2017: A Year in Review

Note: I’m out of pocket during my residency period at school. I love your comments! But it may take me several days or a week or more to respond.


This is a traditional annual post; you can see my past few years in review here: 2016; 2015; 2014; 2013; 2012; 2011.

For the very *best* books I’ve read this year, see last Friday’s post, best of 2017.


This year was markedly different than any that have come before, because I’ve been a full-time graduate student in creative writing, and my program is fairly reading-heavy. Unsurprisingly, my reading habits have changed a fair amount.

The biggest change: I’m down by nearly half in terms of the number of books I read, at only 70 this year. (There were a handful of individual essays in addition to what I added to the big list of “books read,” but that list also includes a few individual essays.) Of those 70 books:

  • 76% were nonfiction (54% last year), plus a handful of poetry, for less than 20% fiction.
  • an even 50% were written by female authors (40% last year); 40% were by men (51% last year), with the remainder being collections by multiple authors, or variously unidentifiable.*
  • I normally analyze the novels I read by genre, but this is such a small sample size that I’ll just say there was a general smattering of historical fiction, misc. or contemporary fiction, fantasy, drama, and one lonely thriller–a far cry from previous years where thriller/mysteries have been a major component of my fiction reading.
  • I read NO audibooks this year (last year, only 5 books out of 121, but in previous years a significant number).
  • nearly 70% of my reading was assigned for school this year, which I think explains everything else I see here.
  • corollary: the same 70%, almost precisely, I purchased. Another 25% I was sent for review, and those few left over were either sent to me in .pdf form (for school), or already owned. This is a big change, again, from last year, when 80% of the books I read, I read for paid reviews.
  • again, the big one: I read 70 books this year, compared to 121 last year.

I am unsurprised that there are big changes, but I certainly hadn’t realizes how relatively few books I’d read this year. And to think it nearly made my brain explode all the same! I guess that’s just an indicator of how much brainpower (stress, angst, energy, time) went into writing–something not obvious to you, my faithful readers here, I’m afraid. I am ready to share very little of what I write for school with audiences outside that small trusted circle (my faculty advisor, a few classmates). It’s a tender time, and I appreciate your patience.

I’m glad that I’m doing better at reading male and female authors* in more-or-less equal numbers, and I’m glad to be reading a lot of nonfiction, although I confess at this point–overwhelmingly skewed in the nonfictional direction–I do miss the ease and joy of fiction. I also find novels so much easier to review (partly because of all that brainpower already working for school), and I’m going to try to keep that in mind when requesting books for review from the Shelf.

In 2018, I’m afraid we should all expect more of the same trends… I’m entering the third semester of my MFA program, which is the critical essay semester, which means critical writing about my reading, ad nauseum… we’ll see if I can pull it all off! It’s head-above-water time these days. In fact, it occurs to me as I write this that I may have to consider a further slackening of the pace here at pagesofjulia. I’m in the final year of school. How would you all feel about seeing me even less?

And what did 2017 hold for you, and what do you see looming ahead? I’m always glad to hear from you, even if I have little time to respond.

As 2017 closes, I wish us all calm, relaxed, pleasurable, entertaining, enlightening, and inspiring reading lives (maybe not all at once!) and I’m glad to have you here. Love.


*I need to work on this label for the sake of non-gender-conforming or non-gender-binary values, which I support, but I guess I’m still mulling over how to represent this while maintaining the point, which I think is to recognize that I’m not reading only dudes, or that I’m trying not to.

2016: A Year in Review

This is a traditional annual post; you can see my past few years in review here: 2015; 2014; 2013; 2012; 2011.


