Book Stats 2013 and Reading Resolutions for 2014

Following hard on the heels of my Books of the Year – it’s time for bookstats.  Many of you may know that I keep a spreadsheet of everything I read so I can analyse my reading at the end of each year.  Don’t groan – it’s not that bad!

I had a really good year statswise, managing to finish over 100 books for the first time in a couple of years. The pagecount is holding up too (although see how many chunky books I must have read in 2011!). NB: The stats are based on 101 books read as at 24.12.13 – I’ve managed to read five more books since then to make 106 books read in total. Book Stats Books Read & Pagecount

Each year I say I plan to read more books from before I was born and the 20th Century in general.  I’ve failed yet again!  Last year 44% of books read were from 2011-12, this year 2012-13 account for even more at 55%. I am such a sucker for new books, (although this year I read more review copies which probably accounts for the increase).
Book Stats 2013 Date of Pub

Then I like to look at author nationality, and I have managed to read a little more widely from around the world, but only managed to increase the total in translation by 3 from 10 last year to 13. Less by American authors too, and more by UK ones.Book Stats 2013 Author Nationality

This year I’ve added a genre chart. The mix is much the same though – a smattering of SF, historical, crime/thrillers, children’s/YA, a few more modern classics, but the largest part is what I call contemporary fiction. Non-fiction remained at the same level around the 10% mark.Book Stats 2013 GenreOne last stat for you before I make my Reading Resolutions – that of male/female author ratio.  Last year I almost reached parity for the first time ever, reading as many books by women authors as by men. This year it returned to 70/30, despite having read my first books by Barbara Pym, Margaret Forster and Penelope Mortimer for instance. I never knowingly consider an author’s gender when I’m choosing what to read, within the constraints of any review copies, I largely go by whim (which is a big  reason that I’m really crap at challenges apart from the TBR dare).

READING RESOLUTIONS FOR 2014…

Triple Dog Dare

  • Again – to read more from my TBR. Initially by participating in The TBR Triple Dog Dare as hosted by James at Ready when you are, C.B. until the end of March. Only exceptions are book club books, plus one I have pre-ordered for January.
  • To read as much as I can, from as wide a choice of books as I can.
  • To only read books I want to read – when I want to read them – that means being tougher on accepting review copies, and that unsolicited books will not get read at all unless they fit my mood.

That’s it really!

Do you make reading resolutions?  

How has your reading year been in stats?

BRING ON THE NEW YEAR OF READING!

My Books of the Year 2013

I’ve had a great reading year in 2013. I’ve managed to read more books than the past few years, topping the hundred mark, and at the time of review thirteen of those scored ten out of ten. Not all of those will make my list below though, as the score is just a snapshot – a useful guide, but not definitive, for often it is those books that initially may not have the instant wow factor, but stay with you and keep you thinking about them that become treasured reads later on.

So here we go with my usual mix of categories – both serious and fun. Links will take you to my original review …

Best sense of place: The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers
A quiet novel with emotional depth set around the great cathedral. I was lucky enough to hear Salley talk about the novel too which was fascinating.

Best at messing with your mind – The Explorer by James Smythe
More than just SF, this is a claustrophobic psychothriller that just happens to be set in deep space. I shall be re-reading it for book group in January before turning to the sequel The Echo – out in the New Year.

Best novel that’s been in the movies this year – The Great Gatsby
The critics may have thought Baz Luhrman’s GG too flashy, but I loved it. I loved re-reading the novel again even more.

Best by a newly mourned author (R.I.P.) – The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
I had been planning a project to re-read all of Banks novels this year, when the shock announcment came of his terminal illness. I re-read his debut novel – and the power of it blew me away again. He is deeply missed.

Best portrait of American life – Mrs Bridge (& Mr Bridge) by Evan S Connell
Told in a series of vignettes, this pair of novels, each from the PoV of half of a couple, capture the minutiae of suburban life just before the war so perfectly. The personalities of Mr and Mrs Bridge are quite different, so Mrs Bridge is frothy, Mr Bridge is rather stoic. You must read both.Books of the year 1

Best portrait of English life – Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes
There were many novels I could have chosen here including ones by Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Pym and not forgetting The Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield, however I plumped for MacInnes because of its youth and optimistic outlook.

Best witchy novel set in Paris – Babayaga by Toby Barlow
Russian witches in fin de siècle Paris, American spies and a police inspector who is transformed into a flea – What’s not to like. Fabulous fun.

