Jake McCrary

Reading in 2014

At the beginning of last year I took some time and reviewed my 2013 reading using Clojure and Incanter to generate some stats. It was a useful exercise to reflect back on my reading and play around with Incanter again.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve taken a similar look at my 2014 reading. The rest of this post highlights some of the top books from the previous year and then posts some numbers at the end.

I review every book I read using Goodreads. If you want to see more of what I’ve been reading you can find me here. I track and review every book I read and have found this practice to be extremely rewarding.

2014 Goals

I entered 2014 without a volume goal. Unlike 2013, I didn’t have a page or book count goal. I entered 2014 with the desire to reread two specific books and the nebulous goal of reading more non-fiction.

2014 Results

I ended up setting a new volume record. I read 69 books for a total of almost 23,000 pages. I also read every week of Day One, a weekly literary journal containing one short story and one poem from new authors. This doesn’t count towards my page or book count but is reading I enjoy. It exposes me to many different styles.

More than a third of my reading was non-fiction. I don’t have numbers for 2013 but that feels like an increase. I consider my goal of reading more non-fiction achieved.

I also reread the two books I had planned on rereading. I wanted to reread Infinite Jest and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and succeeded in rereading both of them.

Recommendations

I awarded seven books a five out of five star rating. I’ve listed them below in (in no particular order). Each book I’d recommend without hesitation. Instead of reworking or copying my previous reviews I’ve provided links to Goodreads. The titles link to Amazon.

I’m recommending a specific translation of Meditations. I attempted to read different one first and it was so painful to read I ended up giving up. The linked translation is modern and contains a useful forward giving you background information on the time.

I only read one series this year but it was a good one. The Magicians, by Lev Grossman, was recommended by a friend who described it as “Harry Potter but with characters battling depression.” I’m not sure that fully captures the feel of the series but it is a start. The series introduces you to a world like our own but with magic. You follow cynical, self-absorbed students as they attend school, graduate, and grow up living in both the magical and non-magical world. The first book in the series is the weakest so if you read that and find it enjoyable you should definitely pick up the next two books.

2015 Goals

2015 isn’t going to have an easily measured goal. I don’t feel the need to set number of books or pages goals any more. I’m hoping to increase the quality of my reading. This is a pretty unclear goal. To me this doesn’t mean increasing the average rating of books I read but instead I want to get more out of what I read. I want to think a bit deeper about the subjects I’m reading.

2014 Measurements

Below are some random measurements that are probably only interesting to me.

This year I recorded the format of the books I read. This was the year of the ebook; over 90% of the books I read were electronic. I’d guess that this is a higher percentage of ebooks than previous years. I wish I had recorded the formats read in previous years.

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| Binding   | Number of books |
|-----------+-----------------|
| Hardcover |               1 |
| Paperback |               4 |
| Kindle    |              64 |

My average rating has been going down over the last four years.

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| Year | Average Rating |
|------+----------------|
| 2011 | 3.84           |
| 2012 | 3.66           |
| 2013 | 3.67           |
| 2014 | 3.48           |

In 2014, three authors composed nearly 25% of my reading (by page count). The top six authors by page count are below.

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| Author               | My Average Rating | Number of Books | Number of Pages | Percent of Total Page Count |
|----------------------+-------------------+-----------------+-----------------+-----------------------------|
| David Mitchell       |                 4 |               5 |            2334 |                      10.19% |
| David Foster Wallace |       4.333333333 |               3 |            1753 |                       7.65% |
| Lev Grossman         |       3.666666667 |               3 |            1244 |                       5.43% |
| Marisha Pessl        |               3.5 |               2 |            1153 |                       5.03% |
| Haruki Murakami      |               3.5 |               2 |             768 |                       3.35% |
| Cormac McCarthy      |               3.5 |               2 |             650 |                       2.84% |

My top six authors by average rating (with ties broken by number of books) are below.

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| Author               | My Average Rating | Number of Books | Number of Pages | Percent of Total Page Count |
|----------------------+-------------------+-----------------+-----------------+-----------------------------|
| Gerald M. Weinberg   |                 5 |               1 |             228 |                       1.00% |
| Kent Beck            |                 5 |               1 |             224 |                       0.98% |
| Jay Fields           |                 5 |               1 |             204 |                       0.89% |
| Kurt Vonnegut        |               4.5 |               2 |             377 |                       1.65% |
| David Foster Wallace |       4.333333333 |               3 |            1753 |                       7.65% |
| David Mitchell       |                 4 |               5 |            2334 |                      10.19% |

I did top six for both of these because otherwise David Mitchell would not have been in the second one. I’ve devoured his writing in the last year and a half for a reason. I’m consistently rating his books highly.

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