This is an interesting review, since things will be changing quite a bit in 2016. Actually, I can see them changing as I look back, too. Of the 121 books I read in 2016:

  • 54% were nonfiction (50% last year)
  • 54% were written by male authors (not the same 54%, though!); 40% were by women, with a handful being collections or by authors of unknown genders. (last year, 51% were by men)
  • of the 55 novels I read, 27% were historical fiction, 18% were contemporary, and 11% were thrillers. Other categories included short stories, noir, classics and mysteries. (Last year 24% were historical fiction, 19% were mysteries, and a whopping 40% I classified as “misc fiction.” This year I tried to do away with that nebulous “misc,” and you see contemporary fiction showing up as a big one.)
  • only 5 books out of 121 were audiobooks (about the same percentage from last year)
  • 80% of the books I read, I read for paid reviews. another 11% I owned, and just a handful were borrowed or gifted to me, or taken from the library. (Last year, 12% of the books I read came from the library, 9% I owned, and 79% were for assigned reviews. I borrowed one.)
  • I read 121 books this year, compared to 150 last year.

For the very *best* books I’ve read this year, see yesterday’s post, best of 2016.

So, what’s changed? I read fewer books this year by a noticeable margin. That’s a little misleading, though, since I also reviewed 8 lit journals (and read more that I didn’t bother to write up), as well as some miscellaneous essays, short stories and poems; and perhaps most significantly, I did more of my own writing, including taking two university courses in creative writing. My energies were a little divided. And gosh knows that’s the trend that we’ll see continue in 2017. My tastes in terms of fiction vs. nonfiction haven’t changed: I lean slightly towards nonfiction, as I should since that’s what I’m trying to write. The steady decline in audiobooks & books from the library reflects the shift I made two years ago toward more and more paid reviews.

I expect you’ll see me read even fewer books in 2017, but hopefully with greater focus. I’ll still be reviewing for the Shelf, but far less often. What else the future holds I can’t see from here; but I hope you’ll stick around with me so we can find out together.

I know we will all be glad to see the back side of 2016 tomorrow night. I wish you the happiest of new years.

2015: A Year in Review

I’ve reviewed a few years now (2014; 2013; 2012; 2011), so plenty of comparisons are available to us. Maybe I’m a nerd. I like lists.

This year should be expected to be a little different than years past, because of some changes that have taken place in my life. Let’s jump right in:

Of the 150 books I read in 2015:

  • precisely 50% were nonfiction (44% last year)
  • 51% were by female authors (44% last year)
  • of the 75 novels I read, 24% were historical fiction, 19% were mysteries, and a whopping 40% I classified as “misc fiction.” I guess I need to come up with better tags for that category. Contemporary fiction? Other categories included true crime, drama, fantasy, and short stories. (Last year 33% were historical fiction, 20% were mysteries or thrillers, 24% were miscellaneous fiction, and 15% were fantasy.)
  • only 7 books out of 150, or about 5%, were audiobooks. (13% last year)
  • 12% of the books I read came from the library; 9% I owned (or purchased); 79% were for assigned reviews. I borrowed one. (Last year, 20% of the books I read came from the library, and a whopping 71% were review copies; the few remainders were either ones I already owned or were gifts.)
  • I read 150 books this year – my most ever – compared to 135 last year.

As always, for the very *best* books I’ve read this year, see New Year’s Eve’s post.

So, what’s changed? Well, this is my highest count yet – although not by a huge margin. 150 books in 52 weeks is a rate just a bare fraction less than 3 books a week, and I don’t think I can do any more. Reviewing has been the backbone of my reading & writing work this year, and I’ve quit my day job to do (this and other forms of) reading and writing. So it’s not a big surprise that I set a new record. And I don’t think I can do many more! I now turn away lots of reviews – including 99.9% of those offered without pay. Sorry, and thanks for your understanding.

That’s why my books read for review numbered the highest yet also, at 79%, and I’m a little surprised it wasn’t higher. (This is also why the audiobooks are becoming a negligible category: I don’t review those for pay. Also, as I’ve noted before, I no longer commute! so that’s listening time lost.) Frankly, I’m pleased I got to read as many books “just for me” as I did.

As far as I can tell, 2016 should be a continuation down the same sort of path; but the future is always unknown. What about you? How has 2015 stood up to your reading years in the past, or to your expectations? And what do you hope for in 2016?

