Some mid-year reading stats

And, just like that, half of 2015 is over. Time for some mid-year reading stats.

First let’s talk about June…

June reading stats

And, now let’s have a look back at the first six months of 2015 in total…

Total books finished so far this year: 44

For reference, I usually average about 36 books a year. Last year I finished 39 books. This year my goal was “a book a week” or 52 books total. Granted, I’ve included my comics trades in that total. Those are each about 150 pages, so I think they should count. But, even if you take them out of the count, I’ve still finished 35 books so far this year. That’s a lot of reading.

Top Five favorite books for the first half of 2015

  1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (post-apocalyptic)
  2. The Martian by Andy Weir (sci-fi)
  3. Lock In by John Scalzi (sci-fi)
  4. Sword by Amy Bai (fantasy)
  5. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (fantasy)

Update on 2015 reading projects

This year I gave myself two main reading projects. The first was my “diverse reading” project where I planned to read at least one book each month by an author who was not white and/or not American. The second was to read through those books I’d purchased for more than $3.50, but hadn’t read yet — some of which have been sitting there, unread, for several years.

So far I’ve been successful reading a book a month by a diverse author (not American and/or not white), and it hasn’t even been that hard to do. All the books I’ve read so far are books I wanted to read anyway, for one reason or another. I’m pleased that this hasn’t felt like a “chore.” I’m even more pleased at the new worlds I’m being exposed to. I think the biggest impact has been on my empathy, which I thought was already pretty decent, but seems to be getting even more keen as I dive into characters even more unlike myself or any of the people I am surrounded by on a daily basis.

As for my second project, I have made some substantial progress toward un-read books previously purchased for > $3.50…

When I ran my end of year stats for 2014, I came up with 15 books that I’d purchased for more than $3.50 in either 2013 or 2014, but hadn’t read yet. I don’t mind snapping up books on sale and saving them for later, but I don’t like the idea of holding onto books I’ve purchased at (or close to) full price and then not reading them.

So far this year, I’ve read 9 of the 15 books on that list, and I am reading another one from that list right now. I’ll probably be able to squeeze in two more before the end of the year. I’ll take 10 or 12 out of 15 and call that a success.

Of course, since I made that list, I’ve realized that there are at least two additional books that I purchased at full price prior to 2013 and still haven’t read yet. So, starting with 15, removing 10, and adding 2… Here is the remaining TBR:

  1. Wolf Hall: A Novel by Hilary Mantel ($11.82)
  2. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie ($9.99)
  3. The Feminine Mystique (50th Anniversary Edition) by Betty Friedan, Gail Collins, Anna Quindlen ($9.34)
  4. Hild: A Novel by Nicola Griffith ($6.49)
  5. Bring Up the Bodies: A Novel (Wolf Hall Book 2) by Hilary Mantel ($3.99)
  6. Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos by Sarah Lacy ($9.34)
  7. The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2) by Patrick Rothfuss ($14.99)

I’m not sure how many of these I’ll get to before the end of the year. Probably at least Hild, and maybe The Wise Man’s Fear since those are the two I’m most excited about reading. Everything else will probably roll on into next year…

Speaking of next year… I already have an idea for a new reading project for next year. I’m thinking about trying to read any of the current century’s Hugo and/or Nebula award winning novels that I haven’t read yet. There is a lot of overlap between Hugo and Nebula best novel awards, and I’ve read some of these award winners already. But, I’m thinking I’d like to read the rest. So, I’m making a list just in case I decide I want to tackle that as a project next year.

Overall, I’m shocked at how much reading I’ve been doing this year. Even if I slow down my reading pace and only average a book a week for the rest of the year, that’s still another 26 books in 2015! I am going to blow away my normal reading average this year. I’m calling it now: 2015 is the “year of the books” for me.

My 2015 book project

In the past two years there has been a lot of discussion about diversity in publishing. There was the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, there were discussions of harassment at various sci-fi conferences, there was an analysis de-bunking the idea that women dominate the YA best seller list, and there were a multitude of attacks on adults reading “YA fiction” many of which read as attacks on “what girls like” and labeling the lot as not “serious” fiction (counter-point article here).

One conclusion I came to while following these various discussions and dramas play out online was that I’d like to make sure I’m “voting with my feet” or “putting my money where my mouth is,” as the saying goes. For me this means making sure that I’m stretching my comfort zone and reaching for authors that may be outside of the mainstream.

It’s easy to read on-trend, to read only best-selling books, to read books that everyone has heard about. It’s also easy to read primarily for entertainment. But one of the coolest things about books is that they can immerse you in worlds and/or the lives of characters that are unlike anything you would encounter on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons I like to read sci-fi and fantasy novels. Reading about something completely different than your every day experience can help you think differently about how you function in the world. It can make your world bigger.

So, this year, I want to consciously work on making my world bigger by reading outside my “comfort zone” and reading books by diverse authors. I plan to read at least one book by a diverse author (read: non-American and/or non-white) each month. I’ve started to make a list of possible contenders over on Goodreads.

I’m planning to start with the following two books: The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (January) and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (February, with the bonus goal of learning how to spell / say her name…).

Parable of the Sower was originally published in 1993 and is the first book in a two-book series. I mentioned before that I first saw this book on a “best of” list by an author I like. It’s been on my “to-read” list ever since then.

Americanah was released in 2013 and received an overwhelming amount of praise and made just about everyone’s “best of” lists that year. I put off reading it because I feared the book wouldn’t live up to the hype, but I’m ready to dive into this one now.

I’m going to try to do a longer review (either video or blog post) for each book I read for my 2015 reading project. In addition to posting my thoughts about what I’m reading, I want to see if/how reading books by diverse authors changes my way of thinking about the world and influences my writing. My hypothesis is that it will, but I want to test that idea. And, if it does prove to be true, I’m interested in understanding how and why my world-view / writing changed.

If you have suggestions, please post them in the comments, or “recommend” a book to me on Goodreads (that’s a thing you can do, right?).