2016 Reading List Roundup

Traditionally, most people write up their year end reading summaries at – well – year end. That would be the logical time to do them, if you were motivated and say – organized. Both things I sometimes struggle with when it comes to writing for my website.

I do have a decent record of what books I read last year thanks to Goodreads Annual Reading Challenge. What I wanted to do this year as part of my review was compile a bit of a scorecard/snapshot of my reading habits, more for my own sake than any sort of public deceleration of “Oooh look at my reading list!” But since this is where I keep my personal record of these things, I am going to make it public.

Here’s a collage of the 24 book covers that I read, pretty much in order that I read them.

When I say read, I often mean listened to on audiobook. Since 2015 I have been listening to audiobooks on my daily commute which amounts to about 45-60 minutes a day. If a book is really good, I will listen to it around the house as well when doing chores or walking the dog, but I usually reserve that time for catching up on podcasts.

So I took a look at the 24 books above and started to compile some numbers around them and was a bit surprised by what I found versus what I thought the numbers would say.

Obviously the numbers that didn’t surprise me were the total number of books I read or that the majority were audiobooks.

I was a bit surprised by the 54% of the authors being female. I did make a conscious decision to try to include more women authors in my reading this year, but wasn’t keeping track as I did it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to hit a 50/50 split, but was pleasantly surprised when the numbers showed up just over half were women authors.

Again although I didn’t set out to read new authors exclusively, I did challenge myself to try new authors instead of reaching for the comfort of familiar voices. There is so much new books being published it wasn’t hard to find titles that I wanted to check out by authors that were new to me. I thought maybe I would achieve 50-60% new authors, but when I looked at the end, it was nearly 80% new authors. Only, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, Margaret Atwood, Chuck Wendig, and Terry Pratchett were authors I had read before. All the rest were first time authors for me. Granted, many of the authors I read I was aware of for a while, but had just not gotten around to reading anything by them – Neal Stephenson and Kameron Hurley for example.

Genre breakdown is a bit subjective since a lot of things straddle the line between Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I went based on both my gut feel for the book as well as when in doubt I looked up to see how the majority of people on Goodreads had shelved a book. In broad terms I read almost half (11 books) in Science Fiction, 8 books or 33% in Fantasy, and the remaining 5 were non-fiction. In the non-fiction side of things 2 of the 5 titles were books about writing (Take Off Your Pants, and Rock Your Plot), 1 was a biography (Elon Musk), and 2 were essay/critical non-fiction (Geek Feminist Revolution, and Time Travel: A History). Not a bad spread.

There’s an ongoing criticism that literature in general is biased toward DWG (Dead White Guys) usually European males and I thought I would take a look at my own reading in SF&F. As it turns out 1/6th of my reading, Pratchett, Dick, Vonnegut, and Pohl, all fell into the category of DWG.

One number that I was a bit surprised about was the number of books I read this year that were somehow part of a series.More than half of the books (13 out of 24) were connected to a series. I didn’t tend to think I read a lot of series, but this year seemed to prove me wrong.

Also surprising to me was that more than 60% of the books I read/listened to this year were published in the last 2 years (2015-2016) and 79% were published since 2012. Only 5 were from pre-2000 and then they were spread out from 1969 through to 1993.

I also started introducing my kids to some of the audio books I was listening to. It started innocently enough when my son and I started listening to Frederik Pohl’s Gateway on our way to his practices. After that I decided to introduce both my son and daughter to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series via Mort. In 2016 it was only 2 books that I shared with them on audio, but I suspect that number to more than double for 2017.

Finally I took a look at the number of author’s that were POC. Again, I didn’t go out of my way to pick a novel based on this, but I was trying to read stories with different perspectives, so I hoped my year end totals would reflect this. For 2016 only 1/8th of the books I read were by people of colour.

So all in all I think it was very successful year for me on the reading front. This didn’t include the comics I read through out the year. I generally only count them if they are part of a graphic novel (Angel Catbird by Atwood for example) and not single issues.

I already set my goal for 2017 higher at 30 books up 6 from 2016’s 24 and as of this month, I am well on my way to meeting that target. It’ll be interesting to see if there are any trends from year to year for me.

Goodbye 2013 and Hello 2014

Back in Time
Back in Time by nicholasjon – License:CC BY-NC 2.0

Human perception of time is a funny thing. With the passing of each year, I never fail to wonder, where the heck did the last 365 days go? This past year was no different. In fact the older I get the more time seems to go by faster. Is it because we become acutely aware of how little we have left on this planet? Or is it because so many routine things fill our lives that the passage of time flows seamlessly without big show stopper moments to make us sit up and take notice?

Either way it’s good that events like marking the passage from one year into the next give us pause to reflect on the previous year and try to evaluate its relative worth. Like the Egyptian god Anubis weighing the heart of the deceased in the afterlife, we try to take stock in the previous year and pass judgement on its merit. Did the year live up to our expectations, exceed it, or was it somehow lacking.

From a writing perspective 2013 was a very different year for me in a number of ways. As far as output goes I didn’t feel as productive as I have in previous years. I worked on a number of new short stories, but nothing new made it to market. I did shop around several of my older more polished pieces and was successful at finding a home for Second Harvest. My first official sale! The story will be published in Fictionvale.com this coming March. (Trust me, this won’t be my last post trumpeting that.)

I worked on my novel, but it lacked shape and purpose. My writing group took the time to help me reorient myself and try to focus on some of the big picture items that I was trying to dance around. It was helpful and productive and truth be told, I don’t know what I would do without them. That being said, I still failed to proceed at a satisfactory pace with that project. I recently posted about my determination to fix that here – DIY: Vision Versus Reality.

The other big project I took on this year was signing up for the Playwright Junction workshop this fall. The 12 week course is just wrapping up this month, and we’ll have ten minute excerpts from our work produced as a dramatic reading by professional actors later this month. The course has be very eye-opening and helped me focus on my writing in new ways that I hope to continue beyond the end of the workshop in my writing and possibly in other theatre work.

So where does that leave me? Did 2013 end up where I expected it to? Hardly. I would have been disappointed if it had been so predictable. Was it a successful year, writing-wise? An unqualified yes. Was it as successful as I had hoped? That one is a bit more murky. Less successful on the output front, but more successful in the breakthrough and rejuvenating my writing brain.

So where does that leave me for 2014? I want to become more focused and productive. Basic stuff. Butt in chair – hands on keyboard kind of basics. More time spent free writing from prompts and ideas. A lot of the writing prompts that we used in the playwright workshop forced me to write without thinking and while it was frustrating at times, it was also liberating.

As for projects my primary goal is simple. I have to put up or shut up and finish a draft of the current novel I am working on. That is the big one. No holding back.

My Secondary goals:

  • Finish and submit more short stories to market this year.
  • Explore writing workshop opportunities

I also want to leave room for opportunity to knock. You never know when something that could change your life will present itself and you have to be in a position to capitalize on it.

All in all I am looking forward to 2014 being a fantastic year not only in my writing, but in other aspects of my life as well.

Best wishes for 2014 to everyone.