2014 in Review

This year, after a series of catastrophically horrible and unethical management decisions, I walked away from my job of seventeen years and found a new job.

As you might expect, reading wasn't the top priority for much of the year. I'm moderately surprised that I read as much as I did. The good side is that I'm now in a much better place both professionally and personally and no longer have to put up with draining and demoralizing nonsense happening on a regular basis. The downside for my review output is that the new job is more engrossing and is, in some ways, harder work, so I expect my reading totals going forward to stabilize somewhere below where they were in the past (although it's possible that the daily commute will change that equation somewhat).

As mentioned last year, I had a feeling that something like this would happen (although not that it would be anywhere near this bad), so I had no specific reading goals for the year. Next year, I'm going to see how it goes for the first few months, and might then consider setting some goals if I want to encourage myself to take more time for reading.

The below statistics are confined to the books I reviewed in 2014. I read three more books that I've not yet reviewed, partly because the end of the year isn't as packed with vacation as it was at Stanford. Those will be counted in 2014.

Despite the low reading totals for the year, I read two 10 out of 10 books. My favorite book of the year was Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice, which was one of the best science fiction novels I've ever read. Highly recommended if you like the space opera genre at all. A close second was my favorite non-fiction book of the year and the other 10 out of 10: Allie Brosh's collection Hyperbole and a Half. Those of you who have read her blog already know her brilliant and insightful style of humor. Those who haven't are in for a treat.

I read a lot of non-fiction this year and not as much fiction, partly for mood reasons, so I don't have honorable mentions in the fiction department. In the non-fiction department, though, there are four more books worth mentioning. Cryptography Engineering, by Niels Ferguson, Bruce Schneier, and Tadayoshi Kohno, was the best technical book that I read last year, and a must-read for anyone who works on security or crypto software. David Graeber's Debt was the best political and economic book of the year and the book from which I learned the most. It changed the way that you think about debt and loans significantly. A close second, though, was David Roodman's Due Diligence, which is a must-read for anyone who has considered investing in microfinance or is curious about the phenomenon. We need more data-driven, thoughtful, book-length analysis like this in the world.

Finally, The Knowledge, by Lewis Dartnell, is an entertaining and quixotic project. The stated goal of the book is to document the information required to rebuild civilization after a catastrophe, with hopefully fewer false starts and difficult research than was required the first time. I'm dubious about its usefulness for that goal, but it's a fascinating and entertaining book in its own right, full of detail about industrial processes and the history of manufacturing and construction that are otherwise hard to come by without extensive (and boring) research. Recommended, even if you're dubious about the efficacy of the project.

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

In 2014, I read and reviewed 24 books. This is, unsurprisingly given the year that I had, the lowest total since I've started reviewing. I suspect next year will turn around noticably. Overall statistics, with the change from last year:

Books read 24 (-17)
Total pages 7,791 (-5630)
Average rating 7.25 (+0.32)
Pages per day 21.3 (-15.5)
Days per book 15.21 (+6.31)

These statistics are a little off, however, since two of the "books" that I read last year were the collections of short fiction (short stories and novellas) for the 2014 Hugo Awards. I reviewed these like books, so they're included in the count of 24 books read, but I don't have page counts for them, so they didn't contribute to total pages or the various averages. (I need some better system to deal with similar collections in the future.)

Breakdown by genre:

SF and fantasy 11 46%
Mainstream 1 4%
Non-fiction 11 46%
Graphic novels 1 4%
RPGs 0 0%

This is the first time since I've been keeping track that I read as many non-fiction books as fiction. I'm expecting that balance to shift a lot in the new year as I get back into reading fiction, and I'd like to pick up more mainstream novels, RPGs, and graphic novels again.

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

Award winners 1 9%
Award series 0 0%
Re-reads 1 9%
Genre classics 0 0%
Favorite authors 5 45%
Current SF&F 3 27%
Recommendations 0 0%
Random 1 9%

A lot of my science fiction reading this year were the various Hugo nominees, which mostly counted as favorite authors but could have counted 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: Emerald Eyes. I will probably revise my review of it, but haven't yet.

Last spun 2016-01-02 from thread modified 2016-01-01