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2011 in Books

Another year, more bookish statistics to share!

2011 has been busy! It was my first calendar year of full-time work. This means it was also the first year in which I could buy a lot of books, and unsurprisingly, I did just that, ending the year with 509 unread books. I read a lot of books, too; I also (finally) got back into gaming, and resurrected my writing ambitions, mostly towards the end of the year. I travelled to three new countries, with notable stops in Bruges, Amsterdam, and finally Rome for my second wedding anniversary. We moved into our first (rented) house of our own, and I am thrilled to not be living in a flat with noisy neighbors any longer.

In the midst of all of this, how was my reading?

Fiction Favorites

I could easily talk, this year, in terms of series for favorites. I’ve delved deeply into them this year, falling back in love with fantasy and science fiction, and even some romance.

But, let’s start with the stand-alones.

the color purplethe perks of being a wallflower

I can’t believe I didn’t read The Color Purple until this year. Simply a brilliant book; not much more needs to be said. Ready Player One satisfied the gamer in me completely, with an amazing adventure, questions about character and assumptions, and geeky trivia galore. As for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I can’t believe I never reviewed it, but I adored it and actually had to stop reading for a while after I’d finished just to process the story.

the namesakethe buddha in the attic

I haven’t reviewed The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri yet either, mostly because I’m trying to actually write something remotely intelligent, but this too was a brilliant book that I waited far too long to read. Such an insightful look at family, at immigration, at feeling foreign versus feeling at home – I loved it intensely. And The Buddha in the Attic was short, but an amazingly moving look at the lives of “mail-order” Japanese brides.

Series and Authors Discovered

young milesI had what felt like a massive year for amazing series. My first science fiction obsession was kicked off by Lois McMaster Bujold with the Miles Vorkosigan series. I tore through these books on my Kindle; I wasn’t at all put off by their length or the time invested in them. I’ve only stopped because I don’t want to run out – I’m sure I’ll read the rest in 2012, though. I just won’t be able to resist. I started with Young Miles, but Cordelia’s Honor is the actual chronological beginning for the omnibus editions I read.

Another series I discovered these year was Seanan McGuire’s October Daye books. Urban fantasy set in an utterly fantastic world, these books have incredible storylines, characters that haunt you when you put the books down, and a truly epic feel that will keep me coming back over and over again. McGuire is an author to watch, and I’m already counting the days until the next book. I already posted about my love for the series earlier this year, and reviewed the first book, Rosemary and Rue.

unlockedFinally, my top historical romance author this year has been Courtney Milan. Her books are almost unbelievably addictive, with fantastic characters, emotionally wrought plots, and romances to warm your heart. If you enjoy romance and you haven’t read her yet, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. I took a chance with her self-published novella, Unlocked, and I haven’t looked back since – any author that can pull off such a spectacular romance in novella form (notoriously unbelievable due to the short format, for me) is an author well worth reading again, and again, and again. In terms of series, the Turner series is her most recent, and comes highly recommended by me.


Non-fiction favorites

I can’t close out a year without mentioning a few of the extraordinary histories I read this year.

matildashe wolvesthe ghost mapheretics

I’ve already recommended She-Wolves in my gift guide for 2011, but it’s well worth another mention here. I loved how this book looked at female rulers of England in the Middle Ages. It’s well matched with a book I read later in the year, and just reviewed yesterday, Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror. The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson is an older book, with a few rough edges at the end, but altogether a brilliant look into the history of illness, sanitation, and London. Finally, Heretics by Jonathan Wright was a book designed just for me – and for anyone else who loves poking around in the history of religion. I found every page fascinating.

As for books that weren’t just pure history:

packing for mars

The Statistics

Note that the percentages here don’t usually add up to 100%; I only picked out the most interesting of them.

Total Read: 197
Non-fiction: 41 (20.8%) – a percentage I really want to be higher next year. I aimed for 25% this year and failed.

