Monday, December 31, 2012

Books Like Whoa: A Bookish Year in Review

This was the first year that I made a concerted effort to keep track of what I read. In the past, I would have some vague idea of how much I had read or what types of books I was in the mode for at a given time, but no real way to quantify those feelings.

Enter Goodreads and Firefly's fantabulous spreadsheet. Why 2 sources? I really like the ease of Goodreads, especially in tracking the specific time frame of reading for each book, as well as the social aspect of the site with groups and friends. It's also great for tracking your overall reading goal for the year. But the depth of the stats that go into the Firefly spreadsheet can't be beat, especially with the year over year data.

I started using these tools in earnest at the back end of last year, but really made a focused effort to track my whole reading year for the first time in 2012. I had retrospectively completed 2011, so this is the first time I can make some kind of assessment of how my reading patterns have changed year over year. And there are graphs. People, my inner business nerd is squealing with delight. Give her a moment.

Okay, so there were two huge differences in my reading from last year to this year. Can you spot the first one?

2012 Source Graph

2012 was the year of the library for me. This was not intentional; however, when I fully embraced my library's eBook lending program, it was all but inevitable. Not having to worry about physically returning a book? Just clicking a button to get it and then give it back? Money. So easy and if you're not doing it, get thee to your library! Even if you don't have an eReader, you can use your computer to read most files. I also checked out physical books at a much higher rate when I was travelling every week, and have been checking out books for grad school at a high rate. Plus, I borrowed more books this year than I have in the past.

2012 Pile Graph*
This much higher volume of library loaning means that I didn't make much progress on my TBR this year, which was one of my goals. Only about 30% of the books I read this year were ones that I already owned. I think this is a product of me being more plugged into the book blogging and podcasting community - because so many of the books I want to read are newer, and I won't buy hardbacks generally, I used the library to read "it" books that everyone was talking about. I could really see this in my aging stats. In 2011, the average age of the books I read was ~20 years old (median: 7 years old, mode: 2 years old). In 2012, the average age of the books I read was ~10 years old (median: 6 years old, mode: 1 year old). The time pressure of the library also sped up my reading... last year, a book was on my TBR for ~310 days on average. In 2012, books were only on the TBR for an average of ~70 days.

2012 Ratings Graph
Because I was using the library books, I was more adventuresome in my reading. I tried books that I wouldn't have bought, because the risk was just a time one, not a financial one. Plus, I have fully embraced my newfound ability to abandon books if they aren't working for me. The upside is reading books that I wouldn't normally have read that I loved (see The Sisters Brothers, Moneyball, and In the Woods). The downside is that I read a more books that I was "meh" on or didn't like at all. That explains why I have fewer 6+ books and more 3/under books. My average rating last year was 4.74, with a median of 5. This year, my average rating was 4.24 and the median was 4.^^ That probably also ties into the fact that 93% of the authors I read this year were "new to me" authors. So, I read more and more adventurously, but I didn't like what I read as much as last year.

2012 Genre Graph

The second big change of my reading between 2011 and 2012 was that I read more non-fiction. I'm pretty sure this is because I was in grad school - there was a high volume of non-fiction that I was reading for class (and these totals don't reflect the 1000+ pages of course reader!). I'm also so sad to see that I didn't read ANY short story this year! How is that possible? I read less standard genres, but more memoir, YA, and unconventional genres.

2012 Special Category Graph

Finally, I was tracking a few special categories for my own reading habits. I read more books by men than women this year, which was a change from last year. I'm assuming that is because I was reading more non-fiction? Still, it's a pretty even split, which is evidently unusual, based on other blogs' stats. I read way fewer audiobooks this year, and way fewer books that pertain to the writing project that I'm working on. I read a lot more Christian books, but that makes sense, given my grad school focus.

In terms of reading challenges, I had successes and failures. I succeeded in meeting my number goal: I am at 69 books for the year, with 62 being my goal. That's 18 more than I read last year, which I think is also attributable to the time crunch factor of using the library so much. Plus, I have noticed that my reading speed has improved since starting grad school. I hope that continues! But in terms of my specific A to Z Challenge, etc., I didn't do so well. This again goes back to my zeal for the library - I designed those challenges to help me get through my TBR, but that just didn't happen the way I had hoped this year.

Whew! That was my 2012 in reading. Overall, I'm happy with some of my more adventurous moments in reading and further emboldened to keep my "drop it like it's hot" policy for books that ain't working for me.

How was your reading year in 2012?

*Read but Not Owned includes all formats; From TBR Pile is owned physical books; Audio is owned audio; and Ebook is owned Ebook

^^ See ratings scale


  1. The stats geek in me LOVES this analysis...seeing so many charts and graphs just makes me smile :) Yay to you for reading so many books in 2012!

    1. Once I have a few more years of data, you can do some meaningful trending analysis ;)