Best rediscovery of a childhood favourite – The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner
Going to the Bodleian for it’s Magical Worlds exhibition, and then a lecture by Alan Garner at Magdalen College, rekindled my love of his children’s books from the 1960s, and has made me want to read everything he’s written.

Best historical monster – Magda by Meike Ziervogel
This short work of fiction packs such an emotional punch – telling the story of Magda Goebbels through the eyes of her mother and oldest daughter as well as herself. Meike manages to get inside Magda’s mind to understand without condoning her actions. Simply stunning.

Best one-sitting read – Glaciers by Alexis M Smith
A young woman, who works in a library, muses about her life – her friends and family, her dreams of travelling, finding the perfect dress for a party, and the man she hopes will notice her there. Dreamy and delicate prose, but strong themes of losing people – through distance, break-ups and war.

Books of the year 2
Best comic novel – The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
The story of an Australian professor with Aspergers who sets out to find a wife, and ends up on a voyage of self-discovery. Simsion manages never makes fun of him – but Don is so matter of fact, he can’t help but make you laugh out loud. A delight!

Best memoir – Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
In the 1970s, Steve Martin was one of the US’s top comedians, playing sell-out tours to huge audiences. After eighteen years, worn out by it, and noticing the first empty seats in an audiences appearing again, he turned his back on stand-up. This book is part comedy masterclass and part memoir – and a fine read indeed.

Best book group discussion – Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
This is my pick of the books we’ve read this year as the one which generated the most meaningful discussion. It may not have been a novel that everyone liked, but we all had something to say about it – which suggests it is a good book group choice.

Best book group read of the year – The 100 year old man who climbed out of a window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
This is the book our group voted for as our fave of the year. This hit book in translation contains some of the most novel ways to die we’ve encountered, and was hilarious to boot.

Books of the year 3

… and finally – My Book of the Year is …

Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo

mr loverman

Mr Loverman is the story of Barrington Walker, who emigrated from Antigua in the 1960s. Barry has a big secret. His friend Morris has been his lover for decades. His wife Carmel is at her wits’ end thinking he’s a philandering womaniser, while Morris is putting pressure on Barry to do the right thing. In Mr Loverman, Evaristo has created a memorable family with a magnificent patriarch whom you can’t help falling for. Hilariously funny and exhuberant, yet compassionate and bittersweet in its portrayal of the difficulties of family life – I loved every single page.

So those are my picks of the year. It’s true to say that both Magda and The Explorer came very close to being my book of the year, but the ability of Mr Loverman to put a big smile on my face won out in the end.

Have you read any of these books?
What were your stand-out reads in 2013?
Do tell me …

2013 in First Lines

I did this meme last year too, a bit of fun for pre-Christmas. It originated at The Indextrious Reader, and you can see Jane at Fleur Fisher in her World’s post here.

The “rules” are simple: Take the first line of each month’s first post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year. Links back to the original posts. Here goes:

January: ‘Shakespeare’s question from The Two Gentlemen of Verona is an apposite one to ask of Dawn French’s new novel, for the title character never says a word, being in a coma after a fall from a third floor balcony.’ (from my review of Oh Dear Silvia

February: ‘Written ten years after his 1959 novel Mrs Bridge, Connell’s companion piece Mr Bridge tells the story of the Bridge family through the same time period from the 1930s into WWII, but from the husband’s point of view.’ (from my review of Mr Bridge

March: ‘I have shelves full of proper non-fiction books all awaiting my attention. Books historical, geographical, biographical, scientific, and so on – you get the picture.’ from my post on Non-Fiction and Me

April: ‘Well today is the start of the second quarter of 2013 and the official end of this year’s TBR Double Dog Dare hosted by James at Ready When You Are, C.B.

May: ‘Distractions! I had hoped to read or re-read more Banks books by now.’ (from my re-read of Iain Banks debut novel The Wasp Factory

June: ‘Playing with my books this morning, I spotted my pile of Ladybird books from my childhood.’ from my post on The Joy of Ladybird Books

July: ‘In the UK, it’s Independent Bookseller’s Week. Indie bookshops all over the country are running special events and promotions.’

August: ‘It’s lovely when you get a nice little surprise (or ‘pleasing’ as Lynne at DGR would call them). I’ve had a couple of good bookish ones this morning.’ on buying a second-hand book and discovering it to be signed by the author. (here).

September: ‘I was sad to hear of the death of Elmore Leonard a week and a half ago.’ Celebrating Elmore Leonard and reviewing Glitz.