2014: A Year in Review

I’ve reviewed a few years now (2013; 2012; 2011), so we can do some comparisons.

Of the 135 books I read in 2014…

  • 44% were nonfiction (45% last year)
  • 44% were by female authors (48% last year)
  • of the 75 novels I read, 33% were historical fiction, 20% were mysteries or thrillers, 24% were miscellaneous fiction, and 15% were fantasy. (Last year 37% were mysteries, 10% were historical fiction and the rest included classics and misc.)
  • only 13% were audiobooks. (23% last year)
  • 20% of the books I read came from the library, and a whopping 71% were review copies; the few remainders were either ones I already owned or were gifts. (Last year, 35% of the books I read came from the library, 43% were review copies, and 14% came from my personal collection.)
  • I read 135 books this year, compared to 116 last year.

For the very *best* books I’ve read this year, see New Year’s Eve’s post.

How have my reading habits changed? Well, perhaps the biggest change is in all those books I read for review, over 70%. I did this on purpose, as part of my plan to quit my day job and move across the country (!). This trend will likely continue in the foreseeable future. It’s been a little tiring at a few moments, but overall is nothing I regret: I mostly get to read and review really good books, and I still love my job. I do regret the books I haven’t read yet, though. Currently begging for attention, for example, are Hemingway’s True at First Light and The Fifth Column; the remainder of Snyder’s Practice of the Wild; a fuller version of Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac; and all these:

(click to enlarge)

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(and more). Sigh.

Also, you’ll see that I listened to fewer audiobooks. I spent my working year of 2014 taking the train to work rather than driving (hooray!), which let me read or listen; I can only guess that accounted for a lot of this change. I quit my job in October, too, which has left me with almost no audiobook time: just cleaning & gym time, is about it, since I don’t spend any time commuting any more. I miss my audiobooks, and have so many good ones loaded, too. I guess I should put in more gym time? New Year’s resolutions…

And, my fiction choices seem to have moved away from mystery/thrillers, in favor of historical fiction. I can’t quite explain the shift to hist fict, but I have made a conscious effort to read fewer mysteries. Aside from the outstanding ones (ahem), they can all begin to really sound alike.

What about you? How has 2014 stood up to your reading years in the past; and what do you foresee in the near future?

Whatever that may be, I wish you a happy new year, and happy reading!

2013: A Year in Review

It’s always nice to look back, especially when we can do it fondly; and I’m getting better at spending my reading time enjoyably, and putting down books I don’t enjoy. I’ve reviewed a few years now (2012; 2011), so we can do some comparisons.

Of the 116 books I read in 2013…

  • 45% were nonfiction (51% last year)
  • 48% were by female authors (32% last year)
  • of the 64 novels I read, 37% were mysteries or thrillers, 10% were historical fiction and only 6% were classics. The rest were a smattering of adventure, drama, fantasy, horror, short stories, and humor. (Last year 31% were mysteries, 27% were historical fiction and 23% were classics.)
  • 23% were audiobooks. (25% last year)
  • 35% of the books I read came from the library, a whopping 43% were review copies, and 14% came from my personal collection; the remaining few were books I was loaned, books I purchased, or (those treasured few) books I was given as gifts. (Last year, 40% of the books I read came from the library, 32% were review copies, and 28% came from my personal collection.)
  • I read 116 books this year, compared to 126 last year.

For the very *best* books I’ve read this year, see New Year’s Eve’s post.

So, how have my reading habits changed? I’m a little surprised at some of my observations here, which helps me justify how very nerdy it is to run these numbers! I am pleased to see that I’m reading a little more equitably between authors’ genders. I seem to have slightly reversed my fiction/nonfiction trend – last year NF had a bare majority, this year it swung the other way a bit, but I’m still nearly half and half. I’m certainly pleased to be reading that much nonfiction, and I wouldn’t want to slip too far below the halfway point, but I also recall a definite moment in the fall of 2013 when I felt that I needed a break from nonfiction.

