2017: My Year in Reading

All of the data that follows was collected by me throughout the year using a combination of Google Sheets and Google Calendar. All seasonal and monthly calculations are based on the date each title was begun. Average days to read titles are based on the number of days actually spent reading each title, and not necessarily the full span from begun date to completed date.

A complete list of all the books I read in 2017 is at the bottom of this post

First things first: I’m a hypocrite.

In 2016, I wrote a post about the importance of reading more widely in genres I don’t normally read. I even posted lists of titles and swore to spend some amount of time in 2017 reading them.

I didn’t. I didn’t read any of them.

I could make excuses but I won’t. I truly believe it’s important to expand my reading horizons and I should have prioritized doing so. I shouldn’t have let this project slide.

So I promise you now: I have one book currently checked out from my library which I need to finish before it’s due. Once that’s done, I’ll start on my list of new-to-me genre reading.

I read 53 books in 2017. As usual, I overwhelmingly read fiction:

  • 38 fiction
  • 15 nonfiction

I read one book of poetry this year and counted it toward my nonfiction titles.

I averaged 4.42 books per month. I read 26 books in the first six months of the year and 27 in the last six months. My average books per month for the first six months of the year was 4.33 and my average per month for the last six months was 4.5.

I read slightly fewer fiction titles in the first six months of the year than in the last six months: 17 vs. 21. This makes sense, given that I read more nonfiction in the top half of the year, with 9 titles, compared to 6 in the bottom half.

I spent 168 days reading this year and 197 not reading. This helps explain why I read fewer titles in total this year than last. I averaged 3.73 days in a row of reading per stretch and 4.38 days in a row not reading.

My longest uninterrupted stretch of reading was 15 days from May 31–June 14. My longest stretch without reading was 20 days from August 18–September 6.

My seasonal reading pattern was fairly consistent this year:

  • 11 books in winter (January-February-December)
  • 15 books in spring (March-April-May)
  • 15 books in summer (June-July-August)
  • 12 books in fall (September-October-November)

I read eight books in April, the most of any month. March had the fewest books read, with a paltry two. I had four months in which I read three books: January, February, August, and November.

I should note that I made a change to how I calculated my monthly reading this year: In previous years, I based these numbers on the date when I finished each title. This year, it made more sense to me to use the date I began each. I checked my numbers both ways and it literally makes no difference to any of my averages.

I count Jerusalem by Alan Moore in my totals for January, despite beginning it in August 2016, as it’s what I was reading when January started and I read it throughout the month. I finally finished it in February.

On average, it took 3.76 days for me to read a book:

  • 4.18 days for fiction
  • 2.67 days for nonfiction

Only one book this year took me more than a week to complete: Jerusalem by Alan Moore, at 25 days (some of which were in 2016 but I didn’t count them toward that year’s totals, so it all equals out). I read seven books in a single day each. One book took me exactly seven days to finish.

This year, I actively attempted to track the number of pages I read but I proved, once again, this data point is too inconsistent and unreliable to analyze. Should you count title pages? Author bio pages? Front matter? Glossaries and indexes? Should you count blank versos? How should you handle books containing sections with both Roman and Arabic numerals?

So many books are paginated so many different ways, I was unable to define consistent rules to render all things equal. Also, two of the books I read this year were audiobooks and had no pages. Some would argue that one should use the total pages of the print copy, but one of them—Yes Please by Amy Poehler—has extra content in the audio version which isn’t in the print version, so this would be inaccurate. I read one ebook and I’ve mentioned before how malleable their pagination is.

Thus, as always, I chose ignore the number of pages.

For yet another year, Jerusalem wielded an outsized impact on my reading life. Once I finished it, I had an extremely difficult time picking up anything else for months. It burned me out. It overwhelmed my capacity to read. I had to force myself to read anything else after it was done. Moving on from this book was a trial.

And I don’t regret any of it. Jerusalem will stand as one of the defining reading experiences of my life.

That said, I managed at least one book per week on average for the year, which is entirely acceptable. 53 books in a year is just fine.

Once again, like last year, I didn’t write as many reviews as I wanted to. The motivation just wasn’t there. I wrote a few and there were two in particular which required more than one post to say everything:

My most pleasurable discovery this year were the works on Lauren Beukes. Broken Monsters and The Shining Girls were delightful and I plan to seek out more of her work this year (Zoo City in particular).

Beukes is now my go-to example of the value serendipitous discovery: A coworker searched our library catalog for a hyper-local, obscure history tract in our local history research collection. Due to a glitch in the catalog, this item record had the wrong description attached to it. The book being described sounded like something I wanted to read, though, and a bit of research revealed it was a description of Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. My library doesn’t have Zoo City in our collection but we do have a few others by her, so I grabbed Broken Monsters off the shelf.

And thus, a catalog error led me to a new-to-me author whose work I enjoy. I love it when I randomly find things this way.

On a peronsal note, I want to brag:

After the total solar eclipse in August, I wrote a piece attempting to capture my reaction to it. I shared it with my family and my aunt told me it reminded her of the essay “Total Eclipse” by Annie Dillard. I sheepishly confess I had no idea who Annie Dillard was. Imagine how flattered I was when I learned she’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning essayist.

