2013 in Review

What a strange year.

2013 was marked by a whole sequence of entirely unexpected events, including multiple major work upheavals. For large chunks of the year, I had very little time or emotional energy for personal reading goals, and particularly for writing reviews. I declared personal amnesty on most of my intentions halfway through the year, and all the totals will reflect that. On the plus side (although not for reading and reviews), it was a great year for video games.

Next year, there will be no specific goals. Between continuing work fallout, a very busy project schedule, my intent to keep playing a lot of video games, and various other personal goals I want to take on, I'm going to take the pressure off of reading. Things will be read and reviews will be written (and I'm going to make more of an effort to write reviews shortly after reading books), but I'm not going to worry about how many.

The below statistics are confined to the books I reviewed in 2013. I read six more books that I've not yet reviewed, due to the chaos at the end of the year. Those will be counted in 2014.

There were no 10 out of 10 books this year, partly due to the much lower reading totals and partly due to my tendency this year to turn to safe comfort reading, which is reliably good but unlikely to be exceptional. There were, however, several near-misses that were worth calling out.

My favorite book of the year was Neal Stephenson's Anathem, which narrowly missed a 10 for me due to some fundamental problems with the plot premise. But this is still an excellent book: the best novel about the practice of science and philosophy that I've ever read. Also deserving mention are K.E. Lane's And Playing the Role of Herself, lovely and intelligent lesbian romance that's likely to appeal even to people who would not normally try that genre, and Guy Gavriel Kay's River of Stars. The latter isn't quite at the level of Kay's earlier Under Heaven, but it's still an excellent work of alternate historical fiction in a memorable setting.

A special honorable mention goes to Lisa O'Donnell's The Death of Bees. It requires a lot of warnings for very dark subject matter and a rather abrupt ending, but it's been a long time since I've cared that much about the characters of a book.

My favorite non-fiction book of the year was Gary J. Hudson's They Had to Go Out, a meticulously researched account of a tragic Coast Guard mission. The writing is choppy, the editing could have been better, and it's clear that the author is not a professional writer, but it's the sort of detailed non-fiction account that can only be written by someone who's been there and lived through similar experiences. Also worth mentioning is Mark Jason Dominus's Higher Order Perl, which was the best technical book I read all year and which I found quite inspiring for my own programming.

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

In 2013, I read and reviewed 41 books. As expected, this was a significant drop from last year. The drop is larger than it sounds, since several of those were independently-published novellas or even short stories. Overall statistics, with the change from last year:

Books read 41 (-19)
Total pages 13,421 (-8133)
Average rating 6.93 (-0.30)
Pages per day 36.8 (-22.1)
Days per book 8.90 (-2.80)

Total pages were way down, as expected. Average rating was also down, which is unsurprising. I put off reading several books I expect to greatly enjoy because I didn't have the mental energy and attention for them.

Breakdown by genre:

SF and fantasy 25 61%
Mainstream 7 10%
Non-fiction 12 29%
Graphic novels 0 0%
RPGs 0 0%

The percentages are quite similar to those of last year except without any graphic novels or RPGs. The time I put into those categories went into non-fiction instead. This is the highest percentage of non-fiction that I've read since I started keeping track.

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

Award winners 4 16%
Award series 0 0%
Re-reads 0 0%
Genre classics 0 0%
Favorite authors 13 52%
Current SF&F 3 12%
Recommendations 2 8%
Random 3 12%

The year was all favorite authors, all the time, which turned out not to work wonders for my average rating. Some of this was the large pile of random independently published John Scalzi novellas and short stories that I read, which count in the statistics and which were occasionally enjoyable, but not particularly memorable.

As always, the categorization is debatable. This year, a bunch of the books from my favorite authors could also count as current SF&F. The categories are listed in roughly the order of precedence in cases of books that could be filed into multiple categories.

Not counting in any of these statistics was one re-read of a book I previously read and reviewed: The Westing Game. This resulted in a revision of my previous review.

Last modified and spun 2015-01-01