Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Reading List: 2011 Edition

(RSS & Email Readers, please go to the blog proper to see the visual aids and charts.  This post makes more sense that way.  Sorry for the inconvenience.)

And so here we are again, dear Readers.  Another year behind us, a bright, new shiny one just around the bend.  As always, I've kept up with the general statistics of my reading life, because knowing this trivial information thrills my soul to no end.  This year I read 47 books, a 35% decrease from 2010's 71 books.  However, taking page numbers into the mix, I read ~15626 pages this year, which is just a 14% decrease from last years.  Considering that I had a baby in June, I'd say that's pretty darned good.

If you'd like to look at the monster spreadsheet I keep that contains all of my statistical data, you can go here and browse around.  The link should default you to the 2011 tab, but if not, just click the appropriate year at the bottom.  This is my third year of running the sheet, and it's interesting to compare stats between the years, too.

Oldest Book: In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, 1965
Audio Books*:  7
Kindle Books:  7
Library Books: 23
2011 Books (Year Published): 10
Books Forsaken: 1 (In the Shadow of Swords, by Val Gunn)
From Publishers/Authors Received: 15
From Publishers/Authors Reviewed: 11
Most Popular Author: Mike Mignola and Alvin Schwartz
Most Popular Publisher: Dark Horse, Del Rey, and Waterbrook Multnomah (all with 5 books)
Busiest Month: January (8 reads)
Total Page Numbers: ~15,626
Average Book Score**: 3.63
Female/Male: 3/35

Like previous years, graphic novels and comics command a major portion of the year's reading.  However, considering page counts, the graphic section accounts for only 2500 pages or so, a paltry 15%, as opposed to 28%.  Nevertheless, the point of the graph is to display percentages based upon the number of books read, ignoring completely the thickness of the book.  Because of my personal qualms with classifying a book in only one genre, plus my disdain at using "graphic novel" as an umbrella super-genre, I've broken down the data into a more sensible chart.

This chart makes a bit more sense, but I'm still not exactly comfortable with it.  Books have far too many cross-genre aspects for me to qualify one novel as one thing over another.  Still, I try, and for these charts, I've used the predominate genre (as determined by me) to populate the data fields.

It's fascinating to me to see how my reading habits have changed***.  Five years ago, practically all of my reading was SFF and Graphic Novels.  Non-fiction was laughable.  Now, thanks to a few generous publishers and a more mature outlook in life, I read Christian Non-Fiction (which I deem as "Christian Thought") about as much as anything else.  I've learned much from this experience, and I'm glad for it.

Picking out my favorite book of the year is unfair.  (The extreme fanboy in me screams Pat Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear.)  There are several books I've read that I've ranked a 4 or higher on my scale, and truly all of those are recommendable.  Nevertheless, below are the books I'd select as my favorite 2011 reads, linked to my review.
The Third Bear, by Jeff VanderMeer
Hellboy Volume 9: The Wild Hunt, by Mike Mignola
The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss
Just Do Something, by Kevin DeYoung
I Am Not A Serial Killer, by Dan Wells
The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
If hard pressed, I'd possibly say that Jeff VanderMeer's The Third Bear is my favorite read of the year.  From my review, I said,
There's really no good way to describe this book. It defies genres. It defies expectations and normal thinking, subverting tropes and typical story-telling methodology for something unique and unforgettable. There are some stories that, upon completion, I couldn't bring myself to describe coherently, even if the tale was spectacular. This holds true for many of the stories, the inability to put into words what you just read, but it only serves to make the reading experience all the better.
Seriously.  It's the strangest book I've ever read, and I was mesmerized by it.  Arguably, my favorite traditional SFF novel has to be The Wise Man's Fear.  I've been on the Rothfuss train literally since the month his first novel came out, and I've not looked back.  WMF was everything I wanted it to be, even if it was a bit winded.  If we're thinking of life-changing books, Kevin DeYoung's Just Do Something rocked my world, shifting around how I thought about making choices and paths to travel in life.  It was such an excellent (and short) read that I gave away copies just so others could read it and be free.  The most unexpected book was Dan Wells' I Am Not A Serial Killer.  Simply, I read it in about 5-hours.  I could not put it down.  It was fresh and fun and creepy and I'm ready to read the next book in the series.

As for disappointments, the Star Wars EU series Fate of the Jedi has been stagnant.  Fortunately there are but two books left in the series, which will be finished up next year.  I'm ready for the EU to get back to some good stuff, but alas, I don't have high hopes.  I feel practically the same about Terry Brooks.  His Bearers of the Black Staff was rather droll and unexciting, and I don't know whether or not I'll even finish the other half of the duology.  I also managed to pick up a forsaken book from last year, The Great Hunt, and finish it, though I'm not sure why.  It was better this year, but still held nothing to pull me back into The Wheel of Time.  Finally, GRRM's Dance with Dragons was good, yes, but ultimately a let-down, too.

