2015 goal: 150 books.
2016 goal: 75 books in the first half of the year, and then one book per month after we welcome a baby in mid-July! We are so excited. More on that to come!
Now, on to the book post! I didn’t set a book goal last January, thinking instead I’d focus on reading classics and writing my own stuff. Turns out I’ve skipped some classics for a reason, and I still haven’t gotten into a good writing habit (aside from this blog and I’m not sure that counts).
My commute didn’t get any shorter, though, so I still spent 45 minutes each morning and afternoon reading, which I realized around May would translate to 150 books again this year, so I went ahead and made that my goal.
More than once for a host of reasons (not least of which being nearly constant nausea in November and December, making reading on the metro almost impossible. See the aforementioned little Frost) I thought I wouldn’t hit my goal. I found some good, short reads for the last few weeks of 2015, though, and eked out 150 books for the year after all. This was good enough for second-highest gross number of books read in a year since 2010 (which actually means since at least 2006 and probably before that, since my college years were notoriously light on non-required reading).
Here’s the year at a glance. Each box = one book. The year begins in the top left corner and continues L-R.
For the first time, I read fewer fiction (49.3%) than nonfiction (51.7%) books. Granted, the margin was small (a difference of just two books), but I was surprised. Fun fact: 75% of the nonfiction books I read this year have a colon in the title. I think the best worst subtitle of this year was the one from Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder (which only scored a generous two-star rating).
I also, on average, ranked nonfiction books more than a half-star higher than fiction (3.96 vs. 3.39 stars).
Zero nonfiction books were assigned a one-star rating. This may be because I’m not willing to invest time in a bad nonfiction book, while I sometimes harbor a vain hope that a novel will redeem itself. I also think my nonfiction ratings may be slightly inflated because I’m impressed at the research that goes into writing them.
I’ve never been a consistent rater of my books on Goodreads, but this year I provided a star rating for every single book. (I can’t say I’ve reviewed every book, though. Usually a book gets a review only if I really loved or really hated it.)
According to Goodreads, the book I read that was most popular among Goodread-ers this year was 1984 (read by 2.3 million users). The least popular book was Six Thinking Hats, which allegedly only eight other Goodreads members read.
I read a much smaller proportion of women authors this year than last (51.3% in 2014 vs. 37.3% in 2015). To be fair, this wasn’t a metric I was watching closely this year, as I did in 2014.
In 2014 I posted a graph showing the number of books read by decade published. The chart below shows the difference in number of books per decade comparing 2015 and 2014. I read three more pre-1900 books, which I attribute to Shakespeare.
I also had a little bump in books read from the 1960s (thank you, Wallace Stegner) and a huge drop-off in titles from the 1990s and 2000s. I made up for it with more books from the current decade, most of which were 9as expected) nonfiction.
Average year of publication aligns closely with 2014, in which the average publication year for fiction was 1987 and nonfiction was 2004, for an overall average of 1995. This year’s nonfiction number is actually brought down a little bit by The Lectures on Faith and Stegner’s book about the Mormon trail.
17 (11.3%) of the books this year were re-reads, including Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy, which I read twice in 2015.
This year I read more than 44,000 pages. If we assume a ream of typing paper is 2″ thick, that’s 176 inches, or 14.6 feet of pages. I spent an average of 2.43 days on each book. The shortest book I read was 48 pages and the longest was 848 pages. Jason and I read 12 of the same books this year, which may be a new record. I read 102 authors for the first time.
The most common reading material–based on rating, author gender and genre–was a five-star non-fiction written by a man, of which I read 20 books, or 13.3% of the 2015 total.
I read two books each by 10 authors: Margaret Atwood, Albert Camus, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Anne Lamott, Colum McCann, Nathaniel Philbrick, Helen Rappaport, William Shakespeare, and Wallace Stegner. I read three books each from three authors: James Dashner, Withold Rybczynski, and Kurt Vonnegut.
Best fiction book: The Luminaries (Catton). Totally worth the 848 pages. I finally had to buy it because I kept getting it from the library at times when I couldn’t finish it in the allotted three weeks. Runners up: 1984 (Orwell) How had I not read this before this year??; Nora Webster (Toibin); All the Light We Cannot See (Doerr).
Best non-fiction book that wasn’t about North Korea (three-way tie): In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (Philbrick). I loved this book, and so did my Moby Dick fan father. I haven’t decided yet if I can see the movie. The Boys in the Boat (Brown); The Art of Robert Frost (Kendall).
Best non-fiction book that was about North Korea (three-way tie between 3 out of the 4 non-fiction books I read about North Korea): Without You There Is No Us (Kim); A Kim Jong-il Production (Fischer); The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia (Lankov).
Book that changed my life whether I wanted it to or not: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Kondo). The fall may have gotten away from me, but my shirt drawer is still really organized. Highly recommend. Runner up: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (Tufte). I want a poster of the Napoleon graph for my office wall.
Best book for a plane ride: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Carmon and Knizhnik). It is also a great book for life in general, but it will always remind me of our trip out to Sacramento. Plus, people on the plane will think you are both informed and hilarious. Runner up: anything by Mindy Kaling, and How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit (Rybcyzniski).
Best reread: The Phantom Tollbooth (Juster). I thought this was clever when I was young, and I think it is even cleverer now. Runner up (though perhaps this should be a tie): Sherlock Holmes novels!
Best book of poetry: This Brood of Orange Leaves (Pullan). Okay, to be fair this was also the only book of poetry I read, but I really liked it.
