Sunday, January 4, 2015

Three Years of Reading Habits

A few months ago, I was reflecting on my reading habits and decided it would be fun if I looked at the past three years and compiled some statistics about the kinds of things I read, make a few graphs, you know, typical nerdy stuff. I had a few predictions going into it, and wanted to see if I was right. My main predictions:

1. I read about the same amount of male as female authors.
2. I read about the same amount of fiction as non-fiction.
3. I read more "newer" books with each year.
4. I read woefully few authors of color.

Author Gender:

To my knowledge, every author I read identifies as either male or female, so I only have those two categories. (I realized while doing this project that my reading is more homogenous than I thought.)

In 2012, as you can see, my reading was overwhelmingly male. Looking at the actual books I read, this is at least partly because I read at least three series which were written by men, which influenced that a lot.

Book Genres

I only divided my reading into fiction and non-fiction; there would be too many genres to keep track of otherwise and I didn't think it would provide any useful information.

Again, my prediction was wrong. I read a lot more fiction. I'm basically OK with that, though, and I don't see it as something I need to work to change, just something fun to know.

New Releases:

So, for the purposes of my stats, I define "new release" as having come out in the same calendar year that I read it. This isn't a perfect system, because if a book came out at the end of a calendar year and I read it at the beginning of the next, it wouldn't show up in the data. But, the alternative was actually looking at when I read each book relative to when it came out, and that just seemed like more work than I was willing to put into a blog post that like 30 people are going to read.

So, from this graph, it looks like my reading of new releases actually went down in 2014. However, I read more books in 2013. So, when you look at the new releases as a percentage of books read...
The number went up and then stayed pretty much the same. I anticipated this, because I've been following the book world a lot more closely recently, and becoming aware of new books that are coming out. The mean year of publication of books I read also went up, from 1987 in 2012, to 2007 in 2014. In 2012 I read several books published over a hundred years ago whereas the oldest book I read in 2014 was from 1969. I know there are a lot of older books that are probably worth reading, but newer stuff is what I'm more interested in lately, so while I might pay more attention to older books that go on sale or whatever, I'm not going to worry too much about this part of my reading.*

*I know a lot of older books are available free through various sources, but if I'm reading something more than 100 years old, I would really like to have a scholarly introduction and notes so that I actually understand the context. Plus free versions are not as likely to have proper formatting.


So, as I suspected, my reading is overwhelmingly white. In the first two years (2012 and 2013), I read one book per year by a person of color.** In 2014, the number was three. Ultimately, just dividing this up by color doesn't give a whole picture, since I did read books by people of different sexualities and religions, as well as some books in translation, but this is one area where it's pretty easy to see what is missing from my bookshelves. This is the one habit that I think really needs to change, so my resolution for 2015 is to read at least one book per month by a person of color.

**Since I was teaching during 2012, there are actually many books I read to the kids that were written by people of different backgrounds. However, for my statistics I chose only to include books that I read for my own entertainment.


Another thing I thought it would be interesting to count was how many of the books I read each year were part of a series. I didn't necessarily go by the Goodreads categorization (because Doctor Sleep is not "The Shining #2") but just by common sense.

So, hanging around at pretty close to half. As I said before, in 2012 I read lots of books from just a few series, whereas in the later years I read one or two books from many different series.

So, that's everything I found interesting. You can see all my data by clicking here, but it's kinda messy and idiosyncratic. If you're just interested in seeing what I read, I would suggest checking out my Goodreads page. And let me know if there are any other stats you'd like to see me keep track of!

After this week's regularly scheduled Literary Lundi, I'll be posting my review of The Art of Asking and my list of the best books I read this year!

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