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31st December
2010
written by Steph

Now with more charts and graphs! Yeah! :D

I have been eagerly awaiting writing up this post because I love making charts and graphs and looking at stats. I definitely put the nerd in “Book Nerd”! I was going to start writing this up while we were in Minnesota, I decided I would wait until the very last day of the year so that this post would be as official as it gets. And I’m glad I did because we managed to sneak one more book onto the list, as I read the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, aloud on the way home in the car (verdict: Unsatisfying and infuriating, especially as there were glimmers of the possibility for it to be rather good. So, pretty much on par with the rest of the series, though perhaps slightly less annoying than the other two). So my procrastination paid off, and clearly the lesson here is this is why one should not write up year-end recaps before the year is out!

Anyway, enough with the waffling… let’s get to the numbers and pictures!

The Big Picture

Another point added to the longitudinal reading study... Just be glad I didn't include error bars!

In 2010, I read a grand total of 89 books. This figure is somewhat ironic, as I had claimed I would try to read fewer books than I did last year, but in fact managed to read 22% more books than I did in 2009. So consider that readolution a fail! On the plus side, as we can see from my figure tracking reading amount and average rating over the years, 2010 was my best year of reading so far if we consider how much I enjoyed the books I did read, as I gave a mean rating of 3.75 (out of 5) to the books I read. Obviously I’m pleased to see that I didn’t just read more this year, but I read better books (in that I enjoyed them more). So consider that part of the readolution a win!

I think what’s obvious is that I continue to make reading a priority, and I’m sure that blogging has helped fuel that fire as well. Ever since I started tracking my reading, there has been a steady increase in the number of books I read, and I’m happy to see that this year I did focus on seeking out books that were a good fit for me rather than simply looking for short reads or easy reads that would have me reading a lot but not necessarily loving what I was reading. I think another reason why my average rating was a bit higher this year is because I didn’t keep track of or rate abandoned books, but simply pretended they didn’t happen. I don’t think I actually abandoned tons of books in 2010, but I was more judicious about putting down books that just weren’t working for me. That’s definitely something I need to remember to do in 2011.

The Nitty Gritty

The year broken down month-by-month

If we break down my reading over the months, I read on average 7.4 books per month (as represented by the red-dashed line on the chart to the left). Of course, my reading did bounce about, and certainly trailed off as the holidays approached and 2010 drew to a close. My best reading months were April and August (I have no idea why), with 11 books read in total, while November was my worst month with only 3 books read (I think I was in a pretty bad reading slump by that point).

The battle of the sexes: in pie chart format!

Despite the bruhaha stirred up by Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult, I actually tended to favor female authors this year as compared to male authors. The imbalance between the sexes wasn’t huge, but I read 47 books by female authors, and only 42 books by male authors. In the past I think I’ve tended to read slightly more male authors, but not so this year. As compared to last year (44% vs 56%, F vs M), my reading was slightly more gender-balanced this year (53% vs 47%, F vs M), which is just fine by me.

America and the UK's domination continues relatively uncontested...


One aspect through which I did want to try to diversify my reading was by reading more international authors, that is authors not based in the UK or the U.S. This year I visited 16 unique countries in total via books, which is almost double what I did last year, so I’m happy to see that improvement. As you can see from the overall breakdown of my reading habits, I still do read a disproportionate amount of U.S. and U.K. fiction, but it is nice to see that the slice of the pie awarded to “other” countries is slowly increasing.

Countries visited via books in 2010
Make yours @ BigHugeLabs.com
Make yours @ BigHugeLabs.com

The Winners

I read a lot of wonderful books this year, but per usual, only a few earned that coveted perfect score. Of the six books I gave a whopping 5 (stars? thumbs?), I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite of the bunch. The books that most impressed me this year were: The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, The History of the World in 10.5 Chapters by Julian Barnes (which I never reviewed because it kind of defied by ability to say anything coherent about it other than *droooool*), The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and The Posionwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

Other honorable mentions that were just shy of being one of my “best books eva!” but were still really damn good: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton, On Love by Alain de Botton, The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell, and Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson. There were other great books read, to be sure, but for the sake of avoiding from just typing out my list of books read this year, I had to be selective.

This year, I discovered some new authors, but probably my favorite discovery of the year was Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series (of which I devoured the first three books). I was also happy to happen upon the following authors as well: Zöe Heller, Penelope Fitzgerald, Iris Murdoch, Angela Carter, Haruki Murakami, Pat Barker, Anne Brönte, Penelope Lively, Scarlett Thomas, and Steve Martin. Definitely want to read more of all these very talented writers in the future.

