Last year, for the first time, I decided to keep track of all the books I read. There’s something satisfying about finishing a book and adding it to the ‘read’ list in my diary each month. It’s encouraged me to read more as well. I read a total of 53 books last year and I thought if I could beat that number, even by only a little, then 2020 would be a success.
When it comes to reading, I’ve finally found an approach that works best for me. I don’t write book reviews or use Goodreads to track what I’ve read. I don’t force myself to keep pushing through a book I’m not enjoying. At my last job in a public library, I usually led one or both of the monthly book clubs and I took private joy in telling the book club members that they shouldn’t feel pressured to always read the book: it’s totally valid if you’re too busy, or tired, or just not able to get past the first chapter. And if you hated the book, that’s great! Different opinions can make discussions more interesting.
If I’m struggling to get through a book that I do want to finish (usually because there’s some element that interests me or I want to know how the story plays out) then I put it aside for as long as I need to and don’t let myself feel guilty for starting something new. I don’t bother reading the rest of a series if I disliked the first book, regardless of how many people on the internet insist that it gets better after book three, or five, or eight. I don’t have time for people who try to argue that the misogynist protagonist and/or male gaze in a series is a deliberate choice by the author and therefore not something people should complain about. And I certainly don’t need to explain to random people on the internet why I didn’t enjoy one of their favourite books just because they feel entitled to a right of reply.
This post wasn’t supposed to be a rant, but I guess I’ve been holding on to some of that for a while.
If you don’t want to suffer through the dreaded blogger ramble and prefer to get straight to the actual point of this post, skip ahead now!
2020 has been a bad year. Considering how many people are still in the middle of the pandemic, it feels a bit weird to acknowledge that 2020 has also been a good year for me, in a few different ways. Yes, I was technically unemployed for about 4 months and living off government payments. Yes, I was one of the million Australians who sought help with their mental health during that time. Yes, I was even more pessimistic about my career prospects than I had been before.
So here’s the good that came out of 2020:
- More time at home meant more time with my dog. This was mostly spent cuddled up with him and napping on the couch.
- I found comfort and purpose in yoga (stereotypical white-girl that I am, I suppose). While I’d done yoga sporadically in the past, it was nothing compared to my new habit of daily yoga at home, a habit which lasted 3 or 4 months until…
- I got a new job. It meant I had to move and get used to a longer commute, as well as living alone for the first time, but when the right job comes along you do what you have to do. Sure, it was only a contract position, but it was full-time and I had to trust that things would work out.
- My contract was made permanent. I love my new job, and I actually feel that fabled job security for the first time.
This doesn’t mean my life is now perfect. But overall, my year is ending on a good note. Some of that end-of-year high definitely includes my successful year of reading.
So, did I beat last year’s personal best of 53 books?
Let’s take a look at the data:
Before we get any further, I just need to point again that if a book is listed under a particular month it doesn’t necessarily mean the book was both started and finished within that month. Most of the time, it just means that’s when I finished reading the book. I’m sure if I kept track of both start and finish dates then I’d have even more interesting data to analyse, but as a non-STEM Excel enthusiast there’s only so much of this I can take!
Anyway, you’ll notice that 7 books is the most I’ve read in a month and 2 books is the least. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a trend, but if you know that I stopped working in April and started my new job in August…well, make of that what you will.
I’m not disappointed about July, by the way. Reading 2 books in a month is pretty solid. Some people only have the time or motivation to read one book a month, and other people less than that!
Now that you’ve seen the monthly breakdown, you’re probably wondering how? How did I read 6 or 7 books in a month, especially if I was working full-time?
Maybe this will help answer your question:
Though I didn’t have pretty charts in last year’s reading retrospective, I did note that I listened to 12 audiobooks, which is about 22%. That’s a big jump to 58% this year! In 2019 (and before) the majority of my reading was definitely print books.
So why the change? First, I had decided last year to buy fewer books and rely more on library books. A natural extension of this was using the library’s apps for ebooks and audiobooks (though mostly audiobooks). Second, when I got my new job and moved, I was faced with a much longer commute, which was by train instead of by car. This was the perfect opportunity to read more and audiobooks were the best choice. Previously, I’d tried listening to audiobooks while driving but always got too distracted; for some reason, sitting on a train and watching the world pass by was less distracting and I found that I could focus on audiobooks better that way.