  • History: 15 (36%)

Fiction: 156 (79.2%)

  • Historical Fiction: 45 (29%) – nice to see this actually still is top
  • Fantasy: 29 (18.6%)
  • Historical Romance: 28 (18%) – higher than expected
  • Science Fiction: 8 (5%)
  • Contemporary / Literary Fiction: 14 (8%)
158 different authors read
  • 46 books by male authors (23.3%)
  • 151 books by female authors (76.7%)
Top 5 most-read authors
  • Ilona Andrews (5 books – I reread the Kate Daniels series this year)
  • Seanan McGuire (5 books)
  • Lois McMaster Bujold (5 books)
  • Courtney Milan (4 books)
  • Jim Butcher (4 books)
Ebooks read: 49 (24.8%)
Pages read: 72,664
Own books: 97 (49.3%)
Review books: 93 (47.2%)
Library / borrowed books: 7 (3.5%)

A few notes on these; I read about 60 books less than last year, but I’m happy with what I did in the rest of my time, and I’m fully aware that 197 is still a lot of books. I essentially stopped going to the library this year. I felt more comfortable buying books I was after, and I got frustrated because I started getting fines. I’d like to start going to the library again, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. The ebook statistic is way up thanks to Netgalley, but still about right at a quarter of all books read. I don’t think that will change much – I very rarely buy ebooks.

I’m actually a bit shocked by how many more female authors I read than male authors this  year. I had no idea – and that’s far off from last year, although women were still in the majority then. I’m curious to see what happens to this in 2012; I know I actually used to read far more male authors. I wonder what happened?

Overall, though, I’m happy with these. I feel like I’ve reached a balance in terms of how I’ve been spending my free time. Mostly, I’d like to read more books I’ve had for a while, and read more non-fiction. I’m looking forward to see if I actually achieve those goals, but I’d like my reading to remain as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.

How was your reading year in 2011?


14 comments to 2011 in Books

  • I didn’t do stats this year. I failed miserably at keeping track of stuff.

  • Impressive year! I loved both The Color Purple and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Other than that, I now have a huge addition to my TBR. :) Here’s hoping that 2012 brings as much great reading if not much, much more. :)

  • great year! I love your stats, including percentage, I need to steal your idea for next year!
    Although I only read 99 books, that was my best ever. here is my recap:

  • Holy cow, those are amazing stats! Ready Player One made my best of list too.

  • Great post! Many of these books are on my wish list… One day I will read them!

  • This is a great list of books – I’ve enjoyed so many of them. I read The Color Purple a long time ago. I can’t remember much about it (time for a re-read!) but I do remember loving it. Your non-fiction titles are intriguing me. Ghost Map is calling my name so if I see it in the library (I still go, despite the fines :-) ) I’ll ensure I pick it up. Have a fantastic 2012!

  • Your non-fiction list reads like a perfect wishlist for 2012 for me :P It sounds like you read some excellent books, and that’s great about reaching a good balance in how you spend your free time. That’s something I need to work on a little more myself. Happy New Year, Meghan!

  • I loved both the movie and the book for the Namesake.

    I want to get into more science fiction this year, but am just not sure where to begin.

    As for how my reading year was in 2011, I wish I could say it was as varied as yours, but it wasn’t. I mostly stuck to the tried-and-true, which for me is mysteries. I think out of the 15 books that I have already planned to read this year, most are mysteries again. Oh, well, so much for diversity.

  • That’s a lot of books read in a year! Good job. I’ve also stopped going to the library, for the same reason (fines). I just don’t have the time to get back there to return books, as it’s so out of the way. Lucky for me my library lends ebooks. Congrats on a great reading year.

  • I’m impressed by your high percentage of female authors!

  • I really enjoyed The Namesake when I read it this year but like you just couldn’t seem to put thoughts down or forumlate how I felt.

    Wonderful about the balance–and rocking that you were still able to read so much! Hope 2012 is a wonderful year for you.

  • I LOVED The Ghost Map, loved it! Completely agree to put that one on a favorites list!

  • What a great year you had. It’s wonderful to return to non-reading entertainment, isn’t it?

  • Well done 197 books is amazing, especially as you’ve been up to so much, travelling, gaming, writing, working…!