2019 with the Gentlemen’s Book Club Year in Books

It’s that time of the year again when we repair to the cosy cellar of the RIYC and take stock of 12 months reads with a sumptuous, warm and cosy end-of-year soiré. This evening past our esteemed cadre of fellows gathered to imbibe and reflect on another year of reads that take us outside of our ordered existences and invite us to consider our fellows’ proferred 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:

Now that the dust has settled on our Eurovision style voting, we ended up with a clear winner – this year Joseph O’Connor’s stunning ShadowPlay. It was a well-appreciated read by all last month and the voting at the time gave it our top average scores with 7.33 – a little lower than last years’s winner Erebus (7.66). 

The Year End Ranks of our twelve reads ended up with only one tie this year and shook out as so:

  1. Shadowplay with a decisive 82 points followed by
  2. Order of the Day at 61.

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.

This year we had 3 winners, 5 losers and 3 holders. The top finishing book ‘ShadowPlay’ won both the monthly and yearly tabs. The Uninhabitable Earth was a big winner at the end of the year jumping 4 full places – on recollection, it appears to have struck a chord. Very impressive. The Order of the Day moved from 4 to 2 and Valiant Gentlemen also managed a subtle increase in appreciation at the end of the year. Losers dropped multiple ranks and the Langauge Instinct held fast at the bottom of the pack- as did our low place pick last year 12 Rules for Chaos.

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 the reading sequence. The results show that at the top end there is no effect. In the bottom there is some shaking up with the Language Instinct getting a good boost as the first read and leaping out of the basement. There is actually a decent shuffling if we weight for memorability. With more winners than losers.

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 two fictional reads our top votes and we consistently rated fiction higher than non-fiction with an average score of 6.02 for fiction and 5.63 for non-fiction. This isn’t to say too much in fairness as we may well have chosen bad non-fiction and particularly (or at least relatively) good fiction.

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 1 book with an average of 5.19/book
MH recommended 1 book with an average of  6.13/book
SD recommended 3 books with an average of 6.07/book
JW recommended 1 book with an average of 6.67/book
BC recommended 1 book with an average of 5.17/book
BM recommended 2 books with an average of 5.23/book.
JOD recommended 2 books with an average of 6.02/book

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 down from last year’s 6.625 to an average score across all 9 members and 11 books of 5.94. Are we getting more scathing in our reviews or did we just read less good books?

DK gives an average score of 6.2
JoD gives an average score of 6.1
FoS gives an average score of 4.5
BM gives an average score of 6.7
SD gives an average score of 6.2
BC gives an average score of 5.0
MH gives an average score of 5.6
JW gives an average score of 5.8
RM gives an average score of 6.8

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