2019: A Year in Review

Happy New Year, friends! The other day you saw my best of the year post, and here we are today with another traditional annual post. (You can see my past years in review here: 2018; 2017; 2016; 2015; 2014; 2013; 2012; 2011.) I’m always glad to put these numbers together and see what’s changed, and in writing this post, I knew the numbers would be very different. I finished 2018 by finishing an MFA program; I spent the bulk of 2019 living in a van, with no day job except the book reviews.

In 2019, I read 88 books, compared to 66 in 2018. While not up to my good-old-days numbers nearing 150 books per year, this increase definitely reflects some change. A season for all things…

Of the books I read this year:

  • 55% were nonfiction (last year I read 70% nonfiction).
  • 41% were written by female authors (53% last year); 59% were by men (41% last year), with the remainder being collections by multiple authors, or variously unidentifiable, or “other” – this was a negligible category this year, although it made a larger proportion in 2018.
  • Of the fiction I read, 25% were contemporary (a growing number), 22% historical, 18% mysteries, and a whopping 23% were sci fi (that would all be The Expanse). Last year I mostly read fiction I was categorizing as “misc,” which seems to indicate I need better categories, although I didn’t so much change my classification scheme as read more in the categories I’d already established (like sci fi!).
  • In perhaps the most notable (and most predictable) change this year, nearly 20% of what I “read” I listened to as audiobooks. This is all about the van travel, of course. In 2018 I listened to just one audiobook, although in previous years I’ve been as high as 25%, back when I was a commuter.
  • Another big and predictable change: reading for school. Combined reading as student and as teacher this year amounted to just 6% of the books I read; while I was an MFA student my years were 49-70% schoolwork. Happily, 36% of my reading was purely for pleasure, plus a handful marked with the reason “travel” (which can be counted as pleasure: researching places I was headed). 51% were read for reviews. I think I need to make it a life goal to get out from under that majority, much as I love my work.
  • I was sent 54% of my reading by authors and organizations seeking reviews (which means I marked several as read for pleasure; sorry if that’s confusing). Another 24% I purchased (down from 64% last year!), and the remaining 22% were gifts, loans, or library books – sources not much in evidence these last few years.
  • I found time to reread three books this year. I thought it was more than that! With just one in 2018, this remains a negligible category, but I’m glad for each and every one (hello, Brian Doyle).

Some of these numbers changed less than I thought they would – total books read, and rereads, for example. Overall, I’m pleased to see the increased variety in what I read. I’m very grateful to the Shelf for being so flexible with me while I’m on the road, and for being my only employer for most of the year; but I confess I wish I were choosing a few more books for myself and purely for pleasure. (It’s true that the Shelf sent me almost every favorite book of the year. But you know, there’s so much more out there, too…) And now heading into 2020, I can just imagine that we’ll have another drastically different year, with teaching a literature course – surely this will suck up much of my reading time? – and the at-present-total-unknown second half of that year… All I can say is stick around and we’ll all find out together what the heck I’m doing. Thanks for bearing with me through all the surprises!!

How did 2019 treat you as readers? What do you hope the new year – and decade – holds?

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