The Losers

Alas, no year would be complete without pointing out a few of my least favorite reads of the year. By far the worst book I read this year was Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James, which is possibly one of the worst books I have ever read in every possible non-schadenfreude way and thankfully did not become a smash hit in North America. Other books I really did not like were The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, and the much-lauded-by-all-but-me Room by Emma Donghue.  I rated all of these books <= 2.5 and I lament the time wasted on them.

2011 Readolutions

Looking at the readolutions that I created for myself last year, I did well with some (like reading better books and reading more globally), but not so much with others (spend more time on re-reads, rediscover the Classics). The one that I am uncertain about my success with though doubt it was very good is “R my TBRs”, which is to say, read the books I have already acquired. That is the ONLY readolution I am going to hold myself to this year, and I know a lot of people are taking on the TBR Dare in the New Year, but I fear a dare is not enough for me. I probably have about 200 unread books in the apartment and with a big move slated for partway through 2011 (more on this at a later date), I really want to cull the books we’ll need to pack and take with us. So, no more book acquisitions (except for BookPage-related obligations), and just a steady diet of what I’ve already got on hand. It’s going to be hard, but I’m sure I’ll be grateful for it when it comes time to put things in boxes.

So there you have it! One year of reading, greatly condensed. All in all, I’m very happy with how 2010 proceeded and I can only hope 2011 is equally rewarding. If you’d like to browse the complete list of what I read in 2010, you can see those posts here (until I figure out how to make a directory that lists reviews by date… someone help me out!).

29 Comments

  1. JoV
    12/31/2010

    You read 89 books??!! So did I! 89, no more, no less.
    Here’s the proof, and so glad to find someone who appreciate charts as much as I do. :)

    http://bibliojunkie.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/reading-and-purchase-analysis-2010/

  2. 12/31/2010

    Those are some nice charts.

  3. 12/31/2010

    Great charts! And I’m so excited that Mary Russell was one of your highlights for the year. As you know, I love that series and am astonished at how well it has held up over 10 books.

  4. 12/31/2010

    I like the charts but I like the books also as I get to find new books recommended by bloggers. I also see that Sri Lanka has not been visited. I should try to rectify that by trying to get you interested in some books involving Sri Lanka.
    All the best for the New Year.

  5. 12/31/2010

    I’m glad I was not the only one trying to decrease my reading. I failed miserably at that, too…by about the same rate, too! Crazy.

    You’re not the only one who didn’t like Room. I’ve actually seen quite a few negative reviews, so I’m a bit wary of it…

    Here’s to a great new year!

  6. 12/31/2010

    Good luck on the TBR thing – I never can do it because I read other blogs and get these ideas and the next thing you know, I’m off reading something new that someone else loved!

    Happy New Year to you and Tony!!!

  7. 01/01/2011

    November was my worst month too, with only 3 books read as well. What’s with? :D Reading your stats got me checking my own. I read 55 books by men as opposed to 37 by women. This is always the case with me, though unconsciously. I tend to be more interested in books by male authors. Same with music, I’ve way more favourite guy musicians than women, while my sister is exactly the opposite. Fascinating.

    Mm.. I’m also resolving to read the TBR before adding, but of course that is impossible! Good luck to us!

  8. 01/01/2011

    Why is it that information presented to me in graphical format is INSTANTLY more fascinating to me than anything presented just in numbers or letters? I don’t know, but I think it’s a flaw in my character.

    Looks like you had a wonderful year and if you read more than expected, at least you had fun doing it. I hadn’t even heard of Julian Barnes’ 10.5 Chapters book, but now I am intrigued. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  9. 01/01/2011

    Were you a secret math major?

  10. 01/01/2011

    @ JoV: I checked out your charts – they were so awesome! Really loved all the detail and different ways you analyzed your reading! Clearly 89 books is the sweet spot!
     
    @ charley: Thanks! As much as I hate to shill, the new Microsoft Office is pretty fab for making charts and figures!
     
    @ Teresa: Without a doubt, Mary Russell was one of my favorite reads of the year… I am trying to pace myself, but was super excited to hear that a new installment is due out this year! I think I will try to only read three books from the series this year, but we will see…
     
    @ Mystica: I have not read any Sri Lankan authors so please do recommend some to me!
     
    @ Amanda: I do think I will read fewer books this year because I’ll have lots of other obligations (like finishing my dissertation!), but we’ll see how much that cuts into my reading. If I can read one book a week, I’ll be happy!
     
    @ rhapsody: Oh, I’ve never been successful with the TBR thing because there are so many bookish temptations but I’m really going to do my best because I don’t want to pack up tons of books I haven’t read come May/June!
     
    @ claire: In the past I’ve always been slightly biased towards male authors so this was a surprise shift for me! I’m not disappointed though, since many of my favorite books were by female authors this year, so clearly I was doing something right!
     
