Crowds at Comic-Con 2019 on opening day. Photo courtesy Comic-Con International

Five librarians walk into Comic-Con

There was no punchline. But there were verbal fisticuffs as local librarians squared off in “Book Fight,” a discussion to settle age-old questions about favorite books and authors.

The panel was part of the Comic Conference for Educators and Librarians held at the San Diego Central Library.

Librarians battled in five rounds on a mix of categories, starting with best young adult (YA) fiction. Christina Wainwright, a librarian at the Pacific Beach branch, argued for “The Hunger Games,” saying it changed the genre of YA fiction by grounding its stories and characters in a more realistic world. Vanessa Gempis, manager of the teen center at the San Diego Central Library, defended “Six of Crows.”

After about five minutes of debate, audience members got to select the winner, and they voted for “Hunger Games.”

The five librarians rotated as the rounds continued and the competition grew more intense. “Wizard of Oz” competed against “Harry Potter” in the juvenile fiction territory.

“The whole generation has really just grown up with him,” said Gempis, of the Harry Potter books.

But the “Wizard of Oz” wound up winning.

The early debates were polite.

“I thought this was going to be book fight and it’s more book chat,” complained Lydia Bringerud, a North Park branch librarian. “As you can see, librarians are very tactful.”

The arguments became more heated when Bringerud chose “Game of Thrones” against Wainwright’s “Lord of the Rings” series in one battle.

“JRR Tolkien, he actually bothered to finish them,” argued Wainwright.

Lord of the Rings” won that battle.

More obscure titles were also given their due, with San Diego County librarian Bill Sannwald advocating for “Sunny,” a Japanese manga about kids in an orphanage that he called “heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.”

North Park branch librarian Bijan Nowroozian highlighted “Saga” in the graphic novel category and “Berserk” in the Japanese manga category.

The discussion left the audience with plenty to think of.

“I know my to-read list just got a lot longer,” said Gempis.

Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture fan who is attending his 29th consecutive Comic-Con.

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