My Top 10 Books of 2018 (so far)

From year to year, I keep track of the books I’ve read in a spreadsheet. Sad, I know.

When I finish a book, I add it to my sheet, jot a few simple thoughts or notes to remember it by and, immediately, give the book a mark out of 100.

This mark isn’t a true measure. It has no criteria or inputs. It’s a gut feel - on a scale of 1 to 100, upon reading the last word and closing the book, how good was it? Most books get a 50 to 70-something. Some get into the 80s. One or two make it into the rarified 90s. The highest mark I’ve ever given is a 92.

Below are the top 10 books I’ve read this year so far, according to my scale. When I clicked ‘Sort high to low’ in my sheet, what surprised me was the mix of topics. There isn’t a binding theme. A work of fiction tops the list but it’s largely non-fiction. America dominates, I’m not sure why but that’s the way of the world, I guess.  Some are for work, some are for fun. 5 are bio- or autobiographical. 2 out of the 10 are about Muhammad Ali, a man who I’ve always admired but, consciously at least, never idolised. I know why I like some - Le Carre could write out the phone book and I’d read it, I love Knausgaard’s series. I’m not sure why I like others so much - The Grass Arena was incredibly depressing. The Panama Papers was - in part - dull.

So it turns out that marking a book arbitrarily out of 100 based on gut feel the moment you finish it is both pointless but also quite interesting. Well, it is to me anyway. For some reason, I value these 10 books. But I value each one of them in a different way.

A word about my book of the year, Butcher’s Crossing. It scored 92. According to my scale and compared to previous years, it’s the best book I’ve ever read. Perhaps you’ve never heard of it, although Williams wrote the best selling Stoner that I didn’t think very good, especially when compared to his other works. Butcher’s Crossing is set during the 1800s in the American West and it’s about a man who sets out to hunt buffalo in winter. It’s brutal, dark and tough but full of hope, optimism and spirit. I don’t know why it gets me but it does. I’ve read it twice this year. It’s a book I’ll read every year forever. I can’t recommend it enough.

Anyway, my top 10 are below. If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

  1. Butcher's Crossing - Williams, John

  2. Janesville - Goldstein, Amy

  3. The Old Man and the Sea - Hemingway, Ernest

  4. The Grass Arena - Healy, John

  5. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow - Harari, Yuval Noah

  6. Deep - Nestor, James

  7. The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life - Carré, John le

  8. Ali: A Life - Eig, Jonathan

  9. Boyhood Island - Knausgaard, Karl Ove

  10. The Panama Papers - Obermaier, Frederik

Edward Playfair