Best non-canon church/religious book: The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail (Stegner). In the first pages of this book, Stegner captures exactly what the 1840s migration means to modern-day Mormons. I am irritated that his contribution to the otherwise excellent Daughters in my Kingdom is unattributed. That’s a discussion for another time.
Series I read because I had to know how it ended even if it was unsatisfying: The Maze Runner trilogy.
Other must-read non-fiction books: The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra (Rappaport). Could not put this down. The Forever War (Filkins). Another great recommendation from Jason. So glad I married a reader. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (Larson).
Books that made me cry: All the Light We Cannot See (Doerr), The Boys in the Boat (Brown), and (surprise surprise) Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy (Pincott).
Previous book posts: 2014 | 2013 | 2012
Full list, in reverse chronological order. *denotes a Best Read of 2015
The Heart Goes Last (Atwood)
The Light We Share (Uchtdorf)
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Adams)
*Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society (Various)
A Short Stay in Hell (Peck)
The Crying of Lot 49 (Pynchon)
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Capote)
Mother Night (Vonnegut)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Hamid)
*The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong (Orr)
Hannah Coulter (Berry)
A Christmas Carol (Dickens)
*Lectures on Faith (Smith and Rigdon)
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person (Rhimes)
Let The Great World Spin (McCann)
In the Unlikely Event (Blume)
The Life We Bury (Esken)
*Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman (Krakauer)
Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival (Bahari)
*Our Town (Wilder)
*Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy (Pincott)
Orphan Train (Kline)
Modern Romance (Ansari)
*The Book of Mormon
*Notorious RBG (Carmon)
Why Not Me? (Kaling)
Thirteen Ways of Looking (MCCann)
The Death Cure (Dashner)
The Tsar of Love and Techno (Marra)
Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You (Gosling)
*Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism (Grandin)
Dirt: The Quirks, Habits, and Passions of Keeping House (Lewis)
A Man Without a Country (Vonnegut)
The Last American Man (Gilbert)
I Am Pilgrim (Hayes)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood)
The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House (Brower)
*A Spool of Blue Thread (Tyler)
*Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (Larson)
The Light Between Oceans (Stedman)
The Road to Character (Brooks)
After the Quake (Murakami)
The History of Love (Krauss)
*The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up (Kondo)
Very Good Lives (Rowling)
The Namesake (Lahiri)
The Scorch Trials (Dashner)
*The Luminaries (Catton)
A Happy Death (Camus)
*The Children’s Crusade (Packer)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (Cain)
Cinderella Ate My Daughter (Orenstein)
Your Voice in My Head (Forrest)
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (Vonnegut)
*True Grit (Portis)
The Exile and the Kingdom (Camus)
The Maze Runner (Dasher)
Visiting Hours (Butcher)
Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (Rubin)
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (Greenblatt)
They Came Like Swallows (Maxwell)
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Saenz)
Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (Putnam)
The Hours (Cunningham)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Garcia Marquez)
*Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness (Calahan)
Six Thinking Hats (de Bono)
The Girl on the Train (Hawkins)
17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-up in History (Morton)
Under the Wide and Starry Sky (Horan)
Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year (LaMott)
The Power of Everyday Missionaries (Christensen)
*The Phantom Tollbooth (Juster)
Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (Norris)
The Burgess Boys (Strout)
Conning Harvard (Zauzmer)
Little Bee (Cleave)
The Psychopath Test (Ronson)
Between Shades of Gray (Sepetys)
Makeshift Metropolis (Rybcyzniski)
Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy (Pincott)
*The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (Tufte)
*The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail (Stegner)
All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West (Gessner)
*A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power (Fischer)
The Book of Unknown Americans (Henriquez)
*Give and Take (Grant)
Desert Solitaire (Abbey)
On the Ridge Between Life and Death (Roberts)
The Orphan Master’s Son (Johnson)
The Look of Architecture (Rybcyzniski)
One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories (Novak)
All Quiet on the Western Front (Remarque)
*This Brood of Orange Leaves (Pullan)
The Book of Strange New Things (Faber)
*How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit (Rybcyznski)
Silent Witnesses (McCrery)
*The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia (Lankov)
*The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (Brown)
*The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Doyle)
We Are Not Ourselves (Thomas)
Winter in Madrid (Sansom)
The Sign of Four (Doyle)
Liar Temptress Solider Spy (Abbott)
A Prisoner of Birth (Archer)
The Paying Guests (Waters)
*Nora Webster (Toibin)
The Tiger’s Wife (Obrecht)
*The Art of Robert Frost (Kendall)
Darkness at Noon (Koestler)
Thirteen Days in September (Wright)
*All the Light We Cannot See (Doerr)
*The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace (Hobbs)
Girls in White Dresses (Close)
The Sense of Style (Pinker)
*America Between the Wars: The Misunderstood Years Between the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Start of the War on Terror (Chollet and Goldgeier)
This I Believe (NPR)
*The Creative Habit (Tharp)
The Aquariums of Pyongyang (Chol-Hwan)
Bird By Bird (Lamott)
Things Fall Apart (Achebe)
The Last Days of the Romanovs (Rappaport)
Flash Boys (Lewis)
*The Forever War (Filkins)
*On Immunity (Biss)
*Without You There Is No Us (Kim)
A Broom of One’s Own (Peacock)
Yes Please (Poehler)
Dept. of Speculation (Offill)
*In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (Philbrick)
*Family Life (Sharma)
The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra (Rappaport)
*Stories of Survival from Everest and K2 (Willis)
Little Princes (Grennan)
Judgement Ridge (Zuckoff)