Reading? I fucking crushed it this year. Unlike the last couple of years when I fell short of my reading goal, this year, I decimated it. Absolutely decimated it. I’m also likely going to be on-time with the production of this year’s post, rather than 8 months late (2015), or 10 months late (2016). Here’s how I did, and what I read in 2017.
So I exceeded my goal of 55 books in 2017. How? Well, the kids are getting older, and therefore require less maintenance. And I spent less time on the Internets. And I decided I wasn’t going to worry about genre balance this year (I usually try to keep it at/under 50% science fiction titles). And I wasn’t employed full time from May 26th to December 3rd, so I had a bunch of free time on my hands. Toward the end of the span, I started thinking about the genre thing a bit, and started reading more non-fiction, at which I’m always slower[ref]Especially the really thought-provoking stuff.[/ref], so I wound up ending the year with a few unfinished books. Their count/page count only counts for the year in which I finish them, so they won’t show up until my 2018 report.
Total Book Count
Holy shit. I hit 69 books this year, the second-highest count since I started tracking this. Again, the analysis of why was up there in the Overview section, which sums it up nicely. I hit 125% of my goal. I can say that this was my “big win” in a year that felt like I didn’t accomplish anything of note. That’s also 141% of what I read in 2016. Damn.
Each book took an average of 5.28 days to read.
25,227 pages! That’s roughly 11,000 more pages than I read in 2016. I’m pretty pleased with that result. Scratch that, I’m damned pleased with that result. It’s 169% of what I read in 2016. On average, I read 69.1 pages per day, and the average book length was 337 pages.
Normally, I attempt to keep my science fiction intake to 50% or less of my reading per year. This year, I threw out that requirement because I was falling behind on series that I wanted to finish, and because F&SF is the biggest portion of my (daunting) to-read pile. The next nearest block was for Biography/Essays/Personal Stories, which was 8 titles and accounted for 11.6%, followed by Science (6 titles, 8.7%).
I had a much larger than normal batch of re-reads this year, as I decided to re-read all of Alastair Reynolds‘s Revelation Space stories, which I did in chronological order of story, and I included all his short fiction works in that universe, as well. The biggest surprise here was rereading Stephen King’s The Gunslinger and not enjoying it very much. Loved it in high school, but I never finished the series. After I re-read this title, it looks very much like I might never finish the series.
Lots of series reading this year — started a few new series, re-read one whole one (see the re-reading section above), and was kinda stunned about how much I’d been into those series. Of note, in addition to the re-read of the Revalation Space series, I read the entire Bobiverse trilogy from Dennis E. Taylor, and loved it. It was perhaps the most fun I’ve had reading sci-fi since The Martian. Also started the Magic 2.0 series, Charlie Stross‘s Empire Games series, and got caught up on Marko Kloos‘s Frontlines series. I also read the concluding volumes of Chuck Wendig‘s Star Wars: Aftermath series and David Weber‘s Safehold series.
This year was surprising in that I read a large number of paper books (gasp!). The past few years, it’s been like 1 or 0. And for 2017, I spiked. Yuge. This was due, in part, to reading a few tech books, which I find easier to digest in paper format. I learned
nginx this year, so that probably played into it signficantly. Also, I re-read The Android’s Dream, which is one of the better action-comedy science fiction books I’ve read, and have sitting around in paperback and hardcover.[ref]It was bathroom reading.[/ref]
This section is dedicated to looking at how the year progressed. It’ll give you a bit of an idea as to how things went, and it allows me to see where I bogged down (or sped up) as life got in the way (or didn’t).
The first chart is Completions vs. Total Pages Read (CvTP) — each vertical blue bar represents a day in which I finished a book (and the pages I finished). In the 1000+ page day, that was actually me finishing two books.
I’m not sure why there was a two-week gap in completions from late July to mid-August, but there you have it. You can also see my end-of-year slowdown, which is pretty par for the course. Other than that, no real gaps this year. Pretty pleased with that.
Next up, we have the Completions vs. Average Pages Per Day (CvPPD). The graph usually looks like this right out of the gate — big spike at the beginning of the year and then settles into a bouncy rhythm, with spikes happening each time I complete a book.
The biggest spike in pages-per-day came from finishing the 1112 pages in a 9-day span, all of them happening on the same day. I’m pretty happy with my completion rate, and I definitely read a lot more pages per day in 2017 than in years prior.
Next up, we have a double-line graph showing Total Pages Read vs. Average Pages Per Day (TvPPD).
There’s nothing particularly special about this — because of the different scales on the y-axes, don’t try to read anything into it. It’s just here to help paint a picture.
Year Over Year Reading Metrics
Here’s a good look at a few of the more major categories that I track, looking at things in a year-over-year manner. You can see that 2014 was a good year for reading — I was unemployed for part of it, and then had a long (45+ minutes) bus commute in each direction. Got a LOT of reading done. In 2015 and 2016, I had both a shorter commute, and a lot of life stressors hitting all at once — obviously resulting in less reading.
This year, well, underemployed for a few months, which gave me more time to read, which was nice. I definitely read more when I am sitting around the house.
The Full List of What I Read
And here’s the full list of everything I read in 2017. The links will take you to the product page on Amazon.[ref]Yes, these are affiliate links.[/ref]
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As with last year, I am limiting awards to those genres in which I read four or more titles. It’s not fair to have award winners in categories that have limited/no competition. I will include one for “best overall” because that seems…right.
So. Without further ado, the winners.
Best Biography/Essays Book: Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet by Jesse Itzler. Honestly, in discussions with friends, we did question some of the elements in this book. On the other hand, it was a pretty fun read — largely because I identified strongly with the author’s “holy shit this guy is intense” responses and with how his confidence grew over time as a result of his training.[ref]In 1993, I was stationed at Ft. Bragg, and was in group support for 7th Special Forces. That’s a story for another time, though.[/ref]
Best Science Book: Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith. This was a stunning book and I devoured it. It isn’t just cephalopods — it covers the evolutionary history of the development of the nervous system and delves into how that results in the minds that we know — our own, and those of the other animals on the planet. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Book: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. One of the best science fiction novels I’ve read, period. No time frame. Remnants of humanity arrive at a planet previously terraformed by humans, but what they find isn’t what they expected.[ref]I really need to re-read this again. Soon.[/ref]
Best Technology Book: Nginx HTTP Server by Clément Nedelcu. This likely won’t mean much to most of my readers, but it was a great springboard into learning
nginx, which is way better than Apache.
Best Overall Book: Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson. This book is going to stick with me forever, and it’s something every white person should sit down and read with an open mind. I read the first half in early autumn and had to pause, then finished it in December. It moved me and it made me think hard about my role in the racist culture we’ve created in this country.
Damn, what a year! So much reading! I decided to keep the same goal for 2018 — simply because it’s going to be a busier year than 2017. New job, all sorts of stuff with the kiddos, and life appearing to get busier by the day, all adds up to reduced reading time. Hell, as I write this (January 17th), I still haven’t finished a single book yet this year. I need to get my shit together.
What’d you read in 2017 that I should have on my list for 2018?