Wrapping Up 2018 with the Gentlemen’s Book Club

Book Club Book of the Year 2018

It’s the time of the year when we take stock of 12 months reads with a sumptuous, warm and cosy end-of-year soirée at the Royal Irish Yacht Club. What started with a spurious whim (both the club and the tradition of our year-end bash) have become wonderful occasions and they only grow more enriching from year to year. With a fine flock of fellows and thankfully relieved from my chair duties (PhD weighs heavy), it’s been another bumper year for reads that take us outside of our ordered existences and invite us to consider our fellows’ considered offerings.

As we went into the end of year tabulations, our monthly reads were ranked according to the average scores offered immediately after reading. The monthly reads were ranked:

A couple of us have developed the habit of compiling a few stats and findings as we go self-reflective on our reading experience. JW lead the findings this year with a casual note that:

“I would also suggest that presence at the meeting is a strong correlate of a book being chosen, so should these ‘book’ values be adjusted for attendance? There are also influences with a) number of other books being put forward by the proposer, b) number of other books put forward by the group and c) (although I’m sure many will deny it) the book just discussed. Not to mention perhaps d) past history of books by that proposer.

JW – Dec 2018

Now that the dust has settled on our Eurovision style voting, we ended up with a clear winner – this year Michael Palin and Erebus: The Story of a Ship. It was a well appreciated read by all last month and the voting at the time gave it one of our top average scores with 7.63. 

The Year End Ranks of our twelve reads ended up with two ties and shook out as so:

  1. Erebus with a decisive 77 points
  2. A tie for second between The Betrayal and Prisoners of Geography with 53 points each.
  3. The Black Count with 47
  4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep with 40
  5. People of the Book with 38
  6. Middlesex and Lethal White tied with 36 
  7. The Devil’s Advocate with 35
  8. Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker with 26
  9. Arnhem: Battle for the Bridges 1944 with 18
  10. and last and least in this ranking was 12 Rules for Life with 5 points.

There were some winners and losers from our month to month rankings as the following chart shows, mapping the ranked scores from the 12 months against the year-end ranking.

Book Club 2018 Winners and Losers

Although the top finishers merely swapped places, the end of year 2nd place finisher ‘The Betrayal’ managed a quite respectable jump from fourth to second place. ‘The Black Count’ also demonstrated a significant climb but both of these were trumped by ‘The People of the Book’ jumping a full 3 steps in the year end tally. Middlesex was one of the more surprising losers this year dropping three spots by year’s end. 12 Rules for Life remained consistently at the bottom of our list.

One factor that we are always conscious of is the fact that the books read earlier in the year have to either be tremendously memorable to battle it out lest they suffer from a more recent familiarity with good reads later in the year that may receive an unintentional bump based on our faltering memories. To try a little exercise in controlling for this I gave some slight weighting +/- up to 25% of point score in the final meeting based on reading sequence. Note: this actually removes the tied scores as they are altered slightly by weighting. The results show that at the extremes, there was no effect. Good and Bad books held their place. However, there is some shuffling in the middle with books such as Middlesex and the Butcher, Baker and Candlestick maker demonstrating lasting resonance and Lethal White taking a hit for being the last book of the year read and 4 others dropping a ranking each. In point of fact the weighting for how recently a book was read before our end of year rankings was not that significant on the overall end of year standings.

Declining memories amongst book club members

So how did we fare between Fiction and Non-Fiction? In past years, with few exceptions, we tend towards favouring our Non-Fiction reads. We generally have chosen a Fiction best read of the year, then ranked our Non-Fiction reads consistently higher than fictional ones. This year we gave a Non-Fiction book, Erebus, the nod as our Book of the Year, but then switched loyalties and ranked our Fictional reads slightly higher than our Non-Fictional ones. Did we just choose badly?

When we look at the average score for Fiction vs Non-Fiction we find that:

Fiction had an aggregate score of 40.20 for 6 reads with an average of    6.69 and our Non-Fiction only managed a 37.61 aggregate and average score of 6.26. Hmmmm.

Finally, All but two members managed to have at least one recommendation accepted for reading by the club. The results for reactions to recommendations are as follows:

DK recommended 2 books with a total 14.75 and average of 7.375/book
MH recommended 3 books with a total 17.81 and average of  5.93/book
SD recommended 2 books with a total 13.04 and average of 6.52/book
JW recommended 2 books with a total 13.96 and average of 6.98/book
FoS recommended 2 books with a total 12.43 and average of 6.21/book
BM recommended 1 book with a score of 5.81.

And on the reading front, we have average scores for each reader with the two outliers removed. So, who ranks high, and who ranks low? By the way, the average score by the club on aggregate is: 6.625.

DK gives an average score of 7.3
JoD gives an average score of 7.1
FoS gives an average score of 6.85
BM gives an average score of 6.75
SD gives an average score of 6.65
BC gives an average score of 6.45
MH gives an average scores of JW: 6.1

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