In 2014, I read 67 books. At the start of the year, I created my own system for tracking them using plain text. Why did I bother making up my own system? Because I couldn’t find any existing system which wasn’t either far too complex or needlessly bogged down by social features. Yeugh. I don’t read books as a social exercise.
I wanted to keep note of what I was reading for two main reasons: to help me remember what I liked and what series I was in the middle of, and so I could share books I really enjoyed with others. But another reason was that I was just interested to see what patterns I could detect. Would I find myself reading lighter fiction in the summer months, and getting all moody in the winter? Would I be able to match what I chose to read with big life events?
Uh. Well. Turns out, not really.
You can find the main list of everything I read on my Books Read page. I squeezed the data into a couple of visualizations.
Overall Books Read By Date
I don’t know what to make of it all. I suppose 2014 was a big year for Science Fiction. Partly I think this was because I cottoned to a few great Science Fiction series this year. (Wool by Hugh Howey, Old Man’s War by Scalzi, Echoes of Earth by Williams & Dix.) I also discovered a few new Sci Fi authors I really liked. (David Drake, David Weber, Andy Weir). When I find something I like I tend to keep at it until I’ve grown tired.
Mostly, it was just that Science Fiction is an easy choice for me. I read most of these books exclusively in the last hour of the day. That’s not a time when I want to be taxing my faculties. So something easily digestible, with familiar themes is what I reach for. I’m comfortable with Sci Fi, and I can size up what I’m going to like pretty quickly.
Finding non genre-fiction books that are going to reward a bit of patience is much more difficult. Sci Fi rarely gets particularly dark or depressing, whereas “literary” books often feel like they’re not satisfied if they don’t make the reader want to take a shower.
As for the frequency of books read — really that’s not a very useful visualization without also knowing how many words were in each book. Some of the books I read were in the sub-20k-word range, but most of them were probably over 80k. I haven’t found a good API-available database of wordcounts or pagecounts which I could connect to, although it seems like Amazon does have this information for most books they sell.
Keeping things in a simple text file worked great. It was easy to add to, and the data was easy to manipulate. But I’d prefer a more cohesive solution in a simple package. Right now I have a mostly-working prototype of an iOS app which makes it really simple to keep track of the books you’ve read. I have a few different ideas for ways the app could visualize your data/let you share it. The idea is extreme simplicity and ease of use, without all the myriad cruft (social…) that this kind of app seems to attract. If you’re interested in such an app, and/or have some suggestions on how it should work, let me know in the comments!
I’ve yet to really discover much of longer-lasting interest from my Books Read statistics, but I have a feeling that more interesting trends will become visible over time.