October: ‘Occasionally we like to have a different kind of reading experience in our Book Group, and for this month’s read, we chose a play.’ from my Book Group Report on reading The Weir by Conor McPherson

November: ‘It’s a rare thing for me to read a graphic novel – in fact the only one I’ve read since starting this blog was The Crow by James O’Barr.’ from my review of graphic novel Dark Satanic Mills.

December: ‘This is the second novel in Aaronovitch’s ‘Rivers of London’ series of humorous police procedurals involving magical crimes in contemporary London.’ from my review of Moon over Soho.

I enjoyed that, and actually think the results are pretty representative of my blog this year. Still obsessing about the TBR; missing Iain Banks and Elmore Leonard; book group; and a bit of most of the types of books I usually read.

Because our kittens didn’t manage to be the first posts in any of the months since we got them, I shall leave you with a couple of Christmas kitty photos. Both are of Ginny, as Harry has been too busy sleeping somewhere else to be photographed…

Good Kitty…Christmas kitty 2Bad Kitty!…Christmas Kitty

Book Stats – Review of 2011

I told you about my Books of the Year a few weeks ago here, but another thing I like to do at the end of the year is compare my reading stats. Being an inveterate list-maker and cataloguer this always appeals to me, and actually I’ve had a different type of reading year in 2011 compared to the couple before.

Firstly, I read less books:  This year, at the time of writing, I’ve read 93 books, whereas in the previous years I topped the century with 106 and 114 in 2009.

I did read more pages though in 2012 – beating 2010’s 26k with a whopping total of over 29,000 pages read.  I’ll admit that 2100 of those were the first four books in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series (and I’ve still got around 2000 to go to complete it!). A further 1650 were the four Charlie Higson books for older kids that I devoured (and loved) in preparation for meeting and interviewing him back in September. This was the first year I’ve read more than two books by individual authors.

I’m going to talk about my TBR piles in another post, but there are a few other memos to self that I can note:

  • This year I read a lot more books by men – nearly 70% versus 55% last year – not a conscious decision – just the way it went.
  • I continued to try to read more books published before I was born (1960 in case you wondered), and the number is creeping up – 15  versus 13  and 9 in years before – here’s to reading even more ‘old’ books in 2012.
  • I read very little Non-fiction indeed in 2011, something I blogged about here.
  • I read a similar number of books in translation, 10 this year.
  • The lure of the shiny new title continues to do its work – again, around a third of the books I read were published this year.
  • In terms of genres, what I’d broadly describe as contemporary fiction dominated as usual, but I read a good sprinkling of crime, classics, modern classics, YA/children’s fiction and SF/dystopian/spec fiction, plus my first graphic novel.
  • … and finally…  Less vampires this year, but more zombies!  Ho, Ho, Ho.

I’d love to know how your reading year shaped up.

Gaskella’s Books of the Year

It’s that time of year again, and I thought I’d highlight my top reads chosen from the 90 I’ve managed to read, so they’re not necessarily published this year.

All the books I’ve chosen are ones I gave 9 or more out of ten to; I tend to be generous in my scoring, having given eleven 10/10s this year – or have I been lucky in my reading choices?

The links go to my reviews.  Do let me know what you think and tell me about your best reads of 2011 …

  • Best debut novelThe Family Fang by Kevin Wilson – A bittersweet comedy that approaches art.
  • Darkest novel Comes the night by Hollis Hampton-Jones – A novel of twins set in the druggy world of the Paris fashion shows.
  • Most heart-warming novel Like Bees to Honey by Carole Smailes – A innovative novel chock full of Meditteranean sunshine.
  • Best YA novelThe Double shadow by Sally Gardner. Her first book for older teens and upwards is brilliant and complex.
  • Best modern classic in the makingRules of Civility by Amor Towles. Reminiscent of F Scott Fitzgerald, this great read might have the longevity to make it.
  • Best novel published before I was bornThe Hopkins Manuscript by R C Sheriff. A post-war dystopia from Persephone.
  • Best re-readLord of the Flies by William Golding. Didn’t affect me much as a teen, but decades later, I know it could happen.
  • Best crime/thrillerDirty Snow by Georges Simenon. Move over Maigret for some dark and nihilistic noir.
  • Most fun readRivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. I’ll be reviewing this soon, but if you’re a Londoner and like funny books, this could be one for you.
  • Best cover A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked in by Magnus Mills. Gorgeous cover, and a close contender for my book of the year.

… and finally, my Book of the Year 2011 …

 The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt. This novel resonated with so many of my cultural icons – The Blues Brothers, the Coen Brothers, TV Westerns and more, that I couldn’t help but love it.