2020 Reading Review

I started writing about what I was reading in 2019. It started with a post where I talk about what I am reading. In the summer of that year, I started reading more, and my reading post turned into ongoing individual review posts. A few months later, I learned about Booktube which triggered an even larger jump what I read and my activity on my blog. My reading was flourishing, and I loved talking about it. This took a good deal of my time. I liked the idea of getting a Booktube channel, but I didn’t see how I could possibly have the time. In January, I was single again and had a lot more time, so I figured it was now or never.

I wasn’t sure if I could sustain the channel, but I decided to give it a shot. I think it was going well early in the year. Then the pandemic happened, and working from home really reshaped my life, paving the way for my channel to solidify itself. Now, reading is one of the many things I obsess over. Naturally, this obsession comes with an obsessive study of what I’m reading. I do enjoy this process, and Booktube has proven to be the perfect outlet for that passion. It also helps motivate me (and justify) the making of detailed statistics like this. It works out well because these reviews are also important to ensure I’m getting the most out of what I’m reading and that I am reading a good diverse set of books.

This last year I read about 212 books (I say about because I may be missing a comic or something) equating to about 72,500 pages. There is a lot to be understood by breaking this down by month. January was when I started my channel, and it was also when I was pushing myself to read as much as possible using the techniques I had ascertained from booktuber. While there is a dip in February (perhaps from classes or a reading slump), things increase as the pandemic starts. April is the month I really hit my max potential where I read a lot, but this was also when I started watching more TV. In fact, I watched Westworld and listened to several podcasts, so it is interesting how I was still able to reach such heights.

Number of Books Read per month

However, in May several things change. First, online classes began. Second, I made a goal to try to read less because I had obsessed so much over it that I let it stress me out. That goal doesn’t last as I start to creep back up in the summer, especially in August. Although, on the whole I do tend to read less. Even still, it was in October I began considering a new goal of limiting my TBR strictly to ~15 books or 1550 books. It seems to had made an impact. In December I read the least I had all year, yet I stayed home with two weeks off for the holiday’s.

Books by page length

There is less to learn from the range of book lengths, ratings, and publication dates of what I read. I see these more as goal oriented stats. My average book length is 342 pages plus or minus 150 pages (standard deviation) with a median of 329 pages. Standard deviation is a measure of the amount of variation; think of it as the boundary where most of the books are. The median just tells us there are plenty of shorter books despite a few longer ones making my average length a nearly 350 pages. The goal here is longer books. I have no other reason other than the satisfaction of finishing a long book.

Books by Rating

My average rating is too high at 4.08 stars with a median of 4.00. I feel like this is similar to course grades. You want the average to be in the middle. Like may be a 3, but I struggle to really give low ratings. This really doesn’t matter, but it feels akin to oversaturating the market with gold. It loses its value. What’s more, the purpose is to illustrate the range of quality I experience, and I fear I am limiting myself.

Books by Publication date

The average year published was 2005 with a median of 2017 and a standard deviation of ~30 years. The oldest was 1818 and the newest was this year (2020). I’d like my median to be more extreme especially since average doesn’t mean nearly as much as the median does here. I think it is easy to get distracted by flashy new things, and in doing so, I ignore a range of quality content that has more than flash by surviving the test of time. Perhaps that is a little extreme, but I think you get my point.

Pie chart splitting books read by genre, color coded into nonfiction (orange/yellow), general fiction (green), Horror/thriller (red /pink), and fantasy (purple) and science fiction (blue)

My favorite stat is the range of genres. Note, I choose one but most have multiple. A lot of scifi-fantasys overlap into the over genre. Classics are basically any older work. Historical can be fantasy. Usually, I will mark what I consider to be the dominate genre or a genre I am trying to get more of. I am very happy with this. It shows my love for scifi, fantasy, and horror as well as for history, politics and memoirs. I want to read more general fiction, but I think this year was a pretty good listing as is. I am blown away that nearly a third of what I read was nonfiction.

Now I want to look into the diversity of what I am reading with a focus on queer representation and authors of color.

