Happy New Year to all those who use the Gregorian calendar! Happy random week to those who don’t!
I’ve been sitting on starting a blog for an embarrassing amount of time and I decided that it’s time to stop worrying about achieving perfection and making everything just exactly right and just DO IT ALREADY. This is not a New Year’s resolution (because I never follow through with those) and it’s not a promise to blog with any kind of regularity (because I have wicked anxiety and once it becomes an obligation the procrastinator takes over and I don’t want to do it anymore). Instead I’m just getting this one single post out there this one single time and we’ll see where the rest of the year takes me, if anywhere (she says as she side-eyes the title of this post). Also consider this paragraph me doing my small part to end the stigma about mental illness by being upfront about my struggles. But that’s like 1000 other blog posts, so back to the point.
For my first post on this new blog about my literary, academic, artistic, and pedagogical interests, I decided to look closely at my 2019 reading log and see what I can glean about my reading habits. This is the first time I’ve tracked my reading this closely and it’s been really interesting to look at all the data I’ve collected.
I’ve been setting a reading challenge on Goodreads for the last few years and this year I went with 40 books. I blew past it in June and ended the year having finished 89. This was due to my discovery that I can actually focus on audiobooks in the car (sometimes—there’s much backtracking when I realize I’ve zoned out) and the insane commute I picked up when I started my new job in May and my other new job in August. Yes, audiobooks count as reading and arguing otherwise is ableist nonsense I’ll rail against in another post. Maybe.
Thanks to Book Riot and their fantastic spreadsheet I now have all kinds of fancy charts for which I am super grateful. If you’re interested in tracking your reading you can get a copy of their 2020 spreadsheet here. They’ve added a few categories that weren’t on the 2019 version and you can hide any you’re not interested in tracking. I. LOVE. THIS. SPREADSHEET.
So here come the screen shots!
I have a really hard time not finishing books. I’ve been working on that and I did ok this year. There were a few titles I knew weren’t for me within the first few pages/minutes and I put those aside without adding them to the spreadsheet. If I got at least 1/3 of the way through something before abandoning it, it went on, and I think I got at least halfway through for all but one title.
I read more nonfiction than in previous years, which was a goal. I’m specifically trying to learn more about decolonizing my pedagogy and recognizing data gaps and underrepresented voices. In 2020 I’m also setting a goal to read more scholarly books within my academic interests (Early Modern drama, history of the book, and several other subjects). I have a ton of material sitting on my shelves so it’s just a matter of sitting down and reading it—no easy task when I’m spending multiple hours a day in the car and working multiple jobs but we’ll see how it goes.
I’m pretty pleased with this information. I didn’t set out with a specific goal in mind here. I just want to make sure my reading isn’t dominated by white dudes. For 2020 Read Harder has added “nonbinary” and “other” to their gender options and I wholeheartedly approve.
Lots of car time. That about covers it.
This feels pretty right to me, though there are tons of children’s books I’ve read that didn’t make it onto the spreadsheet (bedtime picture books and a few kids’ chapter books I read because I thought my eight-year-old might be into them). For the most part I’m pretty good at picking out books for my kiddos and it feels good to put my librarian skills to practice for my family. I do hope to increase my YA reading percentage next year. There are a couple of series I’m interested in checking out so that may well happen.
I’m very pleased with this. This absolutely does not mean that I didn’t also spend a significant chunk of money on books this year (massive Palgrave sale was my Christmas present to myself). I’m also aware that as a librarian who works all over one of the biggest library systems in the country I have incredibly convenient access to more books than most people. I rarely leave work without at least a new picture book for the kids. I am very grateful for this privilege.
This doesn’t surprise me but I’m hoping to read more new books in 2020. That may impact my stats for the previous chart since part of the down side to being part of a huge library system is huge waitlists. But ya can’t have everything and I’m grateful that I can buy books when I really, really don’t want to sit on the wait list for months or when I find a title that’s too weird for the purchasing department to approve. And, frankly, the purchase percentage is probably already hosed for next year because I read a fair number of titles in 2019 that I’ll be purchasing because they were super good. Take that, publishers who say libraries hurt their business!
This is the most interesting chart for me and I’ve been watching it with fascination all year. I did not expect that Sci-Fi/Fantasy would blow all the other categories out of the water. My reading is basically all on the fantasy side of that combination and a huge percentage is fairly realistic with magical elements. I’m a little intimidated by high fantasy and haven’t read much of it after crapping out on Fellowship of the Ring in both middle school and high school. There’s a significant amount of Terry Pratchett in there because I finally decided to give him another go after giving up halfway through The Colour of Magic some years ago. Otherwise I’m glad I at least hit so many categories this year and it’s due in part to a casual almost-attempt at this year’s Read Harder Challenge, which I abandoned after about 6 months because there were way too many other books I wanted to read instead of searching out some of the categories that didn’t appeal to me very much. I am grateful to the challenge for getting me to read my first cozy mystery this year. I’m now an avid cozy mystery reader and they’re especially great for commuting.
Not much surprising or particularly interesting here. I’m hoping that I’ll hit more nonfiction next year but novels will always be my first love.
I have work to do here. I did make conscious choices to check out some fiction by authors of color this year but not enough. Friday Black was a great read and I absolutely loved Dread Nation. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel and following Justina Ireland’s every move on Twitter. That’s probably creepy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
There was another chart for POC main characters and the same two charts are available for queer authors/artists and characters (renamed LGBTQIA for 2020). I have mixed feelings about them. I want to be careful about assumptions—not explicitly mentioning a character’s sexuality or ethnicity doesn’t mean they aren’t a particular sexuality or ethnicity, and it certainly doesn’t mean they are, either. I also found myself investigating an author’s sexuality to see if I could check them off my list and as soon as I realized that was what I was doing I was horrified. I’m fairly certain that wasn’t the intention of the creators of the challenge or the spreadsheet but finding myself doing that made me feel icky and I decided that if it’s mentioned or clear from the text I’ll mark it down and if it’s not I’m not going to go searching for proof of someone’s sexuality. [shudder]
This was just an interesting chart because my circumstances and time commitments fluctuated so much last year. I moved in with my partner in January and was severely underemployed until May. In August I picked up a THIRD job and got super busy but also spent a lot more time in the car listening to audiobooks.
So there it is: the most attention I’ve paid to my reading since undergrad and probably not too terribly interesting for anyone but myself. I don’t have any revelations or big life messages as a result of tracking and looking at this information. I do have some loose goals in mind for next year and some pride at having kicked my target number’s ass before the year was half over, so there’s that.
If you’re curious about specific titles you can check out everything I read last year on Goodreads. At least, I think it’s mostly all there? I enthusiastically approve of Book Riot’s fancy schmancy spreadsheet and encourage anyone who’s interested to make their own copy of the 2020 log. They’re not paying me anything and don’t know that I exist. I just really like Book Riot. And also data.