My year in books, even less rigorously graphed than usual


how many

‘Get a hobby.’

The ‘will finish’ books are I contain multitudes by Ed Yong, about bacteria (it’s FASCINATING) and Secondhand time by Svetlana Alexievich, an oral history of the breakdown of the Soviet Union which is, huh, I don’t have a word for it. It’s extraordinary. They’re both very long and they’re both non-fiction and they both don’t need to be read all at once and so I’m reading them in bits.


I would love to love every book I read. But this isn’t a bad result. The ‘didn’t likes’ always seem to come in a run, which makes me wonder whether it’s the books that are the problem or the reader. Wow, I really didn’t like some books that everyone else loved though.


This is about standard for me, and I think about matches the ratio of ‘books published by’.


I really liked a lot of the books I read this year that were published this year, but I’m still thinking I’ll cut down on new books next year. It’s a bit hopeless to have read nothing before 1950 for the whole year. And it can be fairly unsatisfying getting caught up in all the hype about new books that are great just because they’re new.


A big bump in translated books this year, thanks partly to my visit to Mexico, which made me feel obliged to read more Mexican fiction, and to my pal Justine, who lent me books by Latin American horror writers. Pretty sure I read around zero historical fiction last year – there’s nothing like suddenly being a historical fiction writer to get you reading in the genre. My favourite alleged genre is still ‘slipstream’ – books that are like real life but not quite. Of course, some books got no category and some got many (Lincoln in the Bardo is historical and slipstream; Fever dream is translated and horror). These categories are frightfully random.


Too many Australians. Too few writers from anywhere in Africa; that is, none. I’m going to read fewer Australian authors next year. I know: controversial.


I still like one big book best. Or maybe there are just more one big books being marketed to me, so I have a tendency to read them. Most of the short stories were collections rather than anthologies. And poetry was an exciting new entry – the two poetry books I read were among my favourite books of the year. More poetry!


I got some book vouchers for Christmas and I think I counted those as gifts. I also got some books that were gifts. Or maybe they were meant to be borrowed and I just never gave them back. There seem to be an awful lot of gift books on this list. Thanks as always to Footscray Library and Footscray Savers for letting me take a chance on books I might otherwise never have read. And to my go-to indie bookshops, Readings, Hill of Content, Paperback Books and The Sun in Yarraville. Fine bookshops all. The books I most often give up on are books on Kindle. If I added ‘books I bought but forgot I ever owned and thus never read’ to this list, the Kindle category would be huge. Imagine if I kept a list of all the books I bought…

Missing from the graphs this year is ‘why I read it’. I’ve given up on that: it never tells me anything useful.

In summary, I still have no idea how to pick a good book every time, and I still – mostly – love reading more than anything.


An update! 2012 for comparison purposes

After I put this post on twitter, I got into a discussion about why you might read the books you read. I claimed I read differently because of being an author – that I felt a requirement to read contemporary Australian novels. So I thought I’d go back and see how I was reading before I was published.

In 2012 my first novel was accepted for publication and I think it did affect my reading (a sudden flurry of Transit Lounge titles appear from October on) but my records from 2011 and before aren’t that great, so this will have to do.

In 2012, I read around 55 books. I was less generous with my ratings than in 2017, read from a lot more years, read far more male authors and barely strayed outside Australia, the UK and the US. I was on a Raymond Chandler binge and reading Victoriana as research for From the Wreck. My four five-star books were Women in Black, Bring up the Bodies, The Art of Fielding and Tender is the Night.

2012 year2012 gender2012 genre2012 stars2012 where


10 thoughts on “My year in books, even less rigorously graphed than usual

  1. My 2017 and pre-1950 numbers are pretty well opposite yours. At least I avoid the hype, though Ada Cambridge seems to be enjoying a late surge which is a bit weird.

      1. I know zilch about African Lit and my first thought was 2 or 3 racist novels by Evelyn Waugh and Jim Carey. But there’s always Olive Schreiner (SA’s Miles Franklin) and stretching it a bit you might get to Camus, Doris Lessing and maybe even an early Coetzee.

      1. Snap – avoiding ‘A Little Life’ because I don’t need the mental images. And I found ‘The Power’ underwhelming. Great premise, but no follow through.

  2. Hmm, I thought I’d commented on this but clearly I had a quick look at decided that I’d look at it again after the busy-ness of that week was over, and then forgot.

    I always love you detailed stats and graphs. And the energy you put into doing them.

    Your change from before you published to after is interesting. I’ve been reading more women than men since the 1980s when I decided to make reading women writers my special reading project. (This year though the balance was perhaps a bit too much towards women.

    Anyhow, all the best for 2018 Jane. Maybe one day we’ll get to meet.

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