Books by gender, with a special distinction for trans and non-binary authors

One of my biggest shortcomings has been my lack of non cis authors. At the very least I can read one a month, but I’d like to read more. To be clear, this isn’t just a quota. By allowing groups to go underrepresented, I am doing myself a disservice. Some of the best books I read this year were by non-binary (NB) authors. My goal in 2021 is to ensure at least 1 NB or trans author each month to ensure I continue to consider this when choosing what I want to read. Granted, part of this was a matter of looking for authors and buying books that will allow me to achieve this. 2020 was good for that, so I am very hopeful for a better year this year.

Books by ethnicity (note, Asian refers to east-asian)

Reading by a diverse range of authors by race has been a difficult thing to track and work towards. Race and ethnicity are not the same, and trying track this is not always straightforward. As with NB and trans authors, these people are not just quotas to be met, and I have to be aware of that while also trying to ensure I am not letting my bias drive what I choose to read. On the whole, ~1/3rd people of color (POC) is not a bad way to end the year. I don’t have a hard number that I am aiming for. Instead, my goal is to continue to improve. If I am at 1/3, I can push to a 1/2. While I read a large fraction of black authors, I ended up breaking what I read down to ensure other groups didn’t go underrepresented. I strive to ensure I seek out a range of voices, and this helps me think about that. That is especially true on a quarterly basis as I can look back and be aware of my on going tendencies. In this, I can be more cognizant and avoid just boiling this down to a monthly quota.

Books by queer representation (queer author or protagonist)

As a queer person, I am very disappointed with my queer representation in my books. As with everything, the goal is to improve; first I can strive for 1/3 and then a 1/2. Again, these are stories that I can both learn and connect to. My queer identity is an ongoing part of me that I am still learning about, and books are one of the many ways I learn to think about it while also empathizing with others.

POC authors of queer representation

In this year end review, I decided to consider a new data point. That is, I wanted to consider intersectionality within the queer books I am reading. It is a decent amount, but as with everything else, there is room for improvement. I should also add, I am still toying with how and what to consider for intersectionality. I would love recommendations for those who think there are other areas worth studying. I went with this analysis in part because I am partly limited by the data I have, but can gather some new data moving forward.

Where I am getting my books from

Lastly, I want to consider where I am getting my books from. To be clear, I listen to almost all the books I read, but I like to consider if it is a book I don’t own physically (which the goal is to own it first). If I don’t own it or it isn’t on my to be read (TBR) shelf, then why isn’t it? This is usually for book clubs and advanced reader copies as well as rereads. I try to keep book clubs of books I don’t own to a minimum. My level of rereading is more than 2 a month which I am perfectly happy with because there is so much to be had from rereading. I would like to read and review more ARCs, but that’s because I request so many. Naturally, I should request less. Lastly, I want to consider my TBR shelf.

My TBR shelf has grown significantly in the last couple years because as I read more I bought more. Technically, 3/4s of what I read is on my shelf, but a big portion of those are new books, so the question arises, am I reading my older (longer owned books). If I am, can and will I read my newer books? To answer this question, I began tracking how long a book is on my TBR shelf. That is, I track how long I’ve owned a physical copy of a book. Using this, I can see just how well I am addressing my older books.

A normalized view of how many books I read in 2020 (red) and is on my physical TBR (blue) by how long I owned them before reading them. The normalized values are just to make the two comparable.

This graph says a lot. First, I bought a lot of books in the last year and a half, and I have a lot of books preordered (less than zero). As a result, a lot of what I read are books I’ve owned for a short period. The goal is to read older books on my TBR, but if I own more newer books, naturally I will read more newer books. What this figure shows is that the books I read roughly reflect what I own. I may only read a few books that have been on my TBR shelf for 3-6 years, but the total number of books on my shelf that I have owned that long is also much lower.

In 2021 I have a book buying ban, or I have a ban on ordering new books to add to my TBR. I will still allow myself to buy books I review via ARC or that I have read but don’t own physically. I am still restricting how many books I will let myself read that are not on my shelf (outside of ARCs), so I think this should be fine. That said, I kind of gamed the system by preordering a lot of books in 2021.

All in all, 2020 was a great reading year, and I am looking forward to 2021.

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