Monday, February 15, 2021

My Year In Books (2020 edition)

reading challenge 2020
This... is a generic graphic. Don't I usually have one with swirlies and my picture?

Ah, the annual ritual of posting the results of the Reading Challenge. I'll admit right now that reading wasn't as big a player in 2020 as it had been in years past. There were lots of reasons for that, not the least of which was that I didn't exercise as much, drive as much, and played more video games and watched more "TV" than I have in a long time. Reading, as it turns out, doesn't release endorphins for me the way it used to; the other pursuits *did* help keep my head above water, and I'm really thankful for that.

I did manage to read 40 books with a total of approximately 12,800 pages. This is down from 46 books and almost 15,000 words last year. Like I said -- I was doing other stuff. There were some real gems this year, however, as you'll see in one of my brand-new metrics!

Longest, Shortest, and Average

Let's try a table! Everyone loves tables, right? Wait a second... Blogger has removed the ability to insert tables? I don't understand what's happening anymore... Apparently Numbers is my new blog post editor.

Copying/pasting a table from Numbers uploads it as an image...?

The first stat doesn't really need any context. I'm surprised to find that this year's average was so close to last year's, given the longest and shortest were both smaller. Maybe my median is higher...?


The three longest books from this year were dramatically shorter than last year's top three. This year's were:
  1. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry: 960 pages
  2. A Promised Land, by Barack Obama: 768 pages
  3. The Famished Road, by Ben Okri: 512 pages
Last year's titles 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
The three longest this year totaled 2,240 pages; last year's total was 2,626 pages. That's a drop of nearly 400 pages from just 3 books.


The three shortest books this year were considerably longer than last year's. This year's were:
  1. Beast Meridian, by Vanessa AngĂ©lica Villarreal: 100 pages
  2. Junkyard Cats, by Faith Hunter: 116 pages
  3. You Can Thank Me Later, by Kelly Harms: 120 pages (estimated)
Last year's were:
  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
Note that I am NOT including A Christmas Carol (84 pages) in this list, as I read it pretty much every year but don't want it to perpetually show up on the Shortest Book list.

So... the bottom of the list is weightier by about 200 pages, making up for half of the volume missing from the top three. That doesn't solve our entire problem though, does it? This year's median book was 305 pages long; last year's was 300. Did the median standard deviations shift up just enough to bump the total? How did we retain the 320 page average?!

New Statistics

Given there's a mystery to solve, let's try some new metrics.

The bulk of my books were in the 300 - 399 page range. I wonder how last year's distribution compares?

Aha! The median from 2019 was 300. I had three more books in the 200 range last year than this year. At the same time, I had more books in the 400+ ranges last year than this year. If I were more interested in the math, I'd spend the time to figure it out. Fortunately for you, I'm not. ON WITH THE INTERESTING METRICS!!

Number of books read by month

Hello, August spike!

I managed to finish at least a couple of books every month except May. And August was an outlier by a mile. I read John Lewis's March graphic novels (all three of them). I also *finished* a couple of lower 300 pagers that I'd started in July, and started and finished a few others.

Strangely, this distribution is the opposite of last year's. In 2019, the front half of the year was loaded with 5 or more books read each month, and the middle and end mostly finishing 2 a month.

Books by medium

Audible, you win again!

No big surprises here either this year. Audible still accounts for more than half of my "reading" medium, and Kindle is the second biggest chunk.

Books by genre

For some reason, that graphic has lots of whitespace...

The most surprising thing to me here is the number of biographical books I consumed. Granted, 3 of them were John Lewis graphic novels, but there were 5 others as well. Still, the breakdown of the supercategories of Fiction and Nonfiction (including all related genres) as 23 to 17. This represents a swing toward unreality. Pray for me, y'all.

Other tidbits

A few of the other metrics are worth repeating, as well as a note on the quality of books this year.

  • 36 different authors
  • 13 female authors
  • 13 non-caucasian authors
  • 15 4-star books
  • 21 5-star books
That last one is really important. I read *SO MANY* great and important books this year; more than HALF of my list was 5-star-rated. You should definitely have a look if you're interested. If you'd like some recommendations...

  • A Promised Land, by Barack Obama. Note that this is the FIRST volume, documenting his political career more than anything, and ending with events during his first term in office. He's a really good writer (and narrator, but play it on a higher speed), and his perspectives were fascinating. A must read.
  • March, by John Lewis. The man was (and will remain) a legend. The fact that he COSPLAYED HIMSELF at one point is going to be part of that legend forever. Do yourself a favor and get these. Given how the history curriculum was specified in Texas in the 1980's, you won't be surprised that the vast bulk of the story there was eye-opening for me.
  • How the South Won the Civil War, by Heather Cox Richardson. I was introduced to Heather Cox Richardson this year via the Internet, and have been reading her daily distillations and observations ever since. The book presents a pretty clear explanation of how we got to where we are today. Given how much of it was, once again, unknown or unclear to me, it was absolutely worth the time.
  • The Famished Road, by Ben Okri. I can't remember if it was Nnedi Okorafor or N. K. Jemisin (or both) that sited Ben Okri as inspiration, but based on this book, I can see why. I don't want to spoil anything about it, aside from saying it's fantasy unlike anything I've read before.
  • How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi. It was long past time that I began educating myself about systemic racism. I was surprised to realize that my pacifism about it is actually part of the problem. For old white dudes like me, this book can be hard to read. That's what makes it even MORE necessary and impactful.
Gosh, I feel like I should just list all of them here. I'm not going to though; click the "have a look" link above and add stuff to your own list.

Alright, it feels like I should stop at this point. I've got some books to read, after all... I hope everyone has a fantastic year reading (and otherwise). Toodles!