    @ Aarti: If only I could translate these awesome charts and graphs to my real-life work! They definitely help break down boring things like numbers into a quick and painless form! ;)
     
    @ softdrink: If I was, it was REALLY secret since I didn’t know it! I had to take a buttload of stats classes via my Psychology major so that’s probably why I can’t let it all go!

  11. 01/01/2011

    Awesome charts! :D I’ve been playing with putting my reading into graphs as well; I’m new to it but it’s so fun.

    Happy 2011!

  12. 01/02/2011

    Thanks for sharing your year in review with us. It is always interesting to reflect on our reading year and set goals for the new year. Wishing you all the best in 2011 and look forward to continue reading your blog.

  13. I love graphs too!

    I didn’t realise that you loved 10.5 chapters so much. I own a copy and have enjoyed Barnes in the past so will try to read it at some point in 2011.

    I hope to read The Hand that First Held Mine soon and hope I love it as much as you did.

    I hope you have a wonderful 2011! Thanks for writing such a wonderful blog :-)

  14. 01/02/2011

    It sounds like you had a great year! I enjoyed looking at your charts and reading about your favorites. Your list of favorites is particularly good — I love many of the books on it, including the Barnes and the Ishiguro. I should read the Rushdie at some point.

  15. 01/02/2011

    Yay Laurie King! Favorites for me as I used to tell myself as a child that if I ever got married it would be someone like Sherlock Holmes. So who puts the nerd in book nerd now? :) Also excited to read The Rehearsal but somehow missed your post so will go back and look for it. Completely get your views on Room. And looking forward to a Fitzgerald re-read this year. Finally, you are so right about that books and moving thing! Last time we moved six years ago, the entire first truck was books. Don’t tell anyone. Our movers hated us!

  16. 01/02/2011

    I get so nerdily excited by all these charts and graphs, and just loved this post! It sounds like you had a pretty good year as far as reading goes, and that you managed to be pleased with most of your choices, which is excellent! A lot of the books that made it on your favorites list have gone on my wish list, and I am really excited about some of them. I am also pretty curious about what you will be reading in the upcoming year. I have to say that you have one of the most refined tastes in literature that I have come across so far, and I always look forward to your thoughts. I hope you have an amazing New Year and that 2011 proves to be your best reading year yet!

  17. Lu
    01/03/2011

    readolutions! That is fabulous. Happy 2011, Steph and Tony! Loved reading all your stats.

  18. 01/03/2011

    Your charts are so much fun. How awesome that you had such an enjoyable reading year. I am sorry to see that you were not a fan of Room though!

  19. 01/03/2011

    Loved the detailed analysis. I can just imagine you in the Board Meeting presenting the PowerPoint :) I’m curious: what did you read set in Portugal this year?

  20. 01/03/2011

    @ Bina: Yes, it’s really fun to see your reading come to life with graphs! I never do any mid-year analyses so it’s always a surprise to see how things turn out at the end of year.
     
    @ Kathleen: I love looking back over a year and examining what worked for me and what didn’t in an attempt to make the next year even more rewarding. I’m finding more and more that concrete goals aren’t so important but figuring out how best to enrich myself through the books I read is definitely key!
     
    @ Jackie: I did love 10 1/2 Chapters SO MUCH… but it was one of those books that defied description and discussion, at least on a first read-through. I immediately made Tony read it so we could talk about it… I think I may read it again this year and hopefully will be able to talk about it on the blog!
     
    @ Dorothy: The Satanic Verses wasn’t my first Rushdie but I did think it was spectacular. Very challenging but not nearly so bad as one might think and it definitely pays dividends. I highly recommend it!
     
    @ Frances: I didn’t read Sherlock Holmes much as a child so I can’t top your childhood crush on the man… you win this round, Frances!
    Also, you will love The Rehearsal, so please do read it!
    I think I’m going to set up a “try pile” filled with books that I have had for a long time and work my way through that. If anything no longer appeals, I’m going to sell it or give it away! No point carting around books that no longer appeal… especially if I’m the one packing them! ;)
     
    @ zibilee: You aren’t the only one excited by all the carts and graphs! ;) And thanks for the sweet compliments about the blog. Glad you are continuing to enjoy what we do here, and I hope 2011 is great to you too!
     
    @ Lu: Who knows where I came up with the term “readolutions”, but I think it’s the perfect word for us bookish sorts!
     
    @ Stephanie: I am finding more and more that books that have a lot of popular appeal, such as Room, tend to leave me cold (the same thing happened with Stieg Larsson). Ah well, that’s what blogging is all about: dissenting opinions and diversity! ;)
     
    @ Alex: My Portugal book of the year was Blindness by the late great Jose Saramago! I don’t know for sure that it was set in Portugal, but I track author nationality and Saramago fits the bill!

