A year in books, 2019

It’s been another great year in books. Thanks for coming along with me!

It’s been a big year in reading and I have some updates to share before I make the awards you’re here for. Or jump to the award winners.

Happy bookiversary to me!

It’s been five great years in reading by the numbers, all thanks to an offhand question (“how many books did you read this year?”) with, at the time, no answer. To celebrate four years of reviews and my fifth annual book awards here (2015 had only awards, not reviews), I have a very special addition to the books section of my realm. In addition to finding the best of my years from 2015-present from the books page, you can now find my all-time book recommendations! When available, reviews are linked, but you’ll notice some books came into my life before January 2016, which I assure you will be coming back to a month near you soon(ish).

Read more books!?

As you will discover below, I have outdone myself again in 2019. I will be the first to admit, I read well over the average amount, and I do think everyone should read more widely and often (though I don’t know if I will, or should, top this year’s totals). On that note, there have been a whole bunch of thinkpieces to send off the year about ~this one weird hack~ to make yourself read more books. But, you shouldn’t have to make yourself do it – reading should be fun! And the “hacking” mentality turns reading into an obligation to trick yourself into, instead of something fun to make time for. (Even the tips in these posts that I agree with fall into this mindset trap.)

If you want to do it my way, first, pick books that you’re excited about. If you’re interested, then you’ll be motivated to keep going. There is no moral obligation to finish a book you find boring, or even against just setting it aside a while, even though you’ve probably been conditioned that it feels like quitting. It took me close to a year of coming and going to finish the Count of Monte Cristo, which is famously like a zillion pages, and even I would have gotten disheartened trying to get through all at once.

Then once you’re excited, have your book on hand – keep something on your nightstand, in your bag, on your phone, whatever. Make it easy to pick up a read. When I was a kid, I even used to keep a book in the bathroom specifically for toothbrushing time. Two minutes twice a day (dentist says!) does add up, and that’s even before you start getting engrossed and find yourself chewing on the brush for ten extra minutes while finishing the chapter.

What’s coming in 2020?

Come the end of January, you will notice an adjustment to the monthly post format. Specifically, only the featured book of the month will get a full review, while all the others will get a maximum of 100 words each. (Unless I decide otherwise. As always, my posts, my rules.) I know you are devastated by the prospect of me being slightly less verbose. But this change will free up more time for me to work on some other writing, which I am very excited for.

Also new is a subscribe button! This was not intended to be new – I thought it was there all along. Oops. If you would like to be email notified when I post, please dash over to the bottom of the sidebar.

And finally, I invite you to recommend me a book via the comment section on any post or the contact form. Please, blow up my TBR!

By the numbers

Books: 89
Pages: 27052
Estimated words, at an estimated average of ~250 words per page: 6,763,000 – approximately 6.2x all seven Harry Potter books

Authors: 80 – that includes some authors with multiple books and some books with multiple authors/artists.
Female authors: 38 (48%) – very nearly balanced!
Authors of color: 15 (19%) – up in numbers but down a little as the percent of the total from 2018, with room for improvement.
LGBTQ authors: 9 (12%) – my first year noting this information, which is based on author bios on back flaps or on their websites.
Books in translation: 5 (6%) – also my first year tracking this statistic. Interestingly, these five were translated from all different languages (Spanish, French, Danish, Swedish, and Yiddish).

Mean book length: 303.9 pages
Standard deviation: 140.1 pages (meaning there was a lot of variation!)
Shortest book: The God of Vengeance, 56 pages (which I liked)
Longest book: Cathedral of the Sea, 603 pages (which I didn’t)

Oldest book: Macbeth, 1606
Newest book: Live and Let Pie, The Satapur Moonstone, The Testamentsall started on the day of release
Mean publication date: 1997.3

Most common genre, traditional labeling: fantasy/magical realism tied with realism, both with 24
Most common genre, story element labeling: commentary, 34, followed by specfic (which encompasses stories usually labeled fantasy/scifi/horror), 33, and then character study, 30
Average rating: 2.47/3, down from 2.84 in 2018 after correcting for grade inflation

Novels: 50
Novellas: 6
Nonfiction: 7
Plays: 8 (some volumes include multiple plays)
Short stories: 3
Graphica: 10
Essays: 1

And now a drumroll, please…

I present my 2019 Best of the Books!

Best novels: The Ghurka and the Lord of Tuesday, Saad Z. Hossain. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson. Circe and The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller. Spinning Silver and Uprooted, Naomi Novik. It is physically causing me pain to have to choose a single winner among these selections, especially between Miller and Novik’s two masterpieces each, so I won’t.

Best series: Wayfarers, Becky Chambers. Runner-up: Book of Life, Deborah Harkness, The Sixth World, Rebecca Roanhorse. Reread special award: His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman.

Best nonfiction: Astoria, Peter Stark. Runner-up: The Empty Space, Peter Brook.

Best play: The Detroit Project (three plays), Dominique Morrisseau. Runner-up: The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams.

Best graphica: March, John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell. Runner-up: Mockingbird, Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk.

Best other: An Elderly Lady is Up To No Good, Helene Tursten, trans. Marlaine Delargy (short stories). The Tea Master and the Detective, Aliette de Bodard (novella).

And now for the best of the rest…

Best witch, collective: The witch trios in the Witches series, Terry Pratchett and Macbeth, William Shakespeare
Best witch, individual: Diana, The Book of Life, Nora, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic, Emily Croy Barker, and Agnes and Anathema Nutter, Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Best artificial intelligence: Shadow’s Child, The Tea Master and the Detective, Aliette de Bodard and SPOILER Lovey/Sidra, Wayfarers, Becky Chambers
Future I most want to live in: Wayfarers, Becky Chambers
Future I least want to live in: The Testaments, Margaret Atwood
Future we’ve already kind of got, and also least want to live in: Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
Best fanfiction: Circe and The Song of Achilles (of ancient mythology), Madeline Miller and Dunbar (of King Lear), Edward St. Aubyn
Best murderer: Maud, An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, Helene Tursten
Best not-a-murderer: everyone, The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin
Best ghosts: The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
Worst-planned time travel: The Psychology of Time Travel, Kate Mascarenhas, Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, Kelly Robson

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