Updated on November 29, 2017
A Year of Reading: 2016
If you read my Book Awards last week then you will know that I read 68 books last year. But I have a lot more information about my reading than that…
Come with me, if you will, and indulge my love of stats and pie charts, as I explore in detail everything I read in 2016!
Last year I did not make a conscious effort to pick up an even split of male and female writers, and yet that is almost exactly what happened. I read 35 books by women and 33 books by men, giving me an almost perfect 51.5% to 48.5% gender split!
The scales tipped slightly in the favour of distinct women writers, though. By counting each different writer only once, I ended up with 29 women and 25 men. Still, not bad given that I wasn’t deliberately trying to be balanced.
Not too many surprises to be had here: my reading tastes tend to stick fairly close to home, with British authors making up more than a third of my reading. Another English-speaking powerhouse, the USA, comes in second, with a quarter of the books I read. The third biggest segment belongs to Russia (Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series had a strong hand in that), with honourable mentions going to France, Nigeria, Canada and Japan.
In-keeping with my reading promiscuity, new authors dominated my shelves in 2016. I read 43 new authors, compared to only 20 I’d read before.
Exactly half the books I read last year were novels (50%). Almost a third were graphic novels (32.4%), and then there’s a fairly significant jump down to short stories (10.3%). Non-fiction has a pretty small slice of the pie, and poetry just a tiny sliver (I only read one poetry collection but lots of individual poems, and I touched upon the problems of what ‘counts’ in this blog post).
As for genre, literary fiction tops the charts at 33.8% (I’m all about that ineffably artsy writing), while sci-fi comes in second at 17.6% (I might call it my guilty pleasure if I felt even remotely guilty about it). Biography made up the third biggest chunk (10.3%), and I can probably attribute that to the discovery of my passion for big ol’ autobiographical graphic novels.
My reading of hardbacks went way up last year, mainly because graphic novels and library books tend to come in hardback: I read 57.4% paperbacks and 39.7% hardbacks (the rest were audiobooks, and apparently there was not an ebook in sight).
As for where I got my books from, this is particularly interesting because in no previous year would my ‘Book source’ graph have looked like this:
The library absolutely dominates, followed in a trailing second by gifts. I only bought some books for myself, new, but that category includes books that I have bought for myself in previous years. Essentially, this is what happens when you’re an avid reader in her first year of freelance business with little to no disposable income. Thank god for libraries and loved ones.
Going mostly by the publication years given on Goodreads, my reading habits definitely tended towards the modern last year. I don’t understand how Google Sheets has decided on those x-axis categories, but suffice it to say that I read more books published after 2010 than in all the previous years put together.
The average length book I read in 2016 was 303 pages, and given that I read 20,606 pages in total, that works out at 56 pages per day. That might sound impressive, but don’t forget that graphic novels have way fewer words per page than regular novels (take out the graphic novels and poetry and the average drops to 43 pages per day). There were also two audiobooks in there, which I measured less in pages and more in distance-run-while-listening.
To look at it in a different way, it took me an average of 11 days to read one book, although that number is all kinds of skewed because of the extremely short graphic novel reads and the sometimes months long audiobook reads. Remove those and it takes me about 9 days to read a book cover to cover.
Most of the books I read were not award winners (76.1%). There were a few appearances by winners of the Man Booker, Bailey’s and Hugo prizes, but for the most part, award-winning acclaim does not seem to have a huge impact on what I pick up.
My Goodreads star ratings hold some interest, but not a whole lot because I tend to prefer the nuance of a review to the simplicity of a numbered system (especially one that does not allow for halves). Still, there was a goodly chunk of 5-star reads last year (27.7%), and an almost equal number of 3-star reads (26.2%). The bulk of my reading came out with 4 stars (40.6%); there were a couple of 2 stars, and no 1 stars (actually there were three of those, but I abandoned them before the end).
So, there we have it. It would seem that my average book in 2016 was a paperback literary fiction novel, written by a British woman I’d never read before, published after 2010, that I got from the library. And is there one book on my list that fits this bill? Actually, yes: Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss. I classified it as historical fiction in my spreadsheet, but it is most definitely literary too, and although it didn’t win any of my book awards, it deserves a mention for being the embodiment of everything I read in 2016.
Obviously I am going to gather all this data again for 2017, but if there’s anything else you think it would be interesting for me to record then do let me know! Happy reading :)
“I will be back to feather-beds and stuffed armchairs, to meat pies and suet puddings, soon enough and for the rest of my life.” – Signs for Lost Children, Sarah Moss