Mid-Year Statistics: 2010

July 15, 2010

This week’s task for the Blog Improvement Project is to do a visual post.

I figure that since the 6-month mark has just gone by for 2010, it’s about time for me to put up some fun statistics and even funner graphics.

(Yes, I do know that “funner” is not a word, but I want to use it anyways … so … there!)

I built a fantastically fun spreadsheet a few weeks ago that keeps track of everything I read, and automatically comes up with some really fun statistics. What it doesn’t do on its own, though, is turn them into anything other than tables of boring rows and columns. So today, I decided to turn those boring little tables into great little charts of statistical awesomeness.

Some of the results were predictable, others not quite as much. Let’s start with something simple – what’s the fiction versus non-fiction ratio of what I read in the first half of 2010?

I’m actually a tiny bit surprised by this one. Over the past few years – pretty much since I finished my undergraduate degree – most of my reading has been non-fiction. It looks like I’ve started reading more fiction now that I’m book blogging! This is a good thing, because I tend to get into little ruts with my non-fiction, where I’ll read all about one single subject for months at a time and then burn out on it, and only absorb one type of information at a time. Fiction helps to break that up a bit, and also allows me to get more reading in, since there are tons of opportunities during the day where I wouldn’t be able to focus properly on a non-fiction book, but can definitely get into some fiction!

Here’s another area where my reading habits have definitely changed since I started working as a teacher-librarian this past year – what’s the breakdown of what I read in terms of “adult” and “young adult” books?

Before this year, I definitely did not read this many young adult books. That’s almost half of what I’ve read so far this year! That one definitely surprised me a bit. I mean, I knew that I was reading more young adult books, particularly during the school year, but I hadn’t realized just how much of a “market share” they had taken over of my entire reading time. The tendency towards YA probably has something to do with my increased intake of fiction, since I don’t tend to read much YA non-fiction. In general, this category might need a little bit of conscious adjusting throughout the rest of the year – while I like YA books, I definitely prefer me some good, old-fashioned adult books.

Onto the next one – did I read mostly “classic” or “contemporary” books? This one is not a shocker to me, at all, but does say something interesting about who I am as a person. I have an honours bachelor of arts with a specialization in English literature, and yet, only 5% of what I’ve read so far this year has been “classics”! This will be even more interesting once you hear what I consider a classic: pretty much anything that’s at least 50 years old and is widely regarded as a Book. That. You. Must. Read. (TM). So that measly 5% is actually made up of exactly 3 books: Wuthering Heights, Lolita, and The Prophet. This one … well, it might need some work, too, considering how many “classics” I have never read. I own a lot of them, though, and have now got even more for free on my Kobo reader, so I’ll be getting around to them, slowly but surely!

That last question leads into a more detailed genre question – what exactly do I read, beyond just saying “fiction” and “non-fiction”? While categorizing books into a few pre-determined choices can often misrepresent individual works, it is a good way to see general trends. I couldn’t seem to figure out how to do one of those funky pie-graph-into-another-secondary-pie-graph charts, so this is what you get!

Here’s how my fiction reading breaks down from the first half of this year:

Note: The percentages in this section will seem “off”, but that is because they are based on my total reading for the last six months. So, for example, realistic/contemporary fiction accounts for 39% of my total reading, even though it’s obvious from the graph that it accounts for more than 1/2 of my fiction reading. Also, the percentages will not always add up to 100% in some of the graphs for the rest of this post, simply because sometimes, a book falls into more than one category. For example, a book might be counted towards both “graphic non-fiction” and “narrative non-fiction”, or counted towards both “realistic/contemporary fiction” and “audiobooks”.

I’m not terribly surprised that a large chunk of my fiction is realistic and/or contemporary. I’ve never been that big of a fan of lots of classic literature, I very rarely pick up historical fiction, and I almost completely stopped reading fantasy and science fiction after high school. I’m pleasantly surprised, though, that graphic fiction came up with such a high number – I was really working on improving my intake of graphic literature, so it’s good to see that my efforts have paid off!

