Now with more charts and graphs! Yeah!
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
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
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).
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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!).