I can hear you out there (all five or so of you): “Hey Mark, what ever happened to that book contest in Japan last October? You know, the one where Birth Day (translated into Japanese as Baby Science) triumphed in the preliminaries over a 63 year-old Dale Carnegie self-help book and that Pokemon-like novel about satellites? How did the finals go?”
Well, thank you for asking! It went very well, and the Biblio Battle turned out to be a bigger deal than I thought. Hosted by Naoki Inose, Vice-Governor of Tokyo and a well-known author, the Battle is a national phenomenon and growing quickly in popularity. Organizers expected 400 attendees for the 2011 finals in Tokyo, and more than 1,400 showed up. (And many thanks to Yumiko Kaigawa, a reader from Ritsumeikan University in Japan, for filling me in on the details. Her boss, Dr. Tadahiro Taniguchi, designed the Biblio Battle concept.)
Here’s how the Biblio Battle worked: more than 200 Japanese university students entered, each picking a book they were passionate about. Then, through a tournament-style series of book-on-book debates held at a number of universities, the titles were winnowed down by audience vote to 33 semi-final contenders. The final five duked it out on the big stage in Tokyo. Thanks to the hard work of Osaka University student Mina Mizuhara (you can watch Mina in action on YouTube), Birth Day/Baby Science finished third.
Although there were no medals or new cars awarded (none have arrived on my doorstep, at any rate), this is an honor I very much appreciate.
Oh, and the winner? A mystery novel titled “She Is No More,” by Yasuhiko Nishizawa. The plot synopsis, as mangled by Google Translate: “Kidnapping, abduction and killing of taking a look. Faint thoughts of youth are turned into grotesque and irreversible runaway love.”
I can’t compete with that…