Well, friends, I have officially completed my big New Years resolution from 2018!
At the start of this year, I launched an ambitious challenge to take careful statistics of all the books I read. Along with recording information for all the books I finished, I published a series of twelve recaps, creating an index with my thoughts on each title.
In 2017, I read more books than I ever had before (over 220), but I wanted to know more. How many pages do I read in a year? What formats do I usually read? Of everything I cover in a year, how many are rereads? What about quality vs. quantity? If I read a bunch of short, easy books in one month, does that mean I’m more productive than a month where I read less, longer ones? Are there any trends that emerge?
Because I’m a total nerd, these are the things I think about. This year, I was determined to find answers. Plus, setting a “read X amount of books this year” goal is just too easy.
Throughout the year, I recorded in a notebook everything I read including title, author, a very subjective rating on a five-star scale, and some quick thoughts. At the end of each month, I pulled my stats together, noted emerging trends and observations, and wrote a mini-review for each book. (The reviews got more elaborate as the project went on.)
Part of my motivation for the month-by-month approach was to stop periodically and think critically about what I was reading. I certainly didn’t read much highbrow literature this year (don’t worry, Tolstoy, once I’ve recovered from grad school I am coming for you), but that’s no reason to turn my brain off completely. When noting my thoughts, characteristics like writing quality, character development, world building, themes, etc. were at the forefront of my mind. These were so helpful! For books that weren’t great, I could always find something to appreciate. For the best books, I was able to express WHY I found them so enjoyable. This was integral in helping me understand why I enjoyed certain books over others.
Enough talk about the structure of the challenge. Let’s dig into my statistics and observations…
- Total books read in 2018: 116
- Total pages read: 42,056
- Audiobooks: 28
- Rereads: 25
- Best month: January with 16 books, 6,239 pages
- Worst month: October with 5 books and 1,975 pages
- Month with the most audiobooks: March with 5
- Month with the most rereads: April and June with 4 rereads in each
For a graphic, interactive collection of all the books I finished, check out my 2018 shelf on Goodreads. If you’re curious about my raw data, I have it compiled on a spreadsheet that you can download here.
If you’re interested in my mini-reviews, you can check those out via my monthly recaps:
The longest book I read this year was Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson, which was 1,243 pages. Runner-up was Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas, topping at 992 pages. The shortest book was a middle-grade graphic novel called Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill, which was 53 pages long.
Now on to some observed trends…
I knew this already, but this project confirmed that I’m 100% a mood reader. I read what I feel like reading. I generally don’t pick up things I’m not interested in. If I’m not feeling it, forcing myself to slog through only makes it take longer and makes me dislike the book. Because of this, I rarely take people up on recommendations. My most surprising mood-reading moment this year was when, after wrapping up my summer classes, I found myself reaching for The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I had been forming a big pile of intended summer reads, but I bypassed them completely. Rereading Gatsby ended up being the perfect palate cleanser as I transitioned from class readings to fun summer books.
I also noticed that when life gets busy, I fall back on old favorites. During my summer term of classes, I found myself rereading Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and Paper Towns by John Green. Because I know the story already, reading takes less effort.
When times get really tough, I lose focus completely. If you look into my raw data, my stats completely dropped this fall. My year started off so well reading-wise, then slowly dissolved. I didn’t stop reading, but my pace slowed considerably.
This year also conformed that long commutes are good for one thing: audiobooks! I made it through so many this year. I don’t miss spending ten hours a week commuting, but that time was well spent because it helped me get through more books. One of the reasons my stats dropped in the last few months of 2018 is because I lost my commute.
The best book I read this year is easily The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I now consider it among the few perfect works of fiction I’ve ever encountered. It has been years since a story has so moved me. (In case you were wondering, I ugly-cried through the final fifteen minutes of the audiobook.) Zusak provides a complex commentary (narrated by Death) on the power of story and an exploration into the beauty and depravity of human nature. For a YA novel, this is some serious heavy lifting! I loved it so much I wrote a full review. You can read that here.
The worst book I read this year was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I hated it. The only reason I finished was I spent a solid week on the first fifty pages and didn’t want that time to have been wasted. While I usually enjoy the concept of virtual reality, Cline’s novel fell completely flat for me. The pacing was terrible and the story was riddled with references to 1980’s pop culture that I just didn’t care about. Plus, the protagonist was really annoying.
You guys, I read so many good books this year. This post only scratches the surface. I could go on about this for hours. Seriously, I’ve deleted at least three paragraphs where I just gushed about the books I loved the most. If you’re interested in listening to more gushing, hit up the comments or (if you know me in real life) send me a message on your social media platform of choice. Talking books is one of my favorite things!
Am I going to do this challenge again next year? Not exactly. As I’ve spent time sorting my data, I’ve realized that there’s a better way to go about this that is less time-consuming.
In 2019, I have two goals:
- Continue compiling my statistics in an Excel spreadsheet, but do away with the blog posts and the notebook.
- Read at least one book a month by a person of color. I want to intentionally expand my horizons and learn from stories that are different than my own.
Thanks for sticking around for this year’s reading challenge! Thank you for everyone who has stuck with me this year.
Did you have a reading challenge this year? Did you complete your goal? What reading goals do you have for 2019?