I'm also disappointed by the lack of diversity in the authors I read.  Look at the F/M ratio.  I shudder to think about ethnic diversity.  Going out on a limb, I'm guessing the general author profile is a middle aged, white, educated, American male.  I'd like to mix this up somehow.

Next year should be a most interesting year for books.  I've laid down my 2012 Book Manifesto and firmly plan on sticking to it.  This should help with my bland diversity somewhat, but it won't be a panacea.  I also regret not getting to read The Alloy of Law, so I hopefully will get to that in 2012.

The year has been a slightly better than average year in reading.  There were wonderful books, and there were not so wonderful.  All in all, it's really a joy to read, and I do it because I love it.  I'm glad to be able to share my recommendations to you fine folks that read the blog, and thanks for coming back to listen to what I have to say.  If you've any questions about the data or my spreadsheet, ask away.

Now on to finishing up the still-reading and dive headlong into the TBR.

* All audio books were borrowed through the library, and thus are included in the library numbers, too.
** This is an arithmetic average of the books based upon the GoodReads 5-star scale, modified for my use to include halfsies.
*** See the bottom chart in the spreadsheet for this graphic.


David Wagner said...

Fascinating post, thanks for taking the time to cobble it all together.

I'm a bit surprised that Abercrombie's The Heroes didn't get a mention, good, bad or indifferent, in the post anywhere. I only read 26 books (but a ton of free samples, lol), with some cross-over to your list, but I'd rank The Heroes as the best, most enjoyable read for me for 2011. Well, setting aside Gates of Fire, of course...

It might be fun to add up the word count on my reads as well... I read the entire Song of Ice and Fire series this year, plus Wise Man's Fear... by all accounts, mammoth books.

I also gave up on In the Shdaow of Swords, but I may pick it up and try it again. In it's defense, there were two scenes that still come to mind when I think of that book, from what I read. And that was half a year or more ago... My other abandoned books included titles by Oscar Wilde, China Mieville and KJ Parker... so Val Gunn is in good company, at least...

Thanks again for the detailed post.


Anonymous said...

nice. you challenge me to be better organized. sigh.

I struggle with genre classification, and I like your breakdown. I read a lot of fantasy and contemporary/drama, but happily squeezed in more historical than I ever do, as well as a few non-fictions (which are rarely there).

I have a high book count, but page-wise...

I'm going to read The Wise Man's Fear this year. and finish The Way of Kings, too, which with both books I didn't get very far and Sean just took off with them.

going to p/up the Dan Wells books this year--for Sean, he is a fan of Dexter (both the books and tv series).


logankstewart said...

@Dave: See, here's the thing. I enjoyed The Heroes quite a bit, and it had pretty much everything I expected from an Abercrombie book. However, it just didn't have the mmmph for me that these others did (largely due to my dislike of Bremer dan Gorst). I have Mieville & Parker both on my TBR for next year, so hopefully I'll get to them. (I'm surprised you didn't like/finish The Hammer. I've read many rave reviews for it, some claiming it as their favorite book of the year.)

@L: Good luck with WMF and WoK. Both are great. Oh, and I hope you enjoy Well's wonderfully dark and twisted story. If you read it, maybe save it for RIP? Has Sean read the Dan Wells books?

Carl V. said...

"I had a baby in June"

Okay, now if that is really the truth, why didn't I see you on all kinds of talk shows this past summer? ;)

Good to see The Third Bear and The Way of Kings on there. Both were remarkable books. And if I had gotten to Wise Man's Fear I imagine it probably would have been on my list. As it was, at least Name of the Wind made it. One of my few regrets for 2011 is that I frequently forget about Rothfuss' excellent blog and need to make it a regular reading stop off. But then again I'd rather be getting over here more regularly.

As I said to Darren on Bart's Bookshelf, you are a stats god! Love seeing people geek out on their lists and stats. I'm keeping a pen and paper book journal this year in addition to tracking on the blog and so I'll have some more stats for next year. Its been a few years since I did a good breakdown like you've done here.

logankstewart said...

@Carl: Ha, I expect you're right. Me having a baby would be quite a thing... You definitely should check out Pat's blog more often. He's got great stuff quite a bit.

My love of stats probably is related to my love for math (and why I'm an engineer). Numbers just do something for me. Best of luck with your journaling endeavor.

Val Gunn said...

Sorry the book didn't appeal to you. If you get the chance, perhaps give it a shot again.

-- Val

logankstewart said...

@Val: Like David mentioned above, there were some excellent and memorable scenes in your book, but I had problems remembering character/place names, etc. I think I mentioned that a glossary would have been helpful and that you wanted to include one, but for some reason or another it never happened. All in all, though, best of luck.