2008 in Review

This year was a rather poor year for reading quantity, unfortunately. For the year, I only finished 68 books, the lowest yearly total (by quite a lot) since I started writing reviews and 12 fewer than I was vaguely aiming for. I also made little progress towards finishing another group of award winners, although I did read all of the Hugo nominees again before the voting (and, in a delightful surprise, my favorite book actually won).

The low reading count was for a variety of reasons, some good and some bad. On the good side, things eating into reading time included playing more video games, watching the Summer Olympics, three great visits with close friends, and getting engrossed in photography. Those are all good reallocations of my leisure time, and I don't regret them.

On the bad side, last year was an extremely stressful year, and my reading volume was low some months because I was working over 50 hours a week or for some other reason feeling too tired and too stressed to concentrate on reading or take time for it. That's something that I hope to fix next year. Given that much of my stress, as always, is feelings of obligations, I'm not setting a reading target. I hope to continue increasing the time I spend playing video games, which will cut into reading. The goal instead is lower stress and more focus on making time to do what I feel like doing, including reading.

This year, I read only one book I rated 10 out of 10: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. This is an alternative history novel rather than a typical SF or fantasy story, which makes it all the more surprising that it won both awards. It's an excellent book with a wonderful sense of personality. I recommend it to both SF fans and fans of mainstream novels.

The non-fiction highlight of the year was my discovery of George Orwell's writing outside of the novels that people read in school. I read three volumes of his collected non-fiction works, the non-fiction Homage to Catalonia and The Road to Wigan Pier, and the novel Animal Farm, all of which were excellent. I'm planning on reading the remaining volume of his collected non-fiction and all the rest of his novels.

Also in the notable non-fiction category were Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness, non-fiction books about randomness and markets that anticipated the economic crash in the latter part of the year. Notable novels were Barry Hughart's wonderfully witty Bridge of Birds and Jo Walton's Half a Crown, an excellent conclusion to her Small Change series. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading through the rest of Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series and all of the Khaavren Romances (the last of which I'm halfway through as I write this).

Below are some additional personal reading statistics, probably only of interest to me.

In 2008, I read and reviewed 68 books (24 fewer than last year). This year, I made the transition to counting books as complete on the date when I publicly post the review, rather than when I finish my first draft, and I'll stay with that going forward. Overall statistics, with change from last year:

Books read 68 (-24)
Total pages 23,291 (-7516)
Average rating 7.32 (+0.38)
Pages per day 63.6 (-20.8)
Days per book 5.38 (+1.41)

There were significant drops in all categories except, intriguingly, my average rating. I may have read fewer books, but I apparently did a better job at picking out books that I liked. (Some of this may be that I wasn't reading all books in a class, like all winners of a particular award, and instead was focusing just on books I thought I'd like.)

Breakdown by genre:

SF and fantasy 50 74%
Mainstream 1 1%
Graphic novels 0 0%
Non-fiction 17 25%

I increased the amount of non-fiction I read this past year, mostly due to Orwell, but at the cost of mainstream and graphic novels. My SF reading was stable at three quarters of my reading.

Of the SF and fantasy novels, here's a rough breakdown of the books by reason for seeking them out:

Award winners 5 10%
Award series 3 6%
Genre classics 5 10%
Current SF&F 9 18%
Favorite authors 20 40%
Re-reads 0 0%
Recommendations 5 10%
Random 3 6%

My one re-read for this year was an award winner that I hadn't previously reviewed, so it goes into that category instead. Reading this few books, I didn't feel like re-reading novels. As expected, since I didn't make a concerted effort to finish a class of award-winners, the percentage of award-winning books I read dropped considerably.

Last spun 2013-07-01 from thread modified 2013-01-04