2019 Year of Reading

Before I put 2019 firmly in the rearview, it seems wise to conduct one final reflection on the year as a whole: how much I read, what kind of books I read, and what this suggests to me about my reading life moving forward.

Number of books read: 133
Number of pages read: 46,275

These are enormous numbers, both of books and pages read, for me, far more than I have read in any year during which I have recorded my reading. Usually, I hover around 100 books and 35,000 pages. As will become evident below, I did read a large number of young adult and middle grade books, but this is not new for me, so I do not attribute it as a factor. More likely, the jump in numbers is due to spikes in the number of book-related freelance projects I undertook in 2019 and in my research.

Speaking of the latter, as I mentioned in Friday’s December reading review, my total number of pages read is entirely approximate. In the interest of my sanity, I’m using the Goodreads number not my own calculations, which means the total does not include journal articles and chapters of books I read, since these don’t get entered into Goodreads. I’m startled that upwards of 46,000 pages is a conservative estimate as it’s well over 10,000 pages higher than any previous recorded year.

I’m sorely tempted not to track either of these in 2020. Reading is NOT a competition, not even with myself. Quality over quantity is always my stated policy, but am I actually following that policy? I cannot think of a single book that I DNFed in 2019, but I can think of many that I wished I had. I wonder whether, if I did not track books and pages read, I might be more likely to DNF books that I’m not enjoying (and not reading for any work or research-related reasons, obviously). All this said, I doubt that I’ll be able to resist tracking these. My inner stats nerd just wants to know.

Any suggestions for how I can track them without turning them into a competition against my previous selves?

Formats read:
Hardcovers: 42
Paperbacks: 56
Ebooks: 31
Audiobooks: 4

After about five years of reading primarily on my Nook, I returned to physical books in a big way in 2019. Two reasons I transitioned to ebooks were economic and practical: Ebooks are less expensive, sometimes dramatically (I have a problem with $1.99 ebook sales...I may have mentioned that once or a thousand times), and they do not take up physical space. My space problem was resolved at the end of 2018 when I donated a massive number of books, hundreds probably (I didn’t want to count them). This freed up acres of shelf space, which made me extremely reckless with my purchasing of physical books in 2019. I’m out of space (and much of my discretionary book-buying budget) again, but I’ve also realized how much I love, with all my heart, reading physical books. They feel like friends. I can’t see myself going back to reading primarily on my Nook any time soon.

But there is the issue of my massive ebook library. I’m pleasantly surprised that I read 31 ebooks. I had feared that I neglected them in favor of lovely physical books. But ebooks continue to be practical for travel, which I do relatively often. Audiobooks...I need to rethink my Scribd subscription or use it more often. Four audiobooks across the year is not a reason to maintain an annual account.

My two  significant, and related, resolutions for 2020 are 1) to use my library more often (must also learn to return books on time) and 2) to cut down on my book buying. I’ll be traveling to London in February to see the British Museum’s Troy exhibit, and I know that I’ll want to visit the city’s bookstores. But other than that, I want to focus on the books I own and my library.

Books read that were part of a series: 35

Reading series was a new trend for me in 2019. In several instances, I read the first book but do not plan to continue the series. In other cases, I plan to continue but am not in a hurry. For still others, I’m anxiously waiting for sequels. In fact, nine series that I started in 2019 and am most interested in continuing have new books coming out in 2020.

Retellings/reception: 39

I’ve never tracked this before, so I cannot be sure that this is a new trend. I doubt it. The influence of reading on writers is a longtime fascination of mine (and was the topic of my PhD dissertation). I counted as “retelling” or “reception” fiction and poetry—not memoir or other nonfiction—that is self-consciously in conversation with preexisting texts. For obvious reasons, the majority are novels and poetry in conversation with antiquity, but other times and places represented include Igbo cosmology, Arthurian legend, Chinese culture, and Near and Middle Eastern empires, among others.

In any case, 39 strikes me as a large number in relation to my total number of books read, especially when we extract from the total books that are not fiction or ancient literature.

Genres read: 14

I could probably break categories down even more if I separated historical from contemporary fiction in the YA/middle grade and adult fiction sections, but 14 is accurate enough for my purposes. Until I calculated these categories, I had not realized how much young adult and middle grade fantasy I read, but it makes sense. Adult fantasy can sometimes be too dark and violent for my sensibilities.

I don’t have any resolutions regarding types of books I read. Though I do enter work and research-related books into Goodreads, most of the fiction I read that was written after 1453 is read for my entertainment, enlightenment, and enrichment (it's can also be true of work and research related titles, obviously). I would, however, like to become more comfortable with DNFing books that are not working for me.

YA/middle grade fantasy: 37
YA/middle grade fiction: 14
Adult fiction: 19
Adult SFF: 22
Ancient literature: 13
Medieval literature: 3
Ancient history/scholarship: 11
Classics: 2
Poetry: 5
Nonfiction/memoir: 3
How-to, writing: 1
Graphic novel: 1
Short story collections: 2

That about covers my 2019 year of reading. It was a good year, with many great new discoveries. And now that I know a bit more about what I want my reading life to look like, on to 2020.

How was your 2019 in books? Any resolutions for your reading life in 2020?


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