I’m a little late, but I’ve just finished the wrap up of our book club’s 2016-17 reading year.
We started doing something a little different in our ratings this year. Occasionally there are books that a member or two doesn’t finish or doesn’t even attempt. (In our very bookish club, this is rare. We’re serious about our reading, people.) In these cases, it is possible that said book could end up with a decent overall score because anyone who was a “DNR” or a “DNF” didn’t get counted, making its comparison with other books and their ratings not exactly accurate – or at least not the whole picture.
To solve for this, we’ve started taking a .2 deduction from the final score for each member who chooses not to read or finish a particular selection. The .2 deduction is not completely arbitrary.*
Let’s dive in. These are the books we read last year. We use a 1-5 rating system.
Boys in the Boat – 4.2 (high: 4.75; low: 3.25)
This book tied for the highest rated book of the year. It was all the rage last summer with the PBS documentary about the same group of boys. What made this discussion special was that we were at the home of our Sista who lives on the lake & were on a boat.
Fates and Furies – 3.82 (high: 4.75; low: 2.5)
This book is polarizing – people either love it or it isn’t for them. I’m in the former and the high score was my rating. (To know exactly what I thought about this one, my review is here.)
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – 3.66 (high: 4.25; low: 4)
This is one book that the new DNF/DNR rule hurt. It’s score without the penalty was 4.06 – everyone who read it really liked it. Also of note, I loved the first season of the Amazon series made based on it. So Amazon if you’re reading, PLEASE continue. Christina Ricci was born to play Zelda.
When Breath becomes Air – 3.55 (high: 4.25; low: 3)
A solid rating for a book that is a moving story but maybe not the most literary of reads.
My Name is Asher Lev – 3.79 (high: 4.5; low: 3.5)
Another selection that was a bit polarizing, which surprised me. The score without the penalty was 4.19 but there were a couple of members who were frustrated with this one and didn’t finish it. Five of us gave Asher Lev 4.5, which is collective high praise.
The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House – 3.05 (high: 4; low: 2.5)
Another book that was, in my opinion, interesting but poorly executed. A lot of missteps that should have been cleaned up in editing. But, we read it in November, so what we learned about running the White House made for interesting discussion in light of a new President about to move in.
Alexander Hamilton – 3.71 (high: 4.75; low: 2.5)
Another thing you should know about our book club: there is a strong contingent of history buffs. (We have a member whose husband is absolutely OK with the her very real crush on George Washington – I mean, he’s dead, right?) Several have read everything Joseph Ellis has ever written.
In full confession, the low score was mine. I did not care for this book. Hamilton is the end all, be all of this man. I can appreciate that such a book exists, I just do not care to read it and I did. Every page. And it was loooooonnnnnngggg. And tedious. I did not prefer it.
Lay this Body Down – 3.78 (high: 4; low: 3.75)
This was a fun meeting because we had the author with us. If you’re not familiar with the title, it is nonfiction about the murder of 11 plantation slaves in 1921 in a county not far from where we live. The owner was being investigated for peonage and began methodically killing off his workers. This was a tough read, but an important one, made all the more interesting by being able to discuss with Gregory.
The Handmaid’s Tale – 4.2 (high: 4.75; low: 3.5)
We selected this before we knew about the series based on the book, and for many of us, it was a re-read. It tied with Boys on the Boat as the highest rated book for the year. A very discussable book.
The Miniaturist – 3.58 (high: 4.25; low: 3)
We finished the year where we started (physically) – on the lake discussing books. This was also a re-read for me. It is solidly discussable but with shortcomings. Something interesting happened to my rating on this book. Often our discussion of a book will make us rate it higher than we thought we would going into it. With The Miniaturist, my rating went down after the discussion (3.75).
And, that’s a wrap!
I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these books – especially if your book club has read it – and what you thought.
*Due to the number of members in our club, each member has a .45 influence on the score; we don’t want to penalize the book as a “0” – so half that is .225; rounding in the book’s favor results in a net .2 subtraction.
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