Sure, Baylor beat up on Gonzaga in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game.
But the real winner is A Tale of Two Cities.
And I don’t mean Waco and Spokane.
Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel took first place in a tournament as hotly contested as that other March Madness: Staples High School’s annual Book Bracket.
Every year there’s a theme. Past ones have included Favorite Book Ever (To Kill a Miockingbird) and Best Book to Movie Adaptation (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone).
Students and staff vote for each round, then watch the winners advance on large posters and via email updates from the organizer, teacher Katherine Hocking and the Staples English Department.
This year’s theme was Best Opening Lines. Seedings for the 32 contestants were done by American Book Review.
Dickens’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” was ranked high, of course. But George Orwell’s “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” — from 1984 — was right up there too.
Tournament of Books opening lines also included the terse “Call me Ishmael” (Moby-Dick), “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (Anna Karenina), and the classic “It was a dark and stormy night” (from Edward George Bulwer-Lytton’s Paul Clifford, though few people know that).
Other contenders ranged from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Catcher in the Rye to Beloved and Don Quixote.
A big bulletin board outside the library — courtesy of librarians Jenn Cirino and Nicole Moeller — drew plenty of attention (and, thanks to QR codes, allowed people to vote).
Each book was available for checkout, too. (No one had to read the books to vote, though: The first lines were helpfully added to the board.)
David Copperfield (“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show…”) was the Oral Roberts of the Staples tournament. It was the lowest seeded book to make it into the Final Four, but its loss there prevented what would have been an epic Dickens vs. Dickens title match.
Balloting went down to the wire. Ten late votes for A Tale of Two Cities helped Dickens emerge victorious over his fellow English novelist.
For basketball fans and book lovers, springtime at Staples is the best of times indeed.