Monday, January 6, 2020

My Year In Books (2019 edition)

Rusty Bentley is, indeed, one of those pictured
This year in books was... interesting. I purposefully set a low goal, because I didn't want the pressure of reading for anything other than enjoyment. I also sought out a little diversity, in genre and author, in order to broaden the horizons. Let's see how that all turned out, shall we?

In total, I read approximately 14,834 pages across 46 books. For reference, last year I read almost 20,000 pages across 52 books, but I didn't enjoy every book as much. And I didn't necessarily enjoy every book I read this year, but I certainly appreciated them more.

Longest, Shortest, and Average

I not only read fewer books this year, the books were on average shorter. This year, the book length average was 322 pages, compared to last year's average of 390 pages per book. There are actually a couple of pretty simple reasons for this. First of all, Audible started producing Original series, which are pretty short form in general, and credits for two of them per month are included in the membership. Given that there's typically no page length included, but I tend to include them in my book list (as they're either dramatizations or short story collections), I've estimated their lengths pretty conservatively. Secondly, as stated earlier, I wasn't reading as voraciously as last year, and wound up with six fewer books, including at least one fewer LONG books.

Speaking of long books, the longest three books I read this year were:

  1. Kushiel's Dart, by Jaqueline Carey: 1015 pages
  2. Necronomicon, The Best Weird Tales, by H.P. Lovecraft: 878 pages
  3. The Witchwood Crown, by Tad Williams: 733 pages
Those three books total 2626 pages. Last year's total was 3091 pages. Again, reading more (and at least one larger) books helped push last year's total to a ridiculous number.

And now, the shortest three:

  1. Whose Boat Is This Boat?, by Donald Trump (via Stephen Colbert), 24 pages
  2. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, by T.S. Eliot, 27 pages
  3. Blackened White, by Brian W. Foster, 80 pages
The three shortest books this year totaled a tiny 131 pages. That's down from 295 pages I read in short last year. Ironically (and sadly), the shortest book this year is, once again, politically themed. If you haven't read Whose Boat Is This Boat?, you should order a copy. Proceeds go to benefit the charities helping the victims of hurricanes.

One more stat here: the median book is Pro Git, and it was only 300 pages long. This year was definitely the year of the shorter book. Last year's median book length was 341 pages.

More Interesting Metrics!

Now, on to the fun stuff. I'll start with the breakdown by month, as usual.

Books By Month

Lots of reading, then not so much...

That distribution surprised me. Lots of books in the first half of the year, then relatively few in the second half. It finally dawned on me that I worked out more regularly during the first half of the year. I typically listen to audiobooks while I work out. When that falls off, my book completion rate drops.

Strangely enough, the drop in workouts didn't correspond with an increase in weight up until the holidays began. And yes, I gained 1.5 pounds this year, just like all normal human males my age. This blog entry isn't "My Year In Exercise;" stop judging. ;-)

Books By Medium

More reading than listening!
For the first time in a long time, I actually READ more books than I LISTENED TO. Again, this probably has to do with the fact that, in the past, I listened to books while commuting (I don't have a commute anymore) and while working out (my workouts dropped off the second half of the year).

Even more surprisingly, I read more PHYSICAL books (13) than EBOOKS (12) this year. And yes, there were two books that were actually leather bound, so neither hardcover nor paperback. If you're curious, they were both books of poetry, which I'll get to shortly.

For full disclosure, however, I should point out that the total pages of Audiobooks was 7677, while the page count for actual reading was only 7157. So, while it's true that I read more books than I listened to, I listened to more actual pages than I read.

Books By Genre

Maybe Technical and Comedy should be the same genre...?
I tried to break these out by where you would find them at a bookstore. I'm not positive I got them all right, but it should be close enough to be representative. 

It's no big surprise that Sci-Fi/Fantasy plus Fiction dominated my reading. I was pleased to get a few poetry books in there as well, including Devotions by Mary Oliver, which I HIGHLY recommend.

The most interesting thing to come out of this is just how much nonfiction I consumed this year. I typically don't read a lot of nonfiction, as my tendency is toward escapism when I read. But this year included three autobigraphicals (Becoming by Michelle Obama, Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama, and 10% Happier by Dan Harris) as well as a couple of biographicals (Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford and Eistein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson). I rated all of those as either 4 or 5 stars. Next year I'll probably continue to mix in a nonfiction every second or third book as well.

Other Tidbits

  • Every book was by a different author this year. Typically, I have at least a few duplicates, but this year -- 46 different authors!
  • I set out to read more books written by non-Caucasian males this year. I don't typically pay attention to the nationality or gender of the authors of the books I read, but given my interests and the industry, a lot of what I read is written by, well, old white guys. I did... alright, but it could be far better, and will be next year. This year, my reading list included:
    • 15 females
    • 7 non-Caucasians
  • I won 3 physical book giveaways, 2 of which I read: Inland by Téa Obreht, and The Sun On My Head by Geovani Martins. My strategy is pretty simple: 
    • look at giveaways for physical books that are ending soon (within the next day)
    • enter any that look interesting for any reason (author, genre, etc.) and give you at least a one-in-ten chance of winning. 
    • do this once a week or so, and you'll probably wind up with a free book or two!
And there you have it. My year in books was more fulfilling than I thought it was going to be, and I'm glad I gave a little more attention and deliberation to what I was reading.

If anyone reading this entry has similar metrics, I'd be really interested in seeing/reading them (wink-wink, nudge-nudge @Jake)!


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