My reading year in review: 2010

Warning!  Every year, I poke at my reading database and do some data analysis. This essay is what comes out of it; it’s intensely dull to anyone else, and carries the stench of lit-nerd boasting. You don’t have to read it at all.

The crucial number is this: My database says that I’ve read about 336 books in 2010.

No, you shouldn’t be impressed by this number.  I count comic books and art books, and as we know those don’t really count, right?  85 of those books had less than 200 pages, and as we know those don’t really count either.  Not to mention the 55 books I rated low enough to suggest that I didn’t really read through all of them once it became clear from the first third that they were not going to be interesting anyway.  If you really want to talk about real books, I suppose that the number is closer to two hundred, or something close to that.  Nonetheless, the following stats will all divide by 336 for percentages.

Since my yearly average from the past few years was about 300 books, the difference can be explained through an increased number of comics (57 of them, 15 more than last year) and art books  (37, or 19 more).  I’m buying quite a bit more of those through Amazon, and I usually clear my schedule to read them.  Otherwise, there haven’t been major lifestyle changes affecting my reading time, so take in account my 90-minutes daily commute, frequent airplane trips and bedtime reading in account when considering how many books I can read per year.

Now, for the details:

There’s been a small shift in the kind of things I read.  Science-Fiction accounted for a bigger proportion of the total at 23% (up from 17% in 2009) Combining SF with Fantasy and horror bring us to 37% (up slightly from 32%) and all fiction combined gets us all the way to 53% (down from 56%), which doesn’t include Comics at 17% (up from 14%)  Once again, Non-Fiction rakes up 30% of my reading total (same as last year).  I like this balanced reaging regimen, but next year I’m going to try for less science-fiction, more non-fiction.

As far as physical book formats go, mass market paperbacks aren’t what they used to be: Barely 14% (down from 21% in 2009) of the books I read were in the smaller format.  The winner there were hardcovers at 43% (up sharply from 26%) followed by trade-sized paperbacks at 36% (down sharply from 48%) and the oversized folios at 7% (up from 5%, mostly due to art books).  I’m reading books electronically with my iPod, but I tend to only read books that I already own in physical format, which explains the lack of purely electronic books here.

Those 336 totalled 103,380 pages, with an average of 307 and a median of 288.The three longest books of the year were Edward Rutherfurd’s massive London (1152 pages), Stephen King’s Under the Dome (1074) and Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth (983).  The next three-biggest books, however, are the three components of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, each weighing between 800 and 950 pages.

I read 62 books “of the year” in 2010 (plus 16 earlier books reprinted in 2010), up from 43 in 2009.  (I’m buying newer books, and reading them more quickly as well).  Meaninglessly, the average copyright year of the books I read this year was 2004 (up three years over what I read in 2009) and the median was 2008 (up two years), confirming my shift toward more recent stuff.  But then again I had no major historical reading projects in 2010.

As usual, I bought the vast majority of those books: 94% (unchanged from last year), the rest being taken up by gifts and convention giveaways.

Ready for the shocking truth about how much a serious reading addiction can cost?  Brace yourselves: Those 336 books had a total cover price of $7,491.23 (Average: $24.72, Median: $24.95), all of which are quite a bit higher than last year mostly due to those art books.  What I ended up paying for those books, however, was a tiny bit more reasonable: $5,896.85 (average: $19.21, median $18.95), all of which were higher than last year.  That’s the cost of a serious book addiction.  If it’s any comfort, however, consider that the true cost is probably 10-20% lower: I don’t jot down the true discounted price of Amazon purchases, and since my art books mostly come from there, at least 30% off their suggested retail value, the “money paid” total is probably a bit high.

I had no big reading projects this year, so there are no big “author streaks” for 2010 beyond a few trilogies (Neal Stephenson, Steig Larsson, Peter F Hamilton), series (Lois McMaster Bujold, Charles Stross) and favourite authors whose bibliographies I’m polishing (Ben Mezrich, Darwyn Cooke, Stephen King).  I’m pretty glad to have completed my “Spectrum” art-book collection, though… even if it ended up costing me dearly.

Delving deeper in data-driven madness, I find that I have once again read more books by Tor (19) than by any other publisher, with honourable mentions to Del Rey (10), William Morrow and Dark Horse (9 each)   I could group everything by imprint, but that would be crazy even for me.

I wrote 97 book reviews in 2010.

But admit it: you just want the list of my favourite books of the year, don’t you?  Here are twenty of them, sorted by author:

  • Barnes, John: Directive 51 (2010)
  • Bowden, Mark: Black Hawk Down (1999)
  • Bujold, Lois McMaster: Memory (1996)
  • Chandrasekaran, Rajiv: Imperial Life in the Emerald City (2006)
  • Clarke, Stephen  : A Year in the Merde (2004)
  • Denton, Bradley: Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede (1991)
  • Fforde, Jasper: Shades Of Grey (2009)
  • Follett, Ken: The Pillars Of The Earth (1989)
  • Gladwell, Malcolm: The Tipping Point (2002)
  • Harris, Robert: The Ghost aka The Ghost Writer (2007)
  • Hartwell, David G.: Age Of Wonders (Second Edition) (1996)
  • Heilemann, John and Mark Halperin: Game Change (2010)
  • Hogan, Chuck:  Prince of Thieves aka The Town (2004)
  • Patterson, William H.: Robert A. Heinlein: Volume 1 (2010)
  • Potter, Andrew and Joseph Heath: The Rebel Sell (2004)
  • Rayner, Jay: The Man Who Ate the World (2008)
  • Schlosser, Eric: Fast Food Nation (2001)
  • Sheehan, Jason: Cooking Dirty (2009)
  • Stross, Charles: Wireless (2009)
  • Wendell, Sarah and Candy Tan: Beyond Heaving Bosoms (2009)

And now… here’s to 2011.

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