Here we go! One of my longest, most painstakingly put together, complicated – and favorite – posts of the year. I’m sure there are avid readers out there who don’t track their reading, and don’t enjoy looking back over past years’ book lists. I’m sure they exist. I just don’t know any of them, and am definitely not one myself. In fact, there’s very little I like more than a good saunter through the previous year’s reading. So let’s get to it, shall we?
Facts and Figures
First, the basics: according to Goodreads, I read 127 books in 2019, for a total of 37,780 pages. Wowsers! The page total might be a little off – Goodreads page totals vary by edition and I’m not always diligent about making sure I have marked the same edition that I’m reading. But it’s about there. That’s more than my stated Goodreads Challenge goal of reading 104 books – a pace of two per week – but less than my secretly cherished goal of 156 books – a pace of three per week. Three per week would have been a lot; I may have managed it had work been less busy, but it wasn’t, and 127 is still darn respectable, so I’ll take it.
Again according to Goodreads, the shortest book I read was the bite-sized novella The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – For a Little While, by Catherynne M. Valente. And the longest book was the dense doorstopping biography Edith Wharton, by Hermione Lee. Edith Wharton was wonderful, but it did take me a loooooooooong time to get through it.
Lots of other people read Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, this year. It was a re-read for me – I read it for my book club, and also to prepare for watching the fabulous adaptation on Amazon Prime. And it seems I was the only Goodreads user who read Summer Places this year. What a shame! Simon Parkes paintings, interspersed with essays about plein air painting and the Hudson River School. Why don’t more people pick that up? The mind boggles. I’m not being sarcastic. It’s a beautiful book.
Pass the Pie
Oh, how I love pie charts. Let me count the ways.
What I Read…
First, the basics. As expected, I read more fiction than non-fiction this year – that’s normal for me. The proportions are about the usual, too. In the past few years, I’ve gotten more into poetry and I am always looking to increase the number of books of poetry I read – but fiction is going to be the top every year, and that’s just how it is.
Let’s break that down a bit more. Starting with fiction, I read fairly widely across genres. Classics were the largest component, which is – again – as expected. The older I get, the more I know what I like and what I don’t like – and I find that I enjoy most classics more than anything else. There are exceptions – for instance, I really didn’t get along with Flannery O’Connor this year – but usually, a classic novel or story collection is likely to be a winner for me. I love a good mystery novel, too, and that shows in the high number I read this year. What was more unusual? Ten science fiction or fantasy novels, and sixteen historical fiction – neither a genre that I usually read much during the year; I always feel surprised that I didn’t read more historical fiction, but this year I’m not. Sixteen titles made up a full 20% of my total fiction list this year, which is huge for me. On the other hand, only one literary fiction title – that’s also unusual, and reflects a little less effort on my part to keep up with the big lit-fic titles of the year (and shelving some in historical fiction or science fiction and fantasy when they could, perhaps, do double duty).
As for non-fiction genres, again, I read fairly widely. The largest category is culture, which was a bit of a catch-all for me this year – encompassing books about books, self-help (such as Burnout or Digital Minimalism) and books about cultural phenomena (like Lagom). Biography and memoir combined for eleven titles, all of which I heartily enjoyed. I read a little less than usual in the politics and history category, but more in science and nature writing. And I’d like to read more travel books in 2020.
Who I Read…
Wow – I read a lot more women than men this year. I usually read more female authors, but it’s a little closer to even most years; in 2019 I was heavily into female authors. Only one “both” – not because I didn’t read other books with both male and female contributors, but this year I categorized those either male or female depending on the editor. But I still had to have the “both” category because I read To Kill a Mockingbird: The Graphic Novel, an adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic by graphic novelist and artist Fred Fordham. They don’t get equal billing, because: Harper Lee. But Fordham needed some credit for his wonderful adaptation work. And – this is very exciting – I read one book by a gender non-binary author this year! That would be Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston. (I’d love to read more gender non-binary authors in 2020, if anyone has recommendations.)
Where I Read…
It’s always a back-and-forth between the U.S. and England for the highly sought-after title of “most heavily read setting on Jaclyn’s booklist” – that’s a heavily sought-after title, right? Don’t tell me if it isn’t. It was a decisive win for England in 2019, with 32.3% to only 26% for the old U.S. and A. Canada only had four titles this year, and the rest of the world (continental Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East) patched together sixteen. (Countries covered, which I do track but don’t graph, were Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, Iran, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. Apologies to the rest of the world.) As usual, there were a smattering of books set in fictional worlds, books set in multiple locations (where the characters moved around so much it was impossible to pin them down to a primary setting) and books with no setting (all non-fiction).
How I Read…
Very heavily weighted in favor of physical books. Only one audiobook and two kindle books in 2019. I read five journals – all issues of Slightly Foxed – and six comics or graphic novels. Hoping for a bit more variety in 2020, but I’ll always be mostly a physical book person.
And finally, the source of the books. Again, one sourced from Audible and two from Kindle, and the rest divided between the library and my own bookshelves. I surprised myself by reading more heavily than usual off my own shelves this year – the library to own-shelves ratio was only two to one; it’s usually more heavily weighted to the library. Although I poke fun at myself for my library addiction, I’m really happy either way. I have a wonderful home library that I’ve collected carefully and thoughtfully, and I’m usually guaranteed to enjoy what comes off my own shelves. But I just can’t quit my weekly walks to the neighborhood branch of my city library. And I have no self control once I get there, but I’m also fine with that.
And there it is! Another excellent year of reading in the books. (<–see what I did there?) 2019 was a lot of classics and a lot of female authors, so it’s no wonder I’m looking back so fondly on my reads from last year. My list could be a bit diverse, it’s true – unless I’m paying very close attention and making it a specific goal to read more widely, my list does tend to be very white and very English-speaking. It’s gotten better since I started seeking out books by authors of color, LGBTQ+ and genderqueer authors, and works in translation, but there’s always room for improvement. I don’t have a specific diversity goal for my reading in 2020, but I will continue to pay attention.
What did your 2019 in books look like?