Within the fiction I read, there is a noticeable trend toward mystery/thriller holding a large plurality, and a drop in classics. I regret that drop in classics somewhat. I wonder if the also noticeable increase in books I read for review has something to do with this. On the other hand, I don’t feel that I need to be too concerned. I bet next year will change again.

Audiobooks held steady at about 1/4 of my reading life, which seems about right. However, a new thing happening in my life in 2014 is – oh my gosh can you believe it – they finally opened up the new light rail line that runs between my home and work!! This is very exciting, and may mean that I find more time for reading print and spend less time listening to audio. So far, however, this is not the case: I’m in the middle of a delightful Stephen King audiobook and don’t want to put it down once I board the train. So, we shall see.

I read slightly fewer books than last year – a decrease of 8%, as long as I have this calculator out – and am perfectly content ascribing that to reading several longer books this year.

What does the future hold? Who knows? I’m feeling contented, and disinclined to make plans or promises. Rather, I want to keep enjoying my reading. I think that’s the most important thing, and if that suddenly means romance novels, or histories of the first World War, or reading much more or much less (none of these seems likely…), then so be it.

What about you? Any reading resolutions? Or, how was your 2013 in books?

2012: A Year in Review

Everybody loves statistics, right? 🙂 This is my second year-in-review post (see 2011 here), so I’m able to make some comparisons, too. Of the 126 books I read in 2012…

  • 51% were nonfiction (up from 17% last year)
  • 32% were by female authors (46% last year)
  • of the novels I read, 31% were mysteries, 27% were historical fiction and 23% were classics. The rest were a smattering of short stories, drama, horror, humor, and “other.” Last year 60% were mysteries, 8% were historical fiction, 7% were classics, and the rest a mixture of short stories, drama, poetry, romance, fantasy, and “other.”
  • 25% were audiobooks. (22% last year)
  • 40% of the books I read came from the library, but see below* for why that’s changing. another 32% came were review copies, and 28% came from my personal collection; the rest were books I was loaned, books I purchased, or (those treasured few) books I was given as gifts. last year, 60% came from the library, 24% came from publishers for review, and only 13% were owned, borrowed, purchased or gifted.

For the very *best* books I’ve read this year, see yesterday’s post.

So, how have my reading habits changed? Well, most notably…

*I have kept this quiet here on pagesofjulia so far, because it hasn’t seemed all that relevant, but here’s a big piece of news for 2012: I got a new job! I am no longer working in a general/leisure reading library for patients of the hospital that employs me. Now, I’m in a library – in the same hospital – that serves patients, family members, and visitors with health and medical information regarding their conditions, treatment options, prognoses, etc. It’s more technical work, and more challenging and stimulating, and I enjoy it very much! (I’m also quite a bit busier. I hope this has not been too terribly evident around here…) What this means for my reading: I’m no longer tempted to pick up the latest and greatest new thing anymore. My new books overwhelmingly now come to me through Shelf Awareness and my gig reviewing books for them; otherwise, I’m trying to read from my shelves at home. I only have 3 full bookshelves of books waiting to be read! So I count this a good thing, mostly: I’m able to concentrate on those books I’ve brought home and housed because I really wanted to read them. Fewer distractions, if you will. On the other hand, I’m more likely to miss the next (for example) Song of Achilles – one of the best books I read all year – because I’m no longer paying attention to current bestsellers. There are always pros and cons to any change. But I’m very happy at work!

A few further changes I’ve noticed in my reading habits: I’m reading more and more nonfiction. See above: up from only 17% last year, fully half the books I read this year were nonfiction. That makes me happy. Far from being dry and boring, nonfiction is some of the best stuff I read (see again yesterday’s post about the best books of the year). Also, I hadn’t noticed this until I pulled this post together, but my fiction reading is getting more diverse: last year I read 60% mysteries, and this year only 31%. I think diversity is generally a good thing, so this makes me glad, too.

On the other hand, speaking of diversity, my reading of female authors is down. I know this makes me a bad feminist; but what can I say, I just read what appeals to me. My favorite authors are overwhelmingly male: Edward Abbey and Ernest Hemingway top the list, and they’re both misogynistic and/or womanizing, to boot! It just doesn’t feel right to choose books based on author gender, though, so I am shrugging this one off and carrying on.

Please tell me: had you noticed any changes here?? I think the biggest blog-related change in my life since I started the new job in September, is that I haven’t had the time to follow all the other great reading blogs I used to enjoy. I miss you all. :-/ So sorry – now you know it wasn’t you!

I am perhaps happiest about the trend towards reading more books off my own bookshelves. Here’s to more work on the TBR lists/shelves in 2013! I’m looking forward to a year filled with more great reading, exciting library work, and fewer knee injuries, please.

2011: A Year in Review

Well! I have tended to appreciate other bloggers’ wrap-up posts, so I thought I’d join in. This was my first full calendar year of blogging (I began in October 2010) and I definitely read more books this year than I have in a number of years, maybe ever. Although I’ve always been a big reader, this year was exceptional for several reasons: working in a library filled with tempting books; blogging about them; discovering audiobooks for my commute; and taking on a book review gig with Shelf Awareness, to name a few. (See some of my SA book reviews here.) I read 139 books this year.

Here are a few statistics…

  • 17% were nonfiction
  • 46% were by female authors
  • a whopping 63 of the 115 novels I read were mysteries; 10 were historical fiction and 11 were classics, the rest a smattering of short stories, drama, poetry, romance, fantasy, and “other.”
  • 38 were 100-300 pages; 80 were 300-500; 15 were over 500 pages, and 6 were under 100. Husband asked how many pages I read this year, so for his sake we’ll estimate, using the midpoint of the ranges (which may throw us way off but what the heck), and say I “read” some 50,580 pages this year! (keeping in mind that some were listened to and not read…)
  • 31 books, or 22%, were audiobooks – look what good use I made of my commute/driving/gym time!
  • 60% of the books I read came from the library! the vast majority came from the library where I work, with just a few coming from the Houston Public Library. another 24% came from publishers for review, leaving only a combined 22 books that came from my personal collection, books I was loaned, books I purchased, or (those treasured few) books I was given as gifts.

What fun.

Of these, I did of course have favorites… you can refer back to my premature Best of 2011 post of December 1, to which I’ve since added 11/22/63 and The Home-Maker, for an unwieldy list of 22 (!) books I loved this year. What can I say, I’m full of gushings. In honor of this Year in Review post, I have culled it down (painfully) to my Favorite 11 Books of 2011 (thanks Thomas for the idea, and for sending me two (!) of the books on the list*):

Whew! That’s a year! I see other bloggers discussing reading goals for 2012, and I don’t really have any to contribute… I think I’m going to pass on reading challenges this year. (You may recall that of the three I signed up for in 2011, I completed two and quit the third. I also participated in several readalongs: the Maisie Dobbs series, Gone With the Wind, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.) If anything, I’m most tempted by the TBR Double Dare (to read only books already on my TBR shelves from now til April 1…!), because my house is so full of books I want to read that I feel like I’ll never get to them all! But even if I didn’t encounter new books through my job that I want to read and probably should so I can talk with patrons about them, there’s my book review gig, which I love. So. No challenges. If anything, I’d like to make a dent in my TBR shelves at home; and part of that dent-making may come in the form of giving books away unread. Sigh.

My real reading goal in 2012 is to continue to read a diverse selection of new and old books; to continue blogging; and most importantly of all, to continue enjoying it. The day that reading feels like work will be a sad day, and the day I need to take a break; here’s to not finding that day in 2012!

Do you have reading goals this year? What challenges have you signed up for? (Don’t twist my arm…!) Did you do a year-end post that I may have missed? Please do share!

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