My Reading Year in Review: 2006

[Warning: Whoever isn’t freakishly interested in my reading database and habits can go on to the next article.)

Another year over, another batch of book that briefly passed through my mind. What stuck and what was immediately forgotten after closing the final page? Let’s have a look at the year’s highlights.

The one crucial number: I read and recorded 220 books in 2006, which is roughly my annual average for the twenty-first century and twenty books above my 2005 total. There were no significant lifestyle changes in 2006, although I didn’t spend four weeks of the year functionally blind like I did after my 2005 laser eye surgery. I’m still reading a bit too fast to my own liking (retention suffers a bit when I hit a book I don’t like), but the progress has been significant on the "stack of books to read" front: I managed to whittle down the stack total by about 60 books in 2006 (despite buying more new books than ever), and this year may see a tipping point of sort as my paperback stash runs out as mass-transit reading material. In page numbers, 2006 totalled 76,245 pages, or an average of roughly 347 pages per book.

I’m not particularly proud of the fact that 38% of everything I read is Science Fiction (an increase over last year’s 31%): I like the stuff, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself in a particular genre at the exclusion of everything else. Nonfiction and Thrillers both followed in second place with 13% of the total. Taken together, "Imaginative genre fiction" (SF+Fantasy+Horror) made up an unhealthy 52% of everything I read. "Realistic genre fiction" (Mysteries and Thrillers) made up 26% of the total, with assorted non-fiction (including Humour and Biographies) taking up the rest. The flip-side of reading so much SF is that I end the year with a pretty good idea of what was published in 2006 and what should be on the various "Year’s Best" lists: I read no less than 31 "2006 books" in 2006.

This seems like an ideal segue into the financial burden of being an avid reader. Surprisingly enough, 2006’s hefty price tag (C$1,765) is slightly lower than last year’s total and spreads out to a smoother C$8.02 per book. It’s still nearly half of the total price tags on those 220 books (C$3,354), which serves to show that even some used-book shopping can do wonders on averages. (I bought 94% of the books I read in 2006.) Given the number of new books still stocking up my to-be-read stack, I don’t expect 2007 numbers to be so encouraging. And yet, Ottawa’s Perfect Books can look forward to yet more of my patronage over the next year: personal attention, excellent selection and their willingness to special-order moderately obscure material for me in 2006 keeps them at the top of my bookstores list.

Format-wise, this year looked like most of my non-blinded years so far: 65% mass-market paperbacks, 18% trade paperbacks and 16% hardcovers with the 1% rest going to e-books.

If I take a quick look in the database for my favourite books of 2006, here’s a very idiosyncratic Top-20 list:

  • Blindsight, Peter Watts (2006)
  • Glasshouse, Charles Stross (2006)
  • Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner (2005)
  • The Jennifer Morgue, Charles Stross (2006)
  • Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge (2006)
  • The Singularity Is Near, Ray Kurzweil (2005)
  • World War Z, Max Brooks (2006)
  • Polder, Ed. Farah Mendelson (2006)
  • Making Comics, Scott McCloud (2006)
  • Make Your Own Damn Movie!, Lloyd Kaufman, Adam Jahnke & Trent Haaga (2003)
  • Counting Heads, David Marusek (2005)
  • The Ghost Brigades, John Scalzi (2006)
  • Rebel Without a Crew, Robert Rodriguez (1995)
  • The Gold Coast, Nelson DeMille (1990)
  • The Road to Science Fiction #3: From Heinlein to Here, Ed. James Gunn (1979)
  • Sun of Suns, Karl Schroeder (2006)
  • The SEX Column… and other Misprints, David Langford (2005)
  • The Fourth Bear, Jasper Fforde (2006)
  • Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon (2002)
  • James Tiptree Jr., Julie Phillips (2006)
  • Other fun stats: 21 books had more than 500 pages, 28 books cost me more than C$20 (Priciest? Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near at C$42.) 18 of the books were in French. My favourite Publisher is apparently Tor with 25 books, more than double that of closest competitors Ace, Warner or Berkley. I reviewed 97 of those 220 novels.