Nick and I often discuss what we’re reading and I’ll usually mention when I’ve finished a book. Recently I realised that he’s been keeping a note of what we’ve read and the date each book was finished for several years (those innocent queries: When did you finish it? What’s the name of the publisher?). As I’m often fretting about whether I read enough and whether I’m reading widely enough, I thought it would be interesting to carry out a data analysis exercise based on all the books I’ve read this year. Stick with me! This will be fun!
Headline statistic: I’ve read (finished) 53 books this year. I don’t need a formula to work out that’s roughly one book a week. Or exactly one book a week if 2016 is regarded as a 53 week accounting year (as it is in some contexts, being a leap year). I better define ‘books’ I guess. It includes pamphlets and chapbooks (poetry and short stories) and one poetry map. Overall, I’m quite pleased with that grand total: 53.
Now, let’s break that total figure down a bit.
A good mix of fiction and poetry, but perhaps I need to broaden my reading out to include more non fiction. I’m a little surprised at this, but maybe I’ve read less research-type material this year.
Now, the biggie. How did I do on gender balance?
59% of books I read were by female authors, and 9% by a mix of female and male authors (e.g. anthologies). I’m pretty happy with this. Interestingly, when I look at a breakdown by category, on the poetry side the gender mix is closer than fiction, where I’ve read a lot more by female authors.
The next area to consider is how diverse my reading is in terms of ethnicity.
So, this is definitely an area I could improve on. When I break this down by category, I can see I’ve done a little better with poetry – 4 out of the 20 poetry books were by BAME authors, but on the fiction side only 3 of the 28 were. I’m missing out! Here’s my reading challenge for 2017 then: read more books by authors from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.
I also looked at how many of the books I’d read were translations, as this is another concern that’s been floating around – that we native English speakers read so little work in translation. Nine of the 53 books were translations – all of them fiction, making up around 32% of my fiction reading. That’s a lot better than the 7% of UK fiction sales that are translations according to a recent Guardian article. I’ll give myself a gold star for that – or une étoile d’or, since most were translations from French.
And the final fascinating statistic I’m going to hit you with is that 13% of the books I read in 2016 were library books. I could probably – certainly – increase that next year. I’m trying to borrow more books for a number of reasons – to save money, to save space, and not least to support libraries, which are amazing and vital resources.
Many thanks to Nick for diligently gathering the raw data that made this reading analysis possible. Here’s the analogue device in which he’s been recording the data:
Wishing you all a very happy and fulfilling 2017!