Emily St. John Mandel’s ‘Station Eleven’ wins the Tournament of Books

It’s been a good few months for Emily St. John Mandel. Her novel “Station Eleven” was a finalist for the National Book Award, and landed on the PEN/Faulkner shortlist and the longlist of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Even George R.R. Martin is a fan. And now: Here comes the Rooster.

Mandel won the 11th annual Tournament of Books at the Morning News on Tuesday for her critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel, beating out Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See.” The prize is called the Rooster, which the website explains is “a prize named after David Sedaris’ brother, and its author will be threatened with the presentation of a live he-hen.”

(That’s not an idle threat. As Morning News contributing writer Kevin Guilfoile writes, “We should note that the rooster prize is a genuine offer, but the only author who has ever taken us up on it is Adam Johnson.”)

The Tournament of Books is “a March Madness-like battle royale,” starting out with 16 books. Guest judges choose between two fiction books each weekday, with the winners advancing. The final two books are considered by all the judges (plus another judge, who serves as a theoretical tiebreaker).

This year, it wasn’t even close. “Station Eleven” beat “All the Light We Cannot See” 15 to 2, with the only dissenting votes coming from journalist Elisabeth Donnelly and author Jessica Lamb-Shapiro. Mandel seemed thrilled by the win, telling Morning News writer John Warner: “I’m delighted. I’ve read and loved a great many of the other books on this year’s shortlist, and it’s been an honor to find myself in such fine company. I’ve been a fan of the Tournament of Books for years, and I like it even more now that they’ve offered me a live rooster.”


Mandel hasn’t said whether she’ll accept the actual bird as her prize, but either way, she’s in good company. Previous winners of the Tournament of Books include Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall,” Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad” (which beat out bird lover Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” in 2011).