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Reading round-up 2019

I get my book recommendations from all over the place: friends, bookstore staff picks, email newsletters, library displays, podcasts, tube station posters, or just snapping up the next release from a favourite author. My approach to most things is quite methodical, but when picking my next book it’s different every time.

I definitely judge books by their cover. Then if the blurb sounds good and the ratings are decent, it’s on the list! It looks like I loved most of the books I read in 2019, with the vast majority getting a whopping ★★★★★ or ★★★★☆, 12% at a more moderate ★★★☆☆, and only one book being abandoned part way through. Though, maybe the high ratings are a result of me playing it too safe with my picks? Or am I just too easily pleased?

Books I assigned as fantasy or science fiction made up almost half of my reading for 2019. Young adult books took third place, with stories featuring prominent gay characters or storylines coming in fourth. Adventure and romance novels came in at fifth equal, followed by crime, humour, historical, thriller and non-fiction. Books I deemed literary or mystery were the final two genres taking up the smallest slivers of the pie.

I’m privileged to be surrounded by books that I’m yet to read, with a pile next to the bed, rows and rows on the shelves, and hundreds more just waiting on my Kindle. And that’s not even considering the huge volume and variety available to me at the library.

My reading list is out of control.

And even with so many still to read, I can’t help picking up more new releases, Kindle daily deals, second hand books, and all the rest – like I’m running low on reading material or something.

Those on my shelves tend to be new hardbacks I’ve picked up at author events or signings, and they’re often too cumbersome to lug around with me. So they’re saved for reading at home before bed, on the couch or in the backyard. My Kindle on the other hand comes with me everywhere. It fits nicely in my winter coat pocket, or in my backpack along with my drink bottle over the summer months. This is reflected in ebooks accounting for over half of my reading, and with physical books making up just over a third.

Of the books I read in 2019, over three-quarters were novels. Graphic novels, novellas and non-fiction books make up the remainder. Though I have excluded short stories, flash fiction, webcomics, and all other non-fiction reading (blogs, news, etc) from these statistics, because there’s no way I’m keeping track of all that.

I love a good series, whether it’s one story split over numerous volumes, or the ongoing escapades of a group of characters. When you’re so invested in their lives, fully immersed in their world, the last thing you want to do is leave. And if I enjoyed the book I’ve just finished, chances are I’ll enjoy the next one too. It’s almost too easy. Probably why such a high proportion of the books I read in 2019 were part of a series.

But I always have a place for standalones. Series can be daunting, or seem like too much of a commitment when all you want is a fresh, self-contained story. Sometimes one book is the perfect amount. You devour a story, and even though you loved the characters, you can leave feeling satisfied. Your involvement in their world has come to an end, and it feels natural and right to part ways.

The final two aspects of my reading year I considered relate to the authors. Who am I reading? And where are they from? Turns out almost two-thirds are male, and just over a third are female, with none (as far as I can see) identifying as non-binary or gender diverse.

Then based on author profiles on Goodreads and/or Wikipedia, almost 44% of the books I read were written by English authors, followed by American at 39%, then Australian, Welsh, Brazilian and British-American. And not that this is captured in my final pie chart, but only one book I read in 2019 was not originally written in English.

I considered grouping the books’ authors by other criteria such as ethnicity, sexuality, age, etc. Though I realised much of this information would be less reliable or difficult to find, and hoped that sticking to the two basic criteria I chose was enough to get an idea. I think the outcome of this exercise for me is realising I read more books by men and from fewer countries than I had expected.

I plan to make a more conscious effort this year to seek out a greater diversity of authors telling a wider variety of stories. Then hopefully my 2020 reading round-up will turn out more interesting! I’ll be keeping track on Goodreads (@gbralph) if anyone wants to join me.

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