My aunt was being kind: my essay is to Dillard’s as seeing a partial eclipse is to seeing a total eclipse.

But it made me want to read more of her work and there was a new collection of her essays that come out last year: The Abundance. I checked it out from my library, read it, and immediately purchased a copy for myself. These are essays I want to be able to reread over and again into my old age.

I plan to read the rest of her work over the next few years.

I have too many favorites this year to call out just a few. I also read several books which were bad or disappointing.

For a list of my favorite books I read this year, go here >

For a list of my least favorite books of the year, go here >

I also participated in #LibFaves17 on Twitter. All of these titles also appear on my general favorites list. See my selections here >

Books Read in 2017

I’ve linked titles which I’ve reviewed on this blog. Asterisks (*) indicate titles I reviewed for Booklist.

Title Author Started Finished
1. Jerusalem Alan Moore 8/14/2016 2/18/2017
2. Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone * Mark Dawidziak 1/13/2017 1/15/2017
3. Take Us to Your Chief and Other Stories * Drew Hayden Taylor 1/15/2017 1/15/2017
4. Death’s End Cixin Liu 2/1/2017 2/8/2017
5. All Our Wrong Todays Elan Mastai 2/10/2017 2/11/2017
6. The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It David Niven 2/20/2017 2/20/2017
7. Bit by Bit: How Video Games Transformed Our World * Andrew Ervin 3/4/2017 3/5/2017
8. Forever On / After On * Rob Reid 3/5/2017 3/27/2017
9. Dead on Arrival * Matt Richtel 4/8/2017 4/10/2017
10. Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries Kory Stamper 4/11/2017 4/12/2017
11. The Collapsing Empire John Scalzi 4/13/2017 4/15/2017
12. The Kill Society * Richard Kadrey 4/24/2017 6/16/2017
13. Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, a Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese Brad Kessler 4/27/2017 4/28/2017
14. What’s a Dog For? The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man’s Best Friend John Homans 4/29/2017 4/30/2017
15. Dog Songs: Poems Mary Oliver 4/30/2017 4/30/2017
16. Tropic of Kansas * Christopher Brown 4/30/2017 5/18/2017
17. The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures Library of Congress 5/14/2017 5/14/2017
18. Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales Ellen Datlow (ed.) 5/20/2017 5/23/2017
19. Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal about the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing Ben Blatt 5/24/2017 5/26/2017
20. A Study in Brimstone G. S. Denning 5/26/2017 5/28/2017
21. Metrophage Richard Kadrey 5/29/2017 6/3/2017
22. The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles G. S. Denning 6/3/2017 6/5/2017
23. All the Birds in the Sky Charlie Jane Anders 6/6/2017 6/10/2017
24. What the Hell Did I Just Read * David Wong 6/11/2017 6/14/2017
25. Celestial Mechanics: A Tale for a Mid-Winter Night William Least Heat-Moon 6/22/2017 6/23/2017
26. The Force Don Winslow 6/23/2017 6/30/2017
27. Satellite Nick Lake 7/1/2017 7/4/2017
28. Seeds of Earth Michael Cobley 7/8/2017 7/10/2017
29. Artemis Andy Weir 7/14/2017 7/18/2017
30. The Sinner Petra Hammesfahr 7/18/2017 7/22/2017
31. After the Flare * Deji Bryce Olukotun 7/22/2017 7/24/2017
32. Reincarnation Blues Michael Poore 7/25/2017 7/28/2017
33. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town Jon Krakauer 7/31/2017 8/4/2017
34. The Orphaned Worlds Michael Cobley 8/6/2017 8/11/2017
35. Autonomous Annalee Newitz 8/12/2017 8/14/2017
36. The Ascendant Stars Michael Cobley 8/16/2017 12/3/2017
37. Saga, Volume Seven Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples 9/7/2017 9/7/2017
38. The Silent Corner Dean Koontz 9/11/2017 9/16/2017
39. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America Richard Rothstein 9/18/2017 9/21/2017
40. Terminal Alliance * Jim C. Hines 9/22/2017 9/25/2017
41. The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New Annie Dillard 9/26/2017 10/1/2017
42. Too Like the Lightning Ada Palmer 10/2/2017 10/15/2017
43. Black Star Renegades * Michael Moreci 10/17/2017 10/23/2017
44. The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures Aaron Mahnke 10/29/2017 10/30/2017
45. Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong Eric Barker 10/31/2017 11/10/2017
46. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone J. K. Rowling 11/3/2017 11/9/2017
47. Yes Please Amy Poehler 11/9/2017 11/17/2017
48. Broken Monsters Lauren Beukes 11/25/2017 11/26/2017
49. The Long Sunset Jack McDevitt 12/3/2017 12/6/2017
50. The Shining Girls Lauren Beukes 12/7/2017 12/24/2017
51. Phoresis * Greg Egan 12/25/2017 12/26/2017
52. Artificial Condition * Martha Wells 12/27/2017 12/27/2017
53. All Systems Red Martha Wells 12/28/2017 12/28/2017

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