Your favorite book of 2019? Get ready to vote for it in Prose Bowl

(Updated Feb. 19, 2020)

Sno-Isle Libraries’ own version of March Madness returns with Prose Bowl 2020.

The annual online contest determines which title published in 2019 was most popular with Sno-Isle Libraries customers. Voting will begin March 4 at and continues with a new round each week until the winning title is announced on April 1.

Eight selected titles competing in Prose Bowl 2020
Sno-Isle Libraries’ Prose Bowl 2020 features 80 books competing in eight genre categories (clockwise from top left): Crime & mystery, general fiction, biography, graphic novel, romance, fantasy, general nonfiction and science fiction.

“Prose Bowl invites Sno-Isle Libraries customers to vote on their favorite books of the year in a sports-bracket fashion through online polls,” said Oak Harbor Library Information Assistant Marie Byars, a Sno-Isle Libraries Readers’ Services Team member. “Prose Bowl pits book against book to determine the annual customer favorite.”

The Readers’ Services Team launched Prose Bowl in 2015 with 32 titles in contention for the most popular book published in 2014. According to Sno-Isle Libraries readers, that was “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins.

Prose Bowl returned in 2017 with a bracket of 16 titles that “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead won. Prose Bowl 2018 had 24 titles in contention and “Glass Houses” by Louise Penny eventually won.

For Prose Bowl 2019, the Readers’ Services Team really upped the ante.

The team put 60 titles in contention divided into six genre categories and added a voting round. By the end of the final round, 1,953 voters had cast 3,117 votes to crown Michelle Obama’s autobiography “Becoming” as the winner.

“We compiled the initial list of contenders from the top circulating books of January-October 2018,” said Jackie Parker, Lead Librarian for the Readers’ Services Team. “We also pulled in newly published titles with lengthy hold queues to include the most popular end-of-year titles.”

Prose Bowl 2020 is even bigger. Voters will decide the fate of 80 titles divided into eight genre categories.

“We organize Round 1 voting by genre categories,” Parker said. “Round 2 pits the top two titles from each genre category against each other in a genre semifinal. Round 3 takes the winning titles from each genre category for a genre category face-off. Round 4 presents the winning three titles in the final round of voting before we announce the winner.”

For Prose Bowl 2020, the genre categories are general fiction, general nonfiction, romance, crime and mystery, biography, science fiction, fantasy, and graphic novel.

“The contest fosters a sense of community for our readers and offers a way to expand their reading horizons,” Byars said.

Prose Bowl preseason begins each fall when the Readers’ Services Team members start assessing which titles published that year were most-popular with library customers, said Julie Thompson, a Reader Services Team member and Collection Development Librarian at the Sno-Isle Libraries Service Center.

Since the team considers a few hundred titles, members do a pre-Prose Bowl of their own to get the top 10 titles in each genre category.

Which title will win Prose Bowl 2020? Voting begins March 4.

General Fiction

  1. The Institute,” Stephen King
  2. The Island of Sea Women,” by Lisa See
  3. Inland,” Téa Obreht
  4. Normal People,” Sally Rooney
  5. The Dutch House,” Ann Patchett
  6. The Giver of Stars,” Jojo Moyes
  7. The Ten Thousand Doors of January,” Alix E. Harrow
  8. The Nickel Boys,” Colson Whitehead
  9. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” Ocean Vuong
  10. The Night Tiger,” Yangsze Choo

General Nonfiction

  1. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?” Caitlin Doughty
  2. Talking to Strangers,” Malcolm Gladwell
  3. The Uninhabitable Earth,” David Wallace-Wells
  4. How to Be an Antiracist,” Ibram X. Kendi
  5. Three Women,” Lisa Taddeo
  6. Maid,” Stephanie Land
  7. The Body,” Bill Bryson
  8. The Trial of Lizzie Borden,” Cara Robertson
  9. Know My Name,” Chanel Miller
  10. She Said,” Jodi Kantor


  1. Red, White & Royal Blue,” Casey McQuiston
  2. The Bride Test,” Helen Hoang
  3. Ayesha at Last,” Uzma Jalaluddin
  4. Royal Holiday,” Jasmine Guillory
  5. Things You Save in a Fire,” Katherine Center
  6. Meet Cute,” Helena Hunting
  7. The Unhoneymooners,” Christina Lauren
  8. 99 Percent Mine,” Sally Thorne
  9. Evvie Drake Starts Over,” Linda Holmes
  10. The Flatshare,” Beth O’Leary

Crime & Mystery

  1. A Better Man,” Louise Penny
  2. The Bitterroots,” C.J. Box
  3. The Department of Sensitive Crimes,” Alexander McCall Smith
  4. Vendetta in Death,” J.D. Robb
  5. Land of Wolves,” Craig Johnson
  6. Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  7. The Reckoning,” Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
  8. Heaven, My Home,” Attica Locke
  9. No Sunscreen for the Dead,” Tim Dorsey
  10. Stealth,” Stuart Woods


  1. Notes From a Young Black Chef,” Kwame Onwuachi
  2. How We Fight For Our Lives,” Saeed Jones
  3. Year of the Monkey,” Patti Smith
  4. First,” Sandra Day O’Connor
  5. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love,” Dani Shapiro
  6. Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story,” Jacob Tobia
  7. Code Name: Lise,” Larry Loftis
  8. Funny Man: Mel Brooks,” Patrick McGilligan
  9. Save Me the Plums,” Ruth Reichl
  10. Permanent Record,” Edward J. Snowden

Science Fiction

  1. The Testaments,” Margaret Atwood
  2. Tiamat’s Wrath,” James S.A. Corey
  3. Gideon the Ninth,” Tamsyn Muir
  4. This is How You Lose the Time War,” Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
  5. Exhalation,” Ted Chiang
  6. Dark Age,” Pierce Brown
  7. A Memory Called Empire,” Arkady Martine
  8. How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse,” K. Eason
  9. The Light Brigade,” Kameron Hurley
  10. The Luminous Dead,” Caitlin Starling


  1. The Priory of the Orange Tree,” Samantha Shannon
  2. Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” Marlon James
  3. The Starless Sea,” Erin Morgenstern
  4. Middlegame,” Seanan McGuire
  5. Ninth House,” Leigh Bardugo
  6. A Little Hatred,” Joe Abercrombie
  7. The Raven Tower,” Ann Leckie
  8. The Ruin of Kings,” Jenn Lyons
  9. A Brightness Long Ago,” Guy Gavriel Kay
  10. Upon a Burning Throne,” Ashok Banker

Graphic Novel

  1. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me,” Mariko Tamaki
  2. Mooncakes,” Suzanne Walker
  3. They Called Us Enemy,” George Takei
  4. Bloom,” Kevin Panetta
  5. Kid Gloves,” Lucy Knisley
  6. Pumpkinheads,” Rainbow Rowell
  7. Snow, Glass, Apples,” Neil Gaiman
  8. Rusty Brown,” Chris Ware
  9. Are You Listening?” Tillie Walden
  10. Shuri 1: The Search for Black Panther,” Nnedi Okorafor