The Prisoner of Tehran vs. The Turn of the Screw
Winner: The Turn of the Screw
It's hard to beat the sheer creepiness of The Turn of the Screw, no matter what your interpretation, from repressed sexuality to ghost story. The Prisoner of Tehran was fine, but not great, and so the ghosts of fiction beat out the ghosts of the past in this particular battle.
Funny Boy vs. Bookman
Winner: Funny Boy
This is a hard one! I liked both of these books, without loving either of them. The inventiveness of Bookman almost gives it the edge here, but in the end, there were some flaws in the book (including making Irene Adler a force for law and justice, which I had difficulty buying) that gives the win instead to a set of linked stories about a boy growing up and discovering his sexuality in a Sri Lanka riven by ethnic clashes.
Leviathan vs. Sarah's Key
Sarah's Key was one of the books that really made me angry this year, so you can guess that this battle's not going to that one! While there were some powerful parts, the insistence that the pain of the American journalist when her marriage was breaking up in some way complemented the pain of the Holocaust was enough to make me ballistic. Leviathan is fun steampunk for kids, complete with living flying beasts captained by the Royal Navy. This version of a World War made me much less angry than the other.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running vs. Trunk Music
Winner: Trunk Music
Oh goodness, I don't know. I really don't. Murakami's musings about running and life, or a solid Los Angeles mystery? Generally I think Murakami would win a matchup of this sort, no problem, but since I'm a walker myself, I think maybe I'll take the long way around and award it to the sprint of Trunk Music and let What I Talk About continue on its marathon.
The Violent Bear It Away vs. How To Be A Woman
Winner: The Violent Bear It Away
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed How To Be A Woman a lot, as light fun. And there were aspects of Flannery O'Connor's short novel that bothered me. But for lasting residence in my head, I have to give this one to The Violent Bear It Away. This examination of faith, fatherhood and fate is harrowing to read, and the words are almost as violent as the title.