  21. 01/04/2011

    I love all your favourites too – except for Kingsolver who I clearly have to read. Good luck with the no acquisitions resolution, and a belated Happy New Year!

  22. 01/04/2011

    Two things:

    - I am truly impressed by the graphs! I think I can safely say I’ve never seen graphs in a book blog post before, I guess us bookish types don’t usually work well with numbers – or at least this one doesn’t, ha.

    - yours is the first negative comment I’ve seen on Room so it’s nice to see a lone voice in the wilderness. I’m always a bit leery of books that have universal acclaim (Time Traveler’s Wife and Water for Elephants are two personal disappointments that come to mind)

    Happy New Year!

  23. 01/04/2011

    Several things to say:
    1. I’m hiring you to make my stats graphics next year;
    2. I’m borrowing your term “readolution” (ha!)
    3. The Remains of the Day, The Poisonwood Bible, Northanger Abbey, and Emotionally Weird (thanks to you!) are all on my TBR list, so I’m glad you loved them!
    4. Of your “Losers” list, only Room is on my own TBR. I already have a copy, so I’ll probably read it eventually.
    5. I fully support your plan to read from your own shelves! I’m in a similar situation, except that I just made a big move with FAR too many unread books. Before we move again I WILL get that pile down!!

  24. 01/05/2011

    I love how all the bloggers geek out on the stats in their year-end posts:) The Poisonwood Bible was one of my favourite books of 2010. And I’m currently obsessed with the Sookie Stackhouse books which ended up in your losers list. Funny, isn’t it?

  25. 01/05/2011

    @ Nymeth: From what I’ve heard, Posionwood Bible is definitely Kingsolvers best, so make sure that’s the one you pick up! I make no claims about anything else she’s written.
     
    @ Lesley: I wound up selling my copy of Water for Elephants before I even really read it because it no longer appealed, and I REALLY didn’t like the Time Traveler’s Wife, so I think given our shared views on those titles, it might be wise for you to avoid Room!
     
    @ Erin: Oh, if only I could make my living making pretty graphs! ;) And readolutions is a great term, so please help spread the word! Also, I am so excited for you to tackle so many of my winners of the year! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on them!
     
    @ sakura: I think part of why I hated the Sookie book I “read”, was because I actually listened to it on audiobook. Having someone read those sex scenes to me was really a dealbreaker! Also, it was so similar to the first season of the show True Blood (which I actually think was better!), that there wasn’t much suspense for me.

  26. Eva
    01/06/2011

    Eek re: your thoughts on Hunger Games! It didn’t sound like my style series, but I bought the first one for my sister for Christmas because it seemed up her alley. I hope she enjoys it.

    Your graphs crack me up! Obviously April and August were your best months because they both start with A. ;) The only one of your ‘perfect scores’ that I haven’t read is The History of the World in 10.5 Chapters; I’ll have to give it a go since I loved the Montomgery, Ishiguro, and Rushdie you mention (we’ll agree to disagree on the Kingsolver).

    And I totally squealed at you mentioning the Mary Russell series! They’re just he best, aren’t they?!

    I didn’t like Shadow of the Wind very much either, although I read it pre-blogging days. And good luck reading just the books you own; the very idea makes me shudder. But I suppose if you have a move to prepare for it’s justified!

  27. Oops, I thought I had already commented on this. Great post, Steph! I love how you have presented your stats and coined the term “readolution” (hee).
    I am another blogger also wanting to read more from her own shelves this year and experience those books I have been *really* wanting to for years; I’d also like to reread more (which I began to do more during the great reading slump of 2010).

    Sounds like an exciting year for you – I can’t wait to hear about the big move! New hair, new glasses, new home and no new books ;)

  28. 01/07/2011

    Wonderful post, Steph! I loved the charts and the graphs :) Which book of Scarlett Thomas did you read?

    Wish you all the very best with your reading this year!

  29. 01/07/2011

    @ Eva: Just to be clear, I am essentially the only person on the planet (well, me and Tony) who doesn’t really care for these books. So chances are you sister will love them! There were just a bunch of things about the construction and the characters that bugged me to no end!
    Also, I may cave at some point and borrow some library books, but I really do want to try to push through the books I own so I can weed out “undesirables”! I am going to try to stay strong for as long as I can!
     
    @ Claire: 2011 promises to be an interesting year! I am definitely making books that have been sitting on my shelves the longest a priority… out with the old and in the with the new, I say!
     
    @ Vishy: I read Thomas’s latest novel, Our Tragic Universe, and I really enjoyed it! I borrowed The End of Mr. Y from a friend, and I’m really looking forward to reading it too!

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