Ann Patchett: State of Wonder (2011): The crisp plot in this early Tournament of Books elimination is an excuse to get from the early Moments of Pathos to their reprises near the end. Patchett’s Moments of Pathos seem fresh because she gets out of the natural habitat of the middle-class novelist — most of the story takes place in Amazonas. Sure, everybody hates a tourist, which Patchett counters not by making her lapsed-doctor heroine less touristy but by making touristiness an essential theme. That goes double for white privilege.
Norman Ollestad: Crazy for the Storm (2009): Ollestad’s true survival story is too brief to fill a book, so it’s woven with reminiscences of other adventures with his father. It’s a credit to UCLA’s creative writing faculty that it flows. Still, fans of true survival stories are the necessary and sufficient audience for the book.