Introducing… The World Cup of Book Club Books!

Thanks to an absolutely brilliant suggestion from our official Festival booksellers, DRAKE the Bookshop of Stockton, we’re going to have a Big Book Club for Teesside as part of our programme next summer. But which book should we read, and which author shall we invite to visit us? There can only be one winner in…The World Cup of Book Club Books!!

For the last two and half years, poet and bookseller Jake Wildhall has become known to Twitter connoisseurs as a purveyor of always fun, often ridiculous and occasionally controversial World Cups in which everything from cartoon theme tunes to condiments compete in 4-way heats on Twitter polls. So naturally, we turned to him to help us decide on our Big Book Club choice.

Starting with 16 suggestions from Teesside book clubs and reading groups, plus more favourite books recommended by readers on Twitter, Jake will draw up league tables and set in motion a battle royale during December. The winning book and its author will then be asked to feature in our week-long programme in June 2022.

We wanted to know more about how his obsession with lists and ranking began. He cites a secondary school ‘project’ ranking best films, and then a social media debate questioning the correct order to layer up beans and cheese on a jacket potato. But the World Cups as we know them began two and half years ago with Bread, from which Bagels eventually emerged triumphant following an epic battle against come-back king, Pitta Bread.

“At one point, it got picked up by a small radio station in Kansas that started tweeting about it. I would go to sleep and Pitta would be losing, and it would just come back overnight – America would log on in the middle of the night and the vote would completely change. I’d wake up in the morning and Pitta had got through another group, and I’d be like What are you talking about? It is an awful bread! How can it beat Naan?!”

Bread was followed by Condiments & Dips, Chocolate, Crisps, Pokémon (generations 1 and 2), Cocktails, Hangover Cures and finally Cartoon Theme Tunes, which raged for four months.

Jake’s no stranger to controversy, sparking debates with every World Cup. Is salt a condiment? Should anime be included with cartoons? Some people may never entirely forgive him for contaminating the World Cup of Chocolate with both hot chocolate (the drink) and Hot Chocolate (the band). He may never forgive us for voting Ready Salted Hula Hoops the champion of crisps. “I’m a big flavour man”, he tells us. “We don’t talk about the World Cup of Crisps in this house”.

But does he enjoy stirring up so much feeling? What does it do to his phone?!

“The final day of the World Cup of Cartoon Theme Tunes, Pokémon versus Arthur, was the most notifications I’ve ever had in my life. Like it was crazy. The discourse was crazy. And it kept going backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, one percent in it. The discourse was the wildest, I think, except for the time when it was gravy versus hummus in the World Cup of Condiments & Dips, and Matt Abbott got the Leeds United fan club involved, and gravy got like 2000 votes or something. Like they really got on board and gravy just wiped out everything and absolutely won. There are very few things I would enlist the Leeds fan club for, but this is one of them”.

During lockdown doldrums, Jake’s World Cups were a precious source of joy for many people, including himself. The work that has gone into many of them is amazing, particularly the Cartoon Theme Tunes where he edited together film clips so people could listen again before voting. He’ll do something similar for the World Cup of Book Club Books, showing cover art and book synopses so the public can vote for a favourite they’ve read but also for ones they’d most like to read. We asked Jake if he thought feelings would run as high about books as they have about snack food – his reply was exactly what we think too:

“I’m hoping it might be friendly. Which would be nice. I’m hoping maybe we’ll just get people talking about books. Which is always the aim, right? Like, that’s always the aim of life anyway.”

Get involved in the World Cup of Book Shop Books by following @JakeWildHall on Twitter

Jake Wild Hall is one half of Bad Betty Press, the founder of OOIPP fest, one fifth of Boomerang Club and winner of the PBH 2016 Spirit Of The Free Fringe Award. He has performed on BBC Radio and at festivals and literary events across the UK, including touring his debut pamphlet Solomon’s World—longlisted for Best Pamphlet in the 2018 Saboteur Awards. He co-edited anthologies The Dizziness of Freedom and Alter Egos (Bad Betty Press, 2018 and 2019). He is a multiple slam champion and his work has been published in magazines, anthologies and online journals. His second pamphlet Blank is out with Bad Betty now.

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9 - 19 June 2021