Some final stats:
Most-read author: Martha Wells: 4
If you look closely, you’ll notice I took a brief detour into murder mysteries during February, March, and April. I’m also very happy to say that 2 of the books I read this year are now in my top 5 favourite books. Any guesses?
|January||Lighthouse Bay||Kimberley Freeman||Audiobook|
|January||The Gossamer Mage||Julie E. Czerneda|
|January||The Golden Age||Joan London|
|January||No Friend But the Mountains||Behrouz Boochani||Audiobook|
|January||The Cruellest Miles||Gay Salisbury & Laney Salisbury|
|January||Under the Pendulum Sun||Jeannette Ng||Ebook|
|February||Where the Crawdads Sing||Delia Owens|
|February||Mortal Engines||Philip Reeve||Audiobook|
|February||Brightly Burning||Alexa Donne|
|February||Muse of Nightmares||Laini Taylor|
|February||Murder is Binding||Lorna Barrett|
|February||Little Gods||Jenny Ackland||Audiobook|
|March||A Murder for the Books||Victoria Gilbert||Ebook|
|March||The Heart Goes Last||Margaret Atwood||Audiobook|
|March||The Art of War||Sun Tzu||Audiobook|
|March||An Isolated Incident||Emily Maguire|
|April||Homicide in Hardcover||Kate Carlisle|
|April||Gideon the Ninth||Tamsyn Muir|
|April||Gathering Dark||Candice Fox||Audiobook|
|April||Fate of Dragons||Alisha Klapheke||Ebook|
|May||The Bone Palace||Amanda Downum|
|May||The Ten Thousand Doors of January||Alix E. Harrow|
|May||Spare Room||Dreda Say Mitchell||Audiobook|
|May||True Grit||Charles Portis||Audiobook|
|June||Hive||A. J. Betts||Audiobook|
|June||Once and Future||Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy||Audiobook|
|June||The Starless Sea||Erin Morgenstern||Audiobook|
|June||The Traitor Baru Cormorant||Seth Dickinson||Ebook|
|July||Little Fires Everywhere||Celeste Ng|
|August||The Good Turn||Dervla McTiernan||Audiobook|
|August||The City of Brass||S. A. Chakraborty||Audiobook|
|August||All Systems Red||Martha Wells||Audiobook|
|August||Artificial Condition||Martha Wells||Audiobook|
|August||Rogue Protocol||Martha Wells||Audiobook|
|August||Wyrde and Wayward||Charlotte E. English||Audiobook|
|September||The Bone Ships||R. J. Barker||Audiobook|
|September||River of Teeth||Sarah Gailey||Audiobook|
|September||The Wizard Hunters||Martha Wells||Audiobook|
|September||The Stars Are Legion||Kameron Hurley||Audiobook|
|October||Crossroads of Canopy||Thoraiya Dyer||Audiobook|
|October||The Red Knight||Miles Cameron|
|October||The Left Hand of Darkness||Ursula K. LeGuin||Audiobook|
|October||Radiance||Catherynne M. Valente||Audiobook|
|October||A Conspiracy of Kings||Megan Whalen Turner||Audiobook|
|October||The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires||Grady Hendrix||Audiobook|
|November||The Animals at Lockwood Manor||Jane Healey||Audiobook|
|November||Of Sea and Shadow||Will Wight||Ebook|
|November||Silver in the Wood||Emily Tesh||Ebook|
|November||Unconquerable Sun||Kate Elliott|
|November||The Poppy War||R. F. Kuang||Audiobook|
|December||The Court of Miracles||Kester Grant||Audiobook|
|December||Sinister Magic||Lindsay Buroker||Audiobook|
|December||An Unkindness of Ghosts||Rivers Solomon||Audiobook|
|December||The Catalog of Lost Objects||David Gallay||Audiobook|
|December||The Priory of the Orange Tree||Samantha Shannon|
|December||To Sleep in a Sea of Stars||Christopher Paolini||Ebook|
My prediction for 2021 is a slight increase in ebooks. I received a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday, which is much easier on the eyes compared to reading on my phone. I’m not intending to buy many ebooks, at least not to begin with, as I already have enough to keep me reading with Tor.com’s eBook of the Month Club and any freebies advertised on the Fantasy subreddit. Though I am considering purchasing the ebook version of Brandon Sanderson’s Rhythm of War because these doorstopper books are getting ridiculous.
Looking back over the books I read in 2020, I’m a bit surprised that none of them were re-reads. It’s almost fitting, then, that I’m going to begin 2021 with a re-read of The Lord of the Rings. And yes, if I manage to finish all three volumes, you better believe they’re going on my list as 3 separate books, I don’t care if Tolkien starts rolling in his grave.