Yearly Reading Statistics – 2009

Introduction

This is the first full year I've been on Goodreads, a site that lets me track and review books I've read, as well as interact with other readers. Goodreads is awesome because you can do as little or as much as you'd like. I'm a little obsessive in my organization (although probably not as obsessive as some). For me, one big advantage to using Goodreads is that it offers a convenient way to analyze statistically my reading habits. Now that I have 12 full months of data for a single year, I can look at how I spent 2009--in books.

2009 by the Numbers

156
books read
2
books discarded
21
books read in December (the most of any month)
6
books read in February (the least of any month)
3.1
my average rating of the 156 books read

Full Analysis

At 156 books, I managed to average about 2.34 days per book. That's close to ideal for me. I'm not a speed-reader, nor do I want to be one--I have enough trouble remembering what books I've read as it is, which is why I like Goodreads so much. Spending two days on a good book is a good use of my time.

Now let's drill down a little further into the details.

Bar chart depicting books read per month

Bar chart depicting the distribution of 1- to 5-star ratings.

Line chart depicting the average rating by month.

As you can see, although I read the most books in December, March was my "best" month in terms of average book quality.

Next, I can compare my rating to the average Goodreads rating for each book:

Thumnail of a line chart comparing my rating to the average Goodreads rating for each book

The data are ordered by date read, so the first data points correspond to the first book I read this year, and the last correspond to the last book I read. It appears that overall I'm harsher than the average reader. With books that I do score higher, I tend to score them much higher (5, sometimes 4 stars).

Authors, Authors, Everywhere

I read books by 123 distinct authors.

No. of Books Read by an Author No. of Authors
1 99
2 17
3 6
4 0
5 1

I read five books by Robert J. Sawyer. Allen Steele, Elizabeth Bear, Jim Butcher, and L.E. Modesitt, Jr., number among the authors of whose books I read three.

Of the 24 repeat authors, however, only 4 of their books received a 5-star rating, and each of those books was by a different author. In contrast, 4 of those authors received one 1-star rating and 2 received two 1-star ratings.

Genres

Pie chart depicting number of books per genre

This is an arbitrary division of books by genre. The graph is non-disjoint, which is why the total for each category sums to more than 156. However, the "fantasy" and "urban fantasy" categories are disjoint, and the "other" category is disjoint from every other category.

As a bit of an anomaly, one book is both nonfiction and fantasy: the edition of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness that I have includes a nonfiction essay at the end by China Miéville.

I've always been a science fiction and fantasy buff, of course, which is why I singled out those genres in particular. Also, I took a speculative fiction literature course this fall, which exposed me to several authors I've been meaning to read.

Reviews

When I started using Goodreads, I decided to write a review for every book I've read since joining. It's nice to have a reference to consult when I need to recall if I enjoyed a particular book—and why. Writing a review for every book has its own set of challenges. Often I feel like I'm too repetitive, too formulaic, in my reviews—I worry that I overuse phrases or generalizations. Now I get to find out.

I wrote a whopping 127,725 words while reviewing books in 2009. On average, my reviews tend to be about 790 words in length.

The longest review I wrote was for The Penguin Book of Canadian Short Stories, at about 2000 words. I wrote about 1900 words for Wake, by Robert J. Sawyer. The shortest review I wrote was for At the Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft, at about 140 words.

Line chart depicting the average word count of my reviews by 1- to 5-star rating.

But how many of those words really matter?

The word I used most frequently in my reviews was unsurprisingly the, at 7340. Striking off the various conjunctions and pronouns that follow, the most frequently used nouns are book (876), characters (359), and story (301).

I used the word good 198 times but bad only 56 times, and I generalized with overall 18 times. Satisfactory appears 11 times. Kickass gets an honourable mention with 3 appearances in my reviews.

Here's some common phrases I feared I overused:

Phrase Frequency
As a result 28
On the other hand 27
For instance 19
At the same time 16
For the most part 14
In addition to 12
In the end 12
Your mileage may vary/Your mileage will vary 9
For example 7

I might want to be careful about the top two phrases, but it appears that I did not use "for the most part" or "your mileage may vary" as much as I feared. It's interesting that I have such a strong preference for "for instance" over "for example."

Technical Note

Goodreads offers the ability to export one's books in CSV format. I imported that file into OpenOffice.org Calc and used that to generate most of the statistics and all of the graphs.

The word count and word frequency analysis of my reviews comes courtesy of TextSTAT, a freeware program created by Matthias Hüning.