Well, it’s time for some stats and I’m excited! There were definitely some changes in my reading habits this year and it will be fun to see how the stats compare to 2018, the last year that I put a stats post together. I’ll break this up into the same categories as 2018, with info on the books I read, the authors who wrote them, the publishers they were from, how I rated them, and how well they reflected the demographics of our diverse world.
In 2018, 66% of the books I read were from the library. Although I love my library, I’m happy to see that number drop as I’ve dedicated some effort to reading the books on my own shelves! Another stat I should track is year I acquired the books I read, so I can better distinguish reading review copies I received this year from actually clearing off my shelves.
Given the year we just had, I was surprised that I hadn’t read more e-books. Then I realized that only 2% of the books I read in 2018 were e-books, so the percent of books I read that were e-books really did go up this year! I don’t mind e-books, but I definitely prefer physical books. I’ll only read e-books if they’re all I can get, so these stats make sense to me.
While fully a quarter of the books I read this year were an author’s debut publication, that’s a little misleading. Only 5 of these were 2020 debut novels, meaning newly released debut novels were only about 5% of my reading this year. In 2018, they were 15% of my reading. Is this a result of COVID and there being less marketing of new releases? Possibly, but I think it may be more a result of intentionally reading more books that had been on my shelves for awhile.
The publication dates of the books I read also reflect my decision to read from my own shelves. In 2018, 46% of the books I read were published that year. In 2020, I was only about half as likely to read a book published this year. My reading of classics was similarly low, with books published in the 1900s making up only 3% of my reading in 2018 as well.
Compared to 2018, there have been a few big changes in the genres I read. History has been displaced as my most-read genre, although I must admit that my sociology category is a bit of a catch-all. It definitely includes some books that, while they address social issues, could be categorized as history as well. Contemporary fiction is still my second-most read genre, but historical fiction has jumped from my 10th-most read genre to my third, while sci-fi has dropped from third to seventh. I also read quite a bit less true crime, reflecting my uneasiness with the genre using real tragedies as fodder for entertainment. I am a little surprised I’m not reading more science nonfiction and look forward to a bump next year, as I’ve joined a science-nonfiction focused book club on meet-up.
I read slightly more nonfiction this year than in year’s past, up from 53% in 2018 to 57% last year. The change felt greater than that to me, I think because my preferences have shifted so far towards nonfiction. The only reason this gap isn’t larger is because I’ve been clearing old fiction off my shelves and reading fiction for my book club.
I’ve also essentially stopped reading YA, which dropped from an already measly 5% of my reading in 2018 to only 2% this year.
In the past, I’ve typically read about 2/3 books by women, so that number has moved a bit closer to parity this year. This isn’t a variable I try to control and think it may be most influenced by what topics I’m reading on.
I think my reading on interesting women in history was reduced this year, for example, and those books are more often written by women. This reduction happened across my fiction and nonfiction reading. In 2018, the fiction disparity was even steeper, with 77% of the books I read having female authors. My nonfiction in 2018 also included more female authors at 53%.
In 2018, my ratings were starting to look more like a normal distribution, with 20% 5 star reviews and 10% 2 star reviews. Although I’m happy that I’m once again using most of the rating scale available to me, I think the increase in 2 star reads does reflect a drop in the quality of books I’ve been reading. While I’ve occasionally found a hidden gem by reading books that have been languishing on my shelves, it’s more often turned out to be true that I was correctly choosing to pass on books that didn’t jump out at me.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that 10% of the books I read this year were from independent publishers, twice the percentage I read in 2018. I can’t take much credit for this though! It’s another stat I don’t actively manage. Although I see the value of independent publishers, it’s just not made the top of my priority list to read more indie books. This is all down to recommendations from other book bloggers and the presence of indie books on several award lists, including the Kirkus Prize this year.
In a compelling argument for reading more books from indie publishers, a disturbing 48/105 books or 46% of the books I read this year were from Penguin Random House. That’s before their upcoming acquisition of Simon & Schuster! I have nothing against PRH, but the idea of one company having so much power over what books make it to publication definitely makes me uncomfortable.
This is one of the few stats that surprised me, but at least it was a pleasant surprise. Out of all the books I read this year, 42% were by authors of color. This is, of course, a rough category. I basically just google an author and draw a quick conclusion. I’m looking at my stats in aggregate to track whether I’m reading the way I’d like to be, not trying to define any one person. I don’t feel like I made double the effort to read books by people of color this year. I did a bit of reading in categories that bumped this number up (books dealing with race, everything by Zadie Smith, translated fiction, etc). As I’ve said in previous years, I also hope this reflects the fact that the blogging community is recommending more books by authors of color and that it will become easier over time for people to read books by many diverse authors without working at it.
Not so happy with this stat, down from 13% in 2018, which was closer to estimates I’ve read for percent of population that are LGBT+, which I use as my minimum goal. Will have to step this up a little next year. It’s a little harder and feels a little more invasive to try to determine an author’s sexuality, so this stat reflects characters in each book more than the author’s identity.
As in previous years, there’s not much here to surprise me, but it’s satisfying to put some numbers to the trends I detected in my own reading. I’m generally pretty happy with these stats, but will make an effort to read more LGBT+ and non-binary authors next year. I’ll also try to read from a broader variety of publishers, at least within the big 5 (soon to be 4) and perhaps branch out to read more indies as well. Those goals will probably mostly be my focus in the second half of the year, after I’ve made some more progress clearing my shelves.