In a year filled with catastrophic events the story of one person’s year of reading feels rather small. As the end of the year approaches we’re all looking back and reflecting on what was and could have been. I’ve found solace in looking at concrete examples of small things that have shifted in my life. Reading is my tether, it anchors me, guides me and brings me joy. So the changes I want to focus on this year are not big ones (like moving house, or launching a business), they are what has changed in my reading life since I wrote this post wrapping up 2019 and this post about setting goals for 2020.
To recap, my 2020 reading goals were:
- Read at least 50 books from my pre 2020 unread pile. Including at least 10 classics by women, and 10 translated books.
- Develop a regular reading routine, with at least 30 minutes of reading before bed each night.
- Continue my commitment to only buy books from local secondhand or independent bookshops but limit book buying to 1 book per month.
To keep track of my reading goals for the year and help keep me accountable I decided to use this spreadsheet created by fellow book blogger Crini. I had been using a simple spreadsheet template of my own for a few years, but Crini’s had a whole lot of built in calculations and stats that were really appealing, and far beyond my very limited Excel skills. She’s updated the spreadsheet with some new features for 2021, and you can check that out here.
Interestingly I failed to achieve all three of the reading goals I set out. But both the goals and the spreadsheet revealed to me things about my reading habits that I hadn’t been aware of, and gave me far greater agency over my reading.
I’ve been writing these wrap-up statistic posts for a few years now, so wherever possible I’ve included the numbers from previous years. However there were some new things I tracked in 2020.
91 – Books read
My target was 75 books, and I certainly surpassed that. I deliberately set the bar lower than recent years as I was hoping to tackle some of the larger books on my TBR. This strategy definitely worked, I felt a lot less pressure to ‘keep the numbers up’ each month. My highest number of books read in a month was March with 12 books finished and 2 DNF. I travelled interstate twice in March, including to Adelaide Writers Week, so I had plenty of opportunities to read. But how much the world can change in only a few short weeks. In May I only finished 3 books. We were deep in the first lockdown of the year, adjusting to working from home, and the world felt so terrifying it was hard to look away from my phone and focus on the pages of books. Eventually books became a solace again and my enthusiasm for reading returned. Overall I read 42 books from my pre-2020 TBR, which wasn’t quite enough to reach my goal of 50, but it was a significant number and I’m reasonably pleased with myself for making such a good attempt.
204 – Books acquired
This was a new statistic for me this year. After completing a full audit of my unread books at the end of 2019 I was determined to keep better track of the books I was buying and receiving from publishers. Of the 204 books that came into my possession throughout the year:
- 32 books I bought. All from independent bookstores or secondhand, so I stuck to that part of my goal. Not all of these added to my TBR, as some were nicer editions of classics I’d read in the past or copies of books I’d borrowed from the library and really enjoyed.
- 7 books were borrowed from the library before lockdown made borrowing physical books a thing of the past.
- 14 were books I requested from publishers for review.
- 151 were unsolicited books sent to me by publishers. This number was staggering to me. In the first 2 months of the year alone I received 47 unsolicited books. This number resulted in me contacting some of publishers requesting that I no longer receive unsolicited books from them, as the sheer volume was impossible to keep up with and it was clear the books were not being targeted to my reading preferences.
*Note* I did not include in my totals instances where I received bulk lots of books for Books on the Rail campaigns. Though they were sent to me by publishers, they were for the express purpose of being given away. I counted just 1 of each campaign title, which was intended for me. I did, however, count instances where I received an ARC and a finished copy of a single title as 2 seperate books.
150 – Unread books ‘unhauled’
Another new stat tracked in 2020, this represents all the unread books that I sold, gave to friends, or donated via charities or local ‘free little libraries’. Of those 44 were books from my pre-2020 TBR pile, and the other 106 were unsolicited books sent to me by publishers that I wasn’t interested in reading. I’m really glad to see this number, and it’s definitely something I am going to keep tracking. To me it represents all these books that are going to find homes where they are appreciated and enjoyed. And it also shows me how many books I am receiving that are not at all tailored to my reading interests and tastes, and where I need to reassess my publisher relationships.
37 – Five star books
Over the past few years this number has slowly increased as a percentage of my total reads. I think this mostly due to me becoming more confident in my reading tastes and more discerning in the titles I start reading. The genres of the books I gave 5 stars highlights how varied my reading is, sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, classic, romance, literary, and even poetry. My average star rating across the year was 3.9, the same as in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
My favourite 5 star reads were:
Non fiction: Dark Emu, The Trauma Cleaner
Translated: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
Fantasy: Spinning Silver, The Starless Sea, Howl’s Moving Castle
Historical: Daisy Jones and the Six
Literary: Girl, Woman, Other, Silver Sparrow
Science Fiction: The Fifth Season
Young Adult: Ghost Bird, Only Mostly Devastated, Please Don’t Hug Me
Romance: Red White and Royal Blue
74 – Books by women
My quest to re-balance my bookshelves and reading habits after many years of reading mostly classics and sci-fi by men is probably now complete. The past few years of really dedicating myself to change have shifted my habits, and it’s now my default to choose books by women. This year in addition to the 74 books by women (78%), I also read 2 collections written by authors of various genders, 28 books by men and 1 book by a non-binary author. In future years I would like to track and increase books by non-binary and transgender authors. Though I didn’t officially track it I am only aware of two trans authors whose books I read in 2020.
13 – Translated books
I’ve long been interested in reading translated literature as a way to expand my reading horizons. 1 Denmark 1 Norway 4 France 4 Japan 3 Italian. I managed to increase the proportion of translated books only very slightly this year after a low in 2019. I hope to increase the percentage closer to 2018’s heights in the year to come. Only 8 of the 13 translated books I read were from my pre-2020 TBR, so I missed hitting my goal of 10 by just a couple of titles.
4 – Classics
I read 16 books which were published before before 2010 (ie. more than 10 years ago), but only 4 of those I would consider Classics. It’s such an subjective classification, but I’m still shocked to see how few I read in 2020. Of those 3 were written by Jane Austen, who happened to also be my most read author for the year. I well and truly failed at my goal of reading 10 Classic by women, mostly because by the middle of the year I’d completely forgotten that was a goal I’d set and I didn’t prioritise Classics by women.
28 – Audiobooks
My love of audiobooks is well known, and in 2018 I used them to help me finish series that had been languishing on my shelves. You can read about that in full here. Only three of the books I listened to were stand-alone novels. My favourite of those was Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, who I was lucky enough to meet at Adelaide Writers Week.