections to authors: Dan: went to college with Claire Messud; had dinner with Peter Orner once; teaches at Gary Shteyngart’s alma mater, Oberlin College; and visited a class taught by Richard Powers.

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Anthony Doerr is the author of a story collection, The Shell Collector, and a novel, About Grace. His third book, a work of nonfiction entitled Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World, inspired by his Letters From Rome on The Morning News, will be published in June. He was recently named one of Granta’s 20 Best Young American Novelists, a definitive list that, like the Tournament of Books, should never be questioned. In the interest of complete transparency, he admits to reading a few of Monica Ali’s stories in Alentejo Blue when they were in draft form and offering inadequate and unnecessary suggestions. And he has traded a half-dozen emails with Peter Orner.

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Jessa Crispin is the editor and founder of Her only connection to any of the writers: She once had dinner next to Brian K. Vaughan. He insulted Kansans, and she informed him she was from Kansas. He blushed.

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Mark Sarvas lives the quiet life in Santa Monica. He has written episodic comedy for HBO and Showtime as well as screenplays for Warner Brothers, producer David Foster, and the World Entertainment and Business Network. Most recently, his fiction has appeared in Troika Magazine, The Wisconsin Review, Apostrophe, Thought Magazine, Pindeldyboz, and as part of the Spoken Interludes and Vermin on the Mount reading series in Los Angeles. His book reviews have appeared in The Modern Word, Boldtype, and the Los Angeles Review. He is best known as the host of the popular and controversial literary weblog The Elegant Variation, which has been mentioned in The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Guardian (A Top 10 Literary Blog), Forbes Magazine (Best of the Web), Los Angeles Magazine (A Top L.A. Blog), The Scotsman, Salon, Slate, The Village Voice, NPR, and numerous other fine publications. He is also a founding member of the Litblog Co-op, a group of 20 literary blogs dedicated to drawing attention to the best of contemporary fiction. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and recently sold his first novel to Bloomsbury. Connections to authors: None.

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Maud Newton is a writer, editor, blogger, and former attorney who has written for The American Prospect, New York Times Book Review, Boston Globe, Washington Post Book World, Newsday, and other publications. Connections to authors: Later this month, she is hosting a discussion on “Branding and Freedom in the Market Economy,” and Colson Whitehead, whom she has never met, but whose fiction she admires, is one of two writers participating. She has also written admiringly about the fiction of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Gary Shteyngart. Shteyngart mentioned her blogging approvingly in Slate last fall.

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Sam Lipsyte is the author of Home Land, The Subject Steve, and Venus Drive. He teaches writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Connections to authors: He knows Gary Shteyngart.

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Elizabeth Gaffney the author of a novel, Metropolis, and the editor at large of the new magazine A Public Space. No connections to the authors in the contest, though she did meet Gary Shteyngart at a party once, where a lot of writers played a parlor game called Mafia. (She can’t remember if he was killed off very swiftly for extreme gullibility, or was it that he was the last villager standing, having absolutely no clue about the nefarious nature of the breastfeeding poetess next to him, who had stealthily slain his compatriots, each in their turn, and finally did him in too?)

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Sasha Frere-Jones is a musician and writer from New York. He currently writes the sex advice column “Oh, Eustace!” for The New Yorker. Connections to authors: None.

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TMN Founding Editor Andrew Womack lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He has no connections to any of this year’s authors.

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TMN Founding Editor Rosecrans Baldwin lives with his wife in Brooklyn. He has no personal connections to any of the participating authors.

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TMN Contributing Writer Jessica Francis Kane is the author of Bending Heaven, a collection of stories published by Counterpoint in the U.S. and Chatto & Windus in the UK. She lives in Charlottesville, Va., with her husband, daughter, and son, only one of them in diapers. As for connections to this year’s authors: One afternoon a number of years ago she was in the London Library at the same time as Julian Barnes.

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Commentator and ToB Chairman Kevin Guilfoile’s short humor has been published in the New York Times Magazine, McSweeney’s, The New Republic, Maxim, and elsewhere. With John Warner in 2001, he co-authored and illustrated My First Presidentiary: A Scrapbook by George W. Bush, which reached #1 on the Washington Post Bestseller List. His first novel, a thriller called Cast of Shadows, was published in 2005 by Alfred A. Knopf and has been translated into more than 15 languages. Cast of Shadows has been called “gripping” by the New York Times, “a masterpiece of intelligent plotting” by, and was named one of the “Best Books of 2005” by the Chicago Tribune and the Kansas City Star. He lives in La Grange, Ill., with his wife Mo, and their sons Max and Vaughn. He has no connections to the participating authors.

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Commentator John Warner is author most recently of Fondling Your Muse: Infallible Advice From a Published Author to the Writerly Aspirant. He is also editor of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and Chief Creative Czar of TOW (The Original Warner) Books, a specialty humor imprint from F+W Publications. He teaches at Clemson University. He has no connections to the participating authors.

The Standings


• Round One •

Half of a Yellow Sun v. Absurdistan
judged by Brady Udall

The Echo Maker v. The Emperor’s Children
judged by Marcus Sakey

Firmin v. Brookland
judged by Sarah Hepola

The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo v. The Road
judged by Maria Schneider

Arthur and George v. One Good Turn
judged by Kate Schlegel

The Lay of the Land v. English, August
judged by Colin Meloy

Alentejo Blue v. Apex Hides the Hurt
judged by Dan Chaon

Against the Day v. Pride of Baghdad
judged by Anthony Doerr

• Round Two •

Half of a Yellow Sun v. The Emperor’s Children
judged by Jessa Crispin

Firmin v. The Road
judged by Mark Sarvas

One Good Turn v. The Lay of the Land
judged by Maud Newton

Alentejo Blue v. Against the Day
judged by Sam Lipsyte


Half of a Yellow Sun v. The Road
judged by Elizabeth Gaffney

One Good Turn v. Against the Day
judged by Sasha Frere-Jones


The Road v. Against the Day
judged by Andrew Womack

One Good Turn v. Absurdistan
judged by Rosecrans Baldwin


The Road v. Absurdistan
All Judges + Jessica Francis Kane