My Year in Reading: 2014

For the third year in a row I’ve tracked my reading using Goodreads. I love having a record of everything I’ve read and crunching the numbers to see how my habits are changing… or not. I only read one non-fiction book this year: Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, but one turned out to be enough: it was one of my favourite books of the year. I read three books of short stories, which served to confirm that short stories really aren’t my thing. Mostly, as usual, I read literary fiction, originally written in English, which included some fantastic humanist speculative-fiction and a smattering of historical fiction.

Abandonment Issues

The older I get, the more readily I abandon books which aren’t grabbing me. I abandon for all sorts of reasons: I don’t like the voice or the characters, the plot is too slow, the language is too dense, the humour isn’t making me laugh. They’re not necessarily bad books, they’re just not right for me, right now. Adios, muchachos!

Completed vs abandoned

Battle of the Sexes

More and more research indicates that many men only read books written by men. I read pretty evenly across the sexes, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Male vs Female

World Domination

I’m definitely reading more Australian books than I used to, but the vast majority of my reading still comes form the USA. I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to articulate what I like about American writing and how it’s different – I’ll keep pondering this. Though this graph indicates that I read more books from the UK this year than last, more than half the books I abandoned were by British authors. There’s something a little stuffy about a lot of English writing to me and I feel like I’m allowed to say that because I’m English myself.

Country

So Hot Right Now

Despite always meaning to read more classics, more than half my reading is from the last couple of years. In fact, anything before 2000 barely got a look-in.

Year of publication

Your turn: Do you track your reading? Do you read more books by men, or women? Mostly Australian or from elsewhere? Contemporary or classics? What genres do you prefer? I’d love to hear about your reading habits and how they compare to mine.

16 thoughts on “My Year in Reading: 2014

  1. Hi Annabel! I read across sexes too. I’ve also started to read across genres more in the last few years. Doing so makes my reading life so much richer. I really want to make an effort in 2015 to break out of my tendency to read just Australian, British and American authors. I’ve never intentionally focussed on authors from these countries, but they seem to get most of the publicity!

    1. That’s great Steve. I don’t know if you’ve seen the #menreadingwomen hashtag floating around Twitter; it’s a great way to draw attention to the fact that it’s okay for men to read books written by women, and that they can be just as relevant as books by men.

      The book media definitely seems to ignore most translated books here – the guy who won the Nobel prize didn’t even have any books in print here which was a bit of an embarrassment! And I can’t remember his name which shows how much media attention he got! You might want to think about googling a translation challenge and finding some blogs to follow where people specialise in reviewing translated books – it’s a great way to keep on top of new translated works.

  2. Now I’m wishing I properly recorded my reading in Goodreads. I got an email congratulating me for reading 4 – yes FOUR – books this year! Oh dear. I knew I’d been slack about recording my reading there but not that bad. (Trouble is that after my blog, my personal database, and LibraryThing, I tend to forget Goodreads).

    I do tend to read more women (so far this year about 70%. That’s something I decided to do a couple of decades ago. I like reading men – and this year read, among others, Flanagan, Tsiolkas, Stegner (a wonderful American) – but women are where my heart is.

    I also read more Australian books. Again, an active decision made a couple of decades ago. (This is why the Australian Women Writers Challenge isn’t really a challenge for me – Australian women!). However, the next nationality I tend to read after Australian is American. I know there are people who eschew anything American but I agree that they have some wonderful writers. I love Wallace Stegner, and this year I also read Adam Johnson’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, among other American books.

    My main regret this year is that I have read very few books in translation – the main one I did read was a classic, Simone de Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a dutiful daughter. I want to read more recent translated works but early next year I’ll be doing a classic Russian.

    As for dates, I do like to try to read older books, and this year about 25% of my reading was for books before 2000.

    Oh, and about 20% were non-fiction.

    There, you asked and I told!

    1. I don’t think it matters how you record your reading, as long as you do it in some way, shape or form. I’m intrigued that you have a personal database – what kind of information do you include in that? I read Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety last year and enjoyed it, but haven’t read any of his others. Of the Australian male writers, Peter Carey is my favourite, although I didn’t enjoy his last. I have Amnesia on my TBR right now so I’ll see how that goes. I received a copy of Anna Karenina for my birthday so I too may be reading a classic Russian this year. Thanks for sharing

  3. Oooh, I’m mesmerized by the colorful pie charts.

    I chuckled when I read about your “abandonment issues.” I’ve always had a hard time abandoning books. I’m stubborn about finishing things. But like you, I’m learning to abandon more as I’m getting older. A big reason for me is that I realized my to-read list is ever-growing. Given my finite life span, I will never be able to get through all the books I want to read. Thus it seems like a waste of my life to read books I don’t enjoy.

    1. I’m generally not great at interpreting visual data but even I can appreciate a pie chart!

      I agree with you absolutely about abandoning books. I used to finish everything I’ve started because it seemed too messy somehow to abandon a book halfway through. But life really is too short.

    1. I didn’t know they sent charts either. I made my own.

      Great that you’ve read lots of books by Australian women. I need to keep working at finding Australian writers I love.

      I’ve hardly read any indigenous writers, but I have been meaning to read Am I Black Enough For You? for ages. Have you read Peter Dockers’ The Waterboys? He’s not indigenous but Waterboys is a brilliant spec fic about indigenous issues.

      1. I wish I’d loved more of the Australian authors I read, but I really did love (a lot) some of them. I haven’t read The Waterboys; sounds good. I’ve got Carpentaria (Alexis Wright), Heat and Light (Ellen van Neerven), The Black War (Nicholas Clements) and The Biggest Estate on Earth (Bill Gammage) all sitting on the shelf waiting to be read, and I’d also like to read Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu. So much reading to do!

        1. Suddenly EVERYONE is talking about Heat and Light. I need to look that one up.

          I suspect waterboys would be right up your alley. Climate change issues too!

  4. This year I abandoned one book (Husvedt’s Blazing World) – basically a first for me. Despite the fact that I say every year I’ll get better at abandoning books I’m not enjoying, I find it hard to actually do it. If I’m not loving something, I usually skim through so that I can see how it ends.

  5. I love stats about what other people have been reading. I have read 99 books so far this year ( a record for me) and exactly 1/3 of them have been by Australian authors, 24 by English authors, 20 by American and 12 books in translation. I did make a conscious decision at the beginning of the year to read more Australian books (and your Whisky Charlie Foxtrot was one of them, which I loved) and more books in translation. I have read 66 female to 33 male, which I am surprised about – I don’t really think about the gender of authors when I pick a book. I have read 12 non-fiction titles. 23 of my reads were published this year, 19 in 2013, 38 were published between 2000 and 2012 and 19 published prior to 2000. I abandoned 8 books in total. What an interesting exercise this has been, I’ve learned a lot about my reading. I’ve recently tried unsuccessfully to export my data from LibraryThing to GoodReads and now I’m more determined than ever as I had to download this data into a pdf and then copy and paste it into a very unusable excel spreadsheet and manually work out my stats – it would be very nice to get a report at the end of each year.

    1. Wooh! 99 books is a great year of reading. Thank you for your comments on WCF – I appreciate that.

      I must admit, I didn’t know about the Goodreads stats, so I also made a spreadsheet. I think I need to work on my categories if I want more meaningful data from Goodreads so that’s a job for a rainy day!

      Are you setting yourself any reading challenges for 2015?

      1. I’m going to try to do the tbr triple dog dare and only read books from my shelves for the first three months of the year but I’m not sure how successful I’ll be – I get pretty excited when I read a good review and will want to read THAT book right then and there

        1. I got an amazing stash of books from my wishlist for my birthday in October and am still working through those, so definitely won’t be buying any new books for a while. So I’ll be doing the triple dog dare too!

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