2011 in Review

For the year of 2011, I finished and reviewed 60 books. This is a huge milestone for me; it's the first time since the second year I started doing this that the number of books I read actually increased. This gives me more confidence that I've stabilized the year-by-year decline in my reading. I did that while substantially increasing the amount of time I spent enjoying video games, which was another major goal of the year.

Only two books received a 10 out of 10 this year, one fiction and one non-fiction. The novel was Jo Walton's Among Others: the best book I read this year. It's a delightful look at the process of finding a place for oneself in the world and features one of the best protagonists that I've seen.

The non-fiction book was Rory Stewart's The Prince of the Marshes, which means that both of Stewart's books that I've read have received 10 ratings. The Prince of the Marshes is his look at his time spent in the provisional government of Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. I think it should be required reading for anyone expressing an opinion on what the US and other western powers should or should not have done in Iraq. It lays bare the difficulties, confusion, and frequent stupidity of going into someone else's country and trying to fix it, and I think seriously calls into question whether this sort of international intervention can ever work.

Other fiction highlights of the year were Kelley Eskridge's Solitaire, a startling and deep look at identity and social connection, and Mira Grant's Feed, a zombie apocalypse story that completely overcame my deep dislike of zombie apocalypse stories. Feed should have won the Hugo in 2011, despite some unbelievable politics and a bit too much cheering for bloggers. This was the year for excellent protagonists, with all three of my top-rated fiction books featuring unique and memorable characters who left a deep and lasting emotional impact.

The two other non-fiction standouts were both a bit dry, but if you have the patience and attention, they reward persistance. Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American Life is a deserved classic that gave me an eye-opening perspective on the long history of interactions between intellectualism and populism in US politics and culture. David Levering Lewis's God's Crucible is a wonderful history of Islam as it related to Europe and filled in some large gaps in my knowledge of world and religious history.

60 books a year, or five books a month, feels like a comfortable and sustainable level, although I'm going to keep my formal goal at a book a week (52 in the year) to give myself some leeway to either get distracted by video games or by other projects. My reading did concentrate more than usual in science fiction and fantasy this year, and I'd like to add more mainstream fiction and more non-fiction.

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

In 2011, I read and reviewed 60 books (four more than last year). Overall statistics, with the change from last year:

Books read 60 (+4)
Total pages 20,964 (+1116)
Average rating 6.80 (-0.43)
Pages per day 57.4 (+1.0)
Days per book 6.08 (-0.44)

Improvement in most areas, due to the additional books I read. Interestingly, though, the average rating dropped considerably. I read several genre classics this year I didn't particularly like, and I thought this year's Hugo winners were quite weak. I'm considering doing more re-reading next year, which will bring the average rating up.

Breakdown by genre:

SF and fantasy 50 83%
Mainstream 3 5%
Graphic novels 1 2%
Non-fiction 5 8%
RPGs 1 2%

Everything except SF&F and mainstream dropped, and mainstream only increased by one book. This was definitely a year of narrow focus on SF&F. I want to reverse that trend somewhat for next year, as well as read more RPG sourcebooks.

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

Award winners 7 14%
Award series 1 2%
Genre classics 7 14%
Current SF&F 8 18%
Favorite authors 10 20%
Re-reads 5 10%
Recommendations 3 6%
Random 8 16%

10% re-reads this year after two years of not re-reading books. That's probably about the right level; I have a lot of books I read before starting to write reviews that I want to read again and review, including filling in the reviews of award winners, but there's so much new stuff coming.

The other statistics show a fairly even spread. I'd like to focus a bit more on award winners, though, and continue my project of filling in reviews for winners of major awards.

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