Tuesday, 6 January 2015

2014: My Bookish Year

*Switches on lights, opens curtains, pulls dustsheets off furniture*

Hello there! You may remember me from such blogs as 'I Hate That Guy!', 'My Library' and 'Fifty Shades of Not Interested.' I used to blog about these subjects on what started as a very regular basis, which slowly slipped into semi-regular, before dropping into half-hearted efforts every now and then. Eventually, last March, I gave up a little bit and decided to put myself on a sabbatical from blogging. The reason? It was starting to suck the fun out of reading for me: every book I read, I was thinking things like 'How would I summarise this without giving away that major twist?' or 'Where would this character fit in a new 'I hate that guy' list?'. It was like I'd put myself back in school, where you are given set texts and forced to re-read and analyse every passage over and over again (ironically, I started blogging because I wanted to think more carefully about the books I was reading, but evidently I pushed myself too far). So I decided to stop: stop reading books with half a mind to write about them, stop putting pressure on myself to blog regularly, just get back into READING.

The only concession I made to a possible return to blogging was to keep a New Year's Resolution made in December 2013: to track every book I've read in the past year. Happily enough, I've actually managed it - every book I started I've logged, along with who wrote it, if I finished it or not and whether it was a re-read or a new book. I'll happily admit it got a bit out of hand: along with the basic info, I've also been keeping track of page counts, female/male author ratios, what were ebooks and what were in print, genres, number of days it took me to read... and I've been plotting graphs as well. I DON'T EVEN CARE IF IT'S NERDY, I LIKE IT. And best of all, it's proven for some fascinating insight into my reading habits, which - lucky you - I'm now going to share. Hold on to your bookmarks, it's about to get wild.

Q: How many books did I read? (That sounds a bit like a maths test question).
A: Well, the short answer is, 155. Slightly longer answer: I started 164 books, am still reading 1 (The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood) and didn't finish 8. At some point I'll be telling you which ones I didn't finish, and why, but for now let's just keep it focused on what I did finish. I've got to admit, I'm a little startled by this number - not because it's high (I know it is), but because I thought it would be higher - I honestly thought I'd read more than that and maybe I'm being silly, but there you go. I won't be aiming to hit a higher number in 2015 though - quality will always be more important than quantity, and I have to say, I have read some excellent novels this year (also, some stinkers - more on that later.)

 Q: How many did I average per month?
A: Based on the books that I actually finished - so not including those rejected ones, or the one I'm still reading - I averaged 12.8 books per month. March, April and September were months in which the most books were consumed (16 apiece), whilst, May and October barely squeezed by with 7 and 8 respectively. I was once asked how many books I thought I read in a month and I guesstimated 12, so actually quite pleased (and yes, alright, a big smug) to find I wasn't far off!

Q: What was the print vs ebook ratio?
A: This one wasn't much of a surprise - of all the books I started, including those that were never completed, 63.4% of those were eBooks. This isn't surprising because my Kindle is now my primary reading source (and what?), as I use it on holidays, commutes, trips, etc. In short, print books - that remaining 36.6% - were books read solely in the home, which all things considering, is pretty damn good.

Q: Male authors vs Female authors?
A: Again, based on those 164 I started, regardless of finished or not, a vast majority were written by female authors - 64.6%. I don't know what to think of that, in all honesty - I've heard reports that more published books have been written by men than women, but then I've also heard that you're more likely to read a book written by a member of the sex you identify with most, so who knows? I can, however, tell you that I read a lot of great books that I thought were written by men, but actually were written by women*, which either goes to show that I'm sexist in my head, or that it means bugger all what sex you are - if you write good, you write good (I'd like to go with the latter, please). Incidentally, 33.5% were written by men, and 1.8% were collaborations/collections etc.

*Examples of books read this year that I thought were written by blokes, but were in fact by ladies:The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison; Wonder by R.J Palacio; The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings. 

Q: New Reads vs Re-Reads?
A: Now this is one that DID surprise me: apparently, I read more new books in 2014 than ones I'd read at least once before - 58.5% vs. 41.5%. I'm usually such a champion of re-reading books - I honestly can't understand how, if you enjoy a book, you can only read it once - that when I first realised I was weighing in favour of new books, I was genuinely shocked. But then again, I'm also quite pleased: as much as I enjoy my old favourites, it's still great to think of all those new favourites I've discovered in the past year.

Q: Any books read more than once in 2014?
A: Not many actually - another little shock, if I'm honest, as I would've expected there would be more! Even more surprising, most of these were new reads at some point in the year, but joined re-read ranks as well - if I'd been a gambling woman, I'd have put money on there being more old favourites in the list, but there's actually only one (in bold):
  • The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh - read in March and June
  •  The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton - read in March and November
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - read in April and September
  • Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch - read in April and September
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby - read in July and November

Q: Book that took the longest to finish?
A: I, Claudius by Robert Graves, which took me a whopping 39 days to finish - I can't really explain this one, because it ranks among the old favourites, but I just kept putting it down in favour of other books. I eventually finished, but it was a harder slog than I've ever experienced with what is normally a reliable old read.

Q: How about the book that took the least time to finish?
A: This is a joint honour held by three books, all of which I managed to finish on the same day I started, meaning it basically took 0 days to read each. All are only about 220 pages long, so not lengthy, but each were captivating and impossible to put down:
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Q: Longest book, page count-wise?
A: This dubious honour goes, unsurprisingly, to a George R. R. Martin book - A Storm of Swords, the third in his epic saga, A Song of Ice and Fire. Admittedly, here I'm counting both the volumes that make up the full book, because A) I read them as one volume in ebook format (yes I own them in print but quite frankly they're too bloody big) and B) because George R. R. Martin himself intended this to be one book, it was just too big to print as such. If that's what George R. R. Martin thinks, it's good enough for me.

Q: How about the shortest?
A: All My Friends Are Superheroes by Mark Kaufman, at a teeny-tiny 105 pages. Still took me over 24 hours to read it, though.

Q: Best book of 2014?
A: I couldn't pick one, so I picked ten instead. Have a ganders...

Q: Worst book of 2014?
A: There wasn't one in particular I would consider the worst, but there were eight I was not keen on, and they can be found over here.

So these are the basic stats I've compiled over 12 months worth of reading - any burning questions on these reading habits of mine, let me know - I'm pretty sure I'll have a stat for that.

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