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Tournament of Books Contenders

Zora Sanders September 15

Thank you very much to everyone who attended the launch event at the Wheeler Centre earlier this evening.

Here is the final list of contenders in the Meanjin Tournament of Books. The first match will be posted on Monday, and will be a throw-down between The Lost Dog and Gilgamesh, as decided by judge Anna Krien.

In no particular order, the contenders are:

Miles Franklin My Brilliant Career

Christina Stead The Man Who Loved Children

Henry Handel Richardson The Fortunes of Richard Mahony

Melina Marchetta Looking for Alibrandi

Thea Astley A Kindness Cup

Ruth Park Harp in the South

Jessica Anderson Tirra Lirra by the River

Elizabeth Jolley Mr Scobie’s Riddle

Helen Garner The Children’s Bach

Joan London Gilgamesh

Kate Grenville The Secret River

Alexis Wright Carpentaria

Michelle de Kretser The Lost Dog

Cate Kennedy The World Beneath

Sonya Hartnett Of a Boy


Isobelle Carmody Obernewtyn (as voted for by the audience at the Tournament launch)

So, who are you rooting for? Who are you thrilled to see included? Who are you outraged is missing? Who…ahem… Could'a been a contender?

Let the Tournament begin!



by Anonymous
16 Sep 11 at 13:16

how do you read comments?

by Anonymous
19 Sep 11 at 10:33

No Shirley Hazzard? NO SHIRLEY HAZZARD!? Well, of course I’m outraged. Transit of Venus should be there (Not The Great Fire)…

by Genevieve Tucker
19 Sep 11 at 11:20

Well, Anon, the list could of course be longer, and TOV is a glaring omission. But would you trade it for HHR? could one smack down Miles F in the inaugural joust? Would you, could you?

I would probably do a swap between Lost Dog and de Kretser’s fab Hamilton Case. But I have promised myself a reread of The Lost Dog, so now could be a good time to reassess that… So many good things here. And it is cool to see Isobel C.

by Anonymous
19 Sep 11 at 11:31

Picking a winner won’t be easy. But my outstanding favourite would be Elizabeth Jolley’s book (it must have been hard to pick which one of hers to enter). She was a brilliant writer.

by Kate Robinson
19 Sep 11 at 13:05

As well as Shirley Hazzard I’d like to see Janet Turner Hospital included. And if Looking for Alabrandi is on the list, so should our most read and sold author, Ethel Turner. How many millions of copies of Seven Little Australians have been bought, borrowed, read and loved since it first appeared?

by Lisa Dempster
19 Sep 11 at 13:29

So many excellent books, both on the shortlist and off!

An unenviable task putting the shortlist together, Meanjin, but well done on a thought- and talk-provoking selection!

by Anonymous
20 Sep 11 at 0:32

One of the wonderful things about the Morning News Tournament (and a large reason for its creation) was the idea of having transparency in a literary award: the selection of the books, the judging of them, the outing of possible connections to books/authors in the game. It was to reward the great books but also to show how arbitrary and subjective these decisions often are. It’d be great to have more of this element in the Meanjin TOB too, the how and why of selection – I’m sure it would’ve been a tough call to make in the end.

by Lisa Dempster
20 Sep 11 at 9:26

I too would love to hear more about the selection process! And how the rounds were set up etc. Not so much for transparency but because I’m a big process nerd who likes to know HOW THINGS WORK.

by Zora Sanders
20 Sep 11 at 11:20

Thanks for all the comments guys!

Re. the selection process, we talked about opening it up to a vote, but in the end decided not to. You don’t always get a good mix of books with a public vote, and also part of the point was to talk about books that don’t get much attention, and may have fallen out of the public consciousness to a degree, so aren’t books people might think of voting for.

Sally Heath, Hilary McPhee, Michael Williams and I (though my contribution was very minor) contributed shortlists and then, well, argued about it for a while until we had a list everyone could live with. Obviously this means you’ll get some eccentric choices, and it’s hardly an authoritative list. But we tend to think that’s ok. It would be impossible to have a list which made everyone happy, and half the fun is arguing about what should or should not be on there (as this comment thread shows!).

But of course, we only selected 15 of the 16 books, the last was voted for at the launch event. Isobelle Carmody’s ‘Obernewtyn’ received three times the votes of any other book, and will be going up against The Man Who Loved Children in a forthcoming round.

As to the way matches are organised, the judges had a little input into what books they’d like to read, and I tried to make pairings that were logical, or at least interesting. Looking for Alibrandi and Harp in the South are going up against each other soon, for example. But after the first round, it’s determined largely by the logistics of the Tournament.

So I think you can sum the whole process up as been a collision between arbitrary taste, personal caprice and logistical necessity.

Thanks for following along everyone!

by Lisa Dempster
20 Sep 11 at 11:27

Wonderful, thanks for that insight Zora! I will get onto reading Stead and Carmody immediately!

by Anonymous
20 Sep 11 at 15:17

why do you have to include children’s books? wouldn’t that have helped narrow things down a bit?

by Zora Sanders
20 Sep 11 at 16:41

Well, there’s two reasons. First I think Young Adult lit, like Looking for Alibrandi, has a lot of cross-over appeal for adults, but the other thing is that Australian YA is particularly strong, so I was very keen to have a representative on the list. Isabelle Carmody was the popular vote at the launch event, so I think lots of people love Australian YA too!

by Sian prior Home
22 Sep 11 at 10:51

Cant find a link on this page or the page with the map thingy that goes through to the reviews. Or am i missing something? (digital migrant…)

by Clare
27 Sep 11 at 11:02

I reckon Gail Jones’s ‘Sorry’ could get a mention.



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