Fun with Stats

As 2022 comes to a close, I’m taking the opportunity to reflect. I’m on three different book-tracking sites, each with its own charts and graphs to offer insight, and I like to look at these from time to time to see where I’ve been on my reading journey and consider where I’m going next.

Some of these are just plain fun and make me feel accomplished, like this graph from LibraryThing that shows how tall the stack of books I’ve read would be if stacked one atop the other. At 84 feet, mine would be taller than the Sphinx!

A chart showing books I've read, hypothetically stacked on top of each other to reach 84 feet

Others reflect the types of books I’ve read more of versus those that I’ve read less of. Because I’ve tried to fill out my LibraryThing account with every book I remember reading, I see a lot of Young Adult and Children’s books. It does make me wonder, though, if I haven’t read as many adult books as I could make time for.

A chart splitting the books I've read by genre to show Young Adult as the most popular, followed by Fantasy and Science Fiction

Looking at my read dates over time, it’s not exactly as I’d like it to be. I only started my account on this website in 2010, so keep in mind that anything before that date is not entirely reliable. There’s a definite spike in 2011, which can be partially explained by reading lots of shorter books, but I also read some substantial novels in this year. This marked the end of my first year of college and the beginning of my second. It includes reading done for classes, reading done over the summer, and reading I did outside my classes.

I distinctly remember that many of the classes I took early on in college seemed easy compared to the AP classes I’d taken in high school. Many of the classes were beginner level prerequisites, while others were simple graduation requirements to fill out the liberal arts education. At that time, I was only pursuing a degree in Writing, and I was determined to make it work. I wanted to have a novel completed by the time I graduated, ready to publish and start making me the money I needed to live on. I even intended to graduate a year early and use the time and money I otherwise would have spent to try to get my writing career off the ground. If at the end of that year, I hadn’t managed it, I told myself that I would find another job.

And that, for a while, was my motivation. I didn’t want to give up on that dream. I wanted to read in class and out, read the kind of books that I could learn from and really hone my craft. I wanted to take advantage of the university library and the public library within walking distance and get more out of this education I was paying so much for than simply what was required.

I did a lot of reading. I did what at that time seemed like a lot of writing. But I eventually picked up a minor in Computer Science, thinking of that backup plan. And when I made it into a double major, the requirements made me stretch my time from three years to three and a half, and I finally ended up staying four just to pick up the last requirement or two. I went through three internships and got hired as a computer programmer before that last semester was finished. I started work in the summer of 2014.

A chart showing my all-time reading stats, although it's only accurate starting around 2010. It shows a spike in 2011, decreasing each year until 2014. After that, it's gone up and down a bit but never to the level of the previous spike

As you can see, I never have achieved my previous heights of reading, although I’ve been making an attempt these last few years. Last year turned out really well. This year I ended up with a total of 12. I’d originally been thinking I would try to match or top last year, but I ended up spending a lot more time on writing and critiquing than I originally thought I would. The novel that I thought was completed ended up getting a complete rewrite, and in order to get feedback for it, I needed to provide the same to others.

If you count the novels I read through in manuscript form because I was offering critiques to the writer chapter by chapter, you can add at least four more full books to that. All told, I critiqued 112 chapters and short stories this year, giving edits and suggestions in excess of 115,000 words!

A chart showing how much critiquing I've done by month. The highest months are around 3000 words, while the lowest is under 1000.

And that’s not to mention all the blogging I’ve done as well. I’m ending this year having met my goal of reaching 1000 all-time views, and I came to really enjoy the journey.

Looking at my Year in Books on Goodreads, I can see many of the books I posted about here. This also provides an interesting little insight into the most and least popular books I read this year. It isn’t going to change my reading habits, but it’s fascinating to see such a huge difference.

A graphic showing my most popular and least popular reads of the year. The Hobbit has been shelved by 4,948,080 people on the site, while The Heather Blazing has been shelved by 5,433.

Another one that’s always interesting to look at is StoryGraph’s mood chart, showing what its users considered to be the dominant mood of each of the books I’ve read this year. I do make an effort to balance dark with funny or lighthearted, and I am almost always up for a good adventure or mystery.

A chart showing the moods of the books I've read this year. Adventurous and reflective are the largest sections, with mysterious, emotional, lighthearted, funny, dark, challenging, and informative making up the others.

I also find it interesting to go back to LibraryThing and see how the books I’ve read can be split up in terms of other factors. This one, for example, shows the time period of the books’ original publication. Here you can see a lot of modern books but also a great spread of books from the last few centuries, with Aesop’s Fables winning the prize for the oldest book on the list. I’m pretty happy with this overall, especially as I suspect a lot of the books in the 2000 – 2009 range are shorter books I read when I was younger. The count for the current decade is lower than I’d like, but we are only three years into it! I’m going to be looking to drive that up in the coming year, while continuing to pick out some great classics to keep it all well-rounded.

A chart showing books I've read by original publication date. There's a huge spike in 2000 to 2009, with the next largest being the decades on either side, but there's also a solid amount of books from various time periods in the past, stretching all the way back to 600 to 591 BC.

The set of stats I want to touch on, though, is the one that splits it up by the author’s nationality. This map is the one that makes me really want to set some goals. It makes sense that I’ve read a lot of books by authors from my home country, and I can possibly justify the UK coming in second because of its long history of books written in the only language I’m fluent in, but I can’t believe I’ve never read any books by anyone from some of the largest and most populous countries in the world.

Besides that, I think I could stand to have some more diversity in my reading in general. One of the reasons I love reading is because it gives me a window into other points of view and expands my understanding of the world. I want to expand my understanding of these cultures and their literary traditions, so I’m going to make an effort to at least get started on that in the year to come.

A map showing countries in red, orange, yellow, or gray according to how many books I've read by authors of that nationality. The US and UK are bright red, while Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Russia are orange. There are yellow spots in other parts of Europe, as well as South America, Africa, and Japan, but huge swathes are completely gray, including India, China, the Middle East, and most of Africa.

There’s so much I want to get done next year. I hope that I’ll have time and energy to do it all!

What are your goals for the upcoming year? Did any of these graphs prompt you to reflect on what you’ve read, this past year or just in general? I’d love to hear about it!

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