On the flip side, here’s how my non-fiction reading breaks down from the first half of this year:

Again, this is not terribly surprising. I expected most of my non-fiction intake to be narrative non-fiction, and that appears to be pretty much exactly half of the share. I’m – again – pleasantly surprised by my intake of graphic non-fiction, which I was also working on increasing along with graphic fiction. I am a little surprised that memoirs didn’t account for more, since I thought I typically read more of them than that. But otherwise, this is a pretty good indication of what my non-fiction reading is like from year to year. This metric will definitely change over the next couple of months, though – as will the breakdown between fiction and non-fiction – when I get into my Ramadan reading. From looking at my schedule, I know that a lot of what I’m looking foward to is non-fiction, and quite a bit of it would obviously fall into the “cultural studies” category.

Next up is a look at the people who write these books – do I read books by authors that I already know, or by ones that are new to me? Are they male or female?

I definitely attribute this one to book blogging. Only 9% of the authors that I have read this year are authors that I have previously known! Keep in mind that for the purposes of these statistics, I was using the total number of authors, not the total number of books; there are a couple of authors who were repeats, and it’s too confusing to figure out whether to count them as “old” or “new” after the first book! I figure that this is still a pretty good approximation of who it is that I’m reading. This one is partly due to the fact that I’ve been reading so much more broadly than I was before I started blogging (remember what I said about picking a topic and sticking to it for a while?), and also because of being introduced to so many fantastic authors and books through the book blogging community. I blame all of you for this one, but it’s a good kind of blame! New authors are always fun to experience, particularly when you walk away from the book loving their writing and wanting more.

Not surprising to me, although I know this is fairly uncommon, is that most of the authors that I have read this year have been female. There’s this whole stereotype – which isn’t completely untrue – that most books that have prevailed throughout time and are still considered “great” today have been written by men. Old, white men, to be precise. This isn’t necessarily because most good books were written by men; instead, this is largely because men were the ones who were considered intellectually worthy in most of our Euro-centric world for a rather long period of time. Today, though, I would hazard a guess that there are a lot more female authors than male authors (though I’m not going to make any predictions about who is “better” … I’m only speaking about sheer numbers right now). This is particularly true in YA literature, which (as I’ve already pointed out), I’ve ended up reading quite a lot of this past six months. Also, though, I just really like reading books written by women, especially memoirs! For the most part, though, I honestly don’t pay attention to whether the book I’m looking at is written by a man or a woman – I just look at whether the premise is interesting to me. The gender of the author is just a factoid in most cases, unless it plays specifically into something, like in a non-fiction book that focuses on women.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for … a break between all the pie charts! I created one lone bar graph, because it was really a much better way to represent the next set of data. This is pretty back to basics – how much, exactly, did I read in the first half of 2010?

At first glance, it looks like I started off really slowly in January and February, doesn’t it? What you have to keep in mind, though, is that I’m returning to heavy reading from a very long hiatus. Doing an undergraduate degree in English really took its toll on me – I hated being told what to read, and having to finish books that I couldn’t stand! As you can see, my reading speed is steadily improving. (That spike in April is largely due to the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon, when I actually managed to stay away for almost the entire time, and read for about 3/4 of it!) I used both books and pages for this graph, because there’s such a variation in lengths between different books. Proportionately, they’re very close, but not always the same – as you can see with the discrepancies (in both directions) for January and February.

And now, we’re down to the last couple of facets of data. First, let’s look at the types of books that I read, again going beyond just “fiction” and “non-fiction” – what formats of books did I read in the past six months?

Most of what I read has always been prose, so this comes as no surprise. I’m a wee bit surprised, though – and excited! – that audiobooks ended up taking such a large share of my reading so far this year. I had never listened to an audiobook before reading The Book of Negroes back in January! My audiobook intake has also been helped by joining up with the Audio Book Challengeand participating in Jen’s Audiobook Week. I have a hard time imagining going about my day without an audiobook now! I don’t always read it, but I like having it there, to read while walking, biking, doing chores … whatever. Audiobooks are a way of squeezing more reading time into my day, or of wasting less reading time in my day, however you want to look at it. This is also the first time that I’ve ever read e-books! The first one was actually on my computer, and the ones after have been on my Kobo. Now that I’ve figured out how to get NetGalley, Adobe Digital Editions, and my Kobo to work together, I’m all set!

Finally, I’d like to take a quick look at the sources of my books – where do my books come from? How do I get them?

For starters, I still buy an awful lot of books. I’m actually slowing down dramatically these days, trying to be conscious of the fact that I currently have over 300 unread books on my shelves in the apartment. (This is actually the main reason behind starting the Summer Slimdown Challenge a few weeks ago!) I’ve also apparently borrowed more books in the past six months than usual – it definitely didn’t used to be that high of a proportion, but that’s not a bad thing! This is, again, largely due to having worked in a school library this year, so I would often pick something up off the shelf and read it, even if it was something that I would never have bought for myself to keep. Keep in mind, also, that these numbers are only counting the books that I finished reading from January to June, and not the books that actually came into my house or onto my computer or eReader. I’m rather impressed with myself that almost 10% of the books that I reviewed in the first half of the year were review copies, as I definitely didn’t think that I had managed to get around to that many of them. This is a good statistic, it makes me feel less guilty!

So … now that you’ve seen my deepest, darkest, geeky secrets (like how much time I spent putting together an automated Excel document and then writing this post) … what do you think?

Do any of these statistics surprise you?

Do you think that your reading is similar to mine? Or vastly different?

Have you ever done this kind of analysis of your reading? Why did you do it – just to see the information, or to inform your future reading choices?

8 Comments

  • Amy July 16, 2010 at 9:40 am

    I LOVE the stats!! I love tracking stats too. Some of yours are quite similar to mine. I have also found that with blogging I am reading a lot more fiction and young adult, before this I read a lot more non-fiction. Not a bad thing though! I also read a lot more women authors than men.

    • Carina July 16, 2010 at 11:24 am

      It’s funny how blogging does that – promotes reading of more fiction and YA books. I wonder if that’s a trend that’s true of most bloggers, or just a few of us?

  • Amy July 16, 2010 at 11:27 am

    I wonder if maybe it just gets bloggers out of their comfort areas a bit? Gets us all reading more outside what we normally would? Like, I wonder if someone who read primarily fiction has found themselves reading more non-fiction now because of blogging. Does that make sense?

  • Lisa July 16, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    *Drops jaw* *List + excel tweak addict rising* omg! I love your stats!!!! teachhh meeeeee LOL

    • Carina July 17, 2010 at 2:10 am

      I could definitely teach you how to do that. Or, you know, just send you a blank copy of my spreadsheet, though that means you’d be stuck with my categories for the most part unless you knew how to tweak them. 😉

  • erisian23 July 19, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    i am not a well rounded reader. i fear statistical analysis of my habits..

    i also envy the backbone you have not only researching this, but also making it public.

    • Carina July 19, 2010 at 10:16 pm

      Backbone? I think it was more morbid curiousity than anything else that made me do it. Once the spreadsheet is set up, it takes next to no effort to log in each book as I read it, and the rest is done for me!

      I think that being a “well rounded reader” is sometimes very over-rated. Why should I read things that don’t interest me, just for the sake of being “well rounded”? We should definitely go outside of our comfort zone, yes, but what constitutes “well rounded”?

  • Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) July 20, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    I love stats posts like this! I did one for a mid year review too, but was too lazy to do graphs. My fiction/nonfiction was just about opposite of you — like 65 percent nonfiction, the rest fiction. I didn’t do percentages, but I’m pretty sure my classics versus contemporary would be pretty much the same. But I too have a bunch of classics on my nook that I hope I will read soon!

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