My Reading Year in Review: 2005

[Warning: I’m putting this up on the web primarily as a handy off-brain memory backup. Unless you’re me, already know me or have a keen interest in the habits of an avid reader, chances are that the following won’t be very interesting, or will strike you as a piece of obsessive trivia.]

For a year in which I spent nearly a month functionally blind, I suppose I should just be grateful that I managed to read 200 books this year. On one hand, it’s a sharp downturn from last year’s 300-books total. On the other hand, well, 2004 was an oddball record-setting year. 2005 is far from being my worst year in volume alone, and in quality, well let’s just say that I’ve been blessed with a good number of excellent books this year.

But what’s that about being blind, you ask? Simple: In early May 2005, I underwent laser surgery to correct my myopia. What followed was a week of functional blindness (literally: being unable to read) and five weeks of fairly heavy ghosting problems that made it impossible to read any type less than twelve points big. That, obviously, put a severe crimp in my reading regimen. (In May 2005, I "read" a total of eight books, including two audio books: That’s at least half my usual monthly total) Still, I managed to read 72,684 pages in 2005: an average of 363 pages per book, slightly better than 2004’s 330 pages per book average. (Given that I reviewed fully one hundred of those two hundred novels, I harrumph at the blogosphere’s "50 book challenge" participants and call them amateurs.)

While I remain a heavy Science Fiction reader (31% of all books read, a notable increase over last year’s 26%), this year also saw a surprisingly high proportion of Fantasy (13%), Non-Fiction (12%) and Thrillers (12.5%). Grouping similar genres together, the SF&F&H segments almost dominates with a frightening 49.5%, followed by the "dark genres" (Thrillers, Crime Fiction) at 26.5% and assorted non-fiction (including humour) at 21%, leaving a scant 3% for general fiction. I’m not terribly happy at the lack of diversification, but on the other hand, I was seldom as informed on "the state of of Science Fiction" than I was in 2005. No less than 29 books read this year were published in 2005, a higher proportion than any other year. The median year for all 200 books was 2002, another quiet record. As a result, I’m facing the Hugo Awards nomination ballot with some confidence.

This tendency to read more recent works of my own choosing had a significant impact on the total and average cost of my reading this year. In no small part thanks to my local independent bookstore (Perfect Books, Elgin Street, Ottawa; recommended), my total amount spent on books this year topped $1,785 (an average of 8.93$ per book: yikes!). It’s not as if I buy everything at full price, though: the total of those 200 books’ cover price was closer to $3,927. Now you know what a serious reading habit can cost. (Hey, it’s still better than nicotine addiction.)

One big eyesight-related difference this year is that just 37.5% of all books read this year were mass-market paperbacks, a major change from the usual 60-65% proportion. Trade paperbacks (33.5%) and Hardcovers (26%) replaced the pocket paperbacks. A smattering of other formats (including, for the first time, audio books) completed the picture.

So you want to know my top ten books of the year, don’t you? Reaching deep in my database and shaking the results a little, I end up with the following selection:

  • Accelerando, Charles Stross (2005)
  • Freefall, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens (2005)
  • The Republican War on Science, Chris Mooney (2005)
  • The Well of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde (2003)
  • Lost in a Good Book, Jasper Fforde (2002)
  • Tomorrow Happens, David Brin (2003)
  • The Golden Age Trilogy, John C. Wright (2003)
  • River of Gods, Ian McDonald (2004)
  • Old Man’s War, John Scalzi (2005)
  • Tooth and Claw, Jo Walton